National Farmers' Federation

Australia can lead the global agricultural marketplace but needs comprehensive non tariff barrier strategy

Australian agriculture stands poised and ready to lead the global marketplace for agricultural products but calls for the review or rewinding of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) must be abandoned and focus placed on removing non-tariff barriers to trade.
National Farmers Federation (NFF) Chief Executive Office, Tony Mahar, said technological improvements were rapidly reshaping the way trade and business were conducted but opportunities were being lost to avoidable and unnecessary blocks to trade efficiency.
“Our agreements set up the framework for trade, however they are often compromised by administration and protocols between governments that restrict and hinder the uptake of the new opportunities,” Mr Mahar said.
“There is an underlying view that non-tariff barriers have been increasing over the past decade centred on two broad areas – increasing the range and level of sophistication of barriers and the move towards merging or forcing domestic regulation in the international trade arena.
“These barriers come at a significant cost to industry. For example, the estimated annual cost to the dairy supply chain is $1.7 billion across all export markets while in the red meat sector non-tariff trade barriers are estimated to account for some $1.3 billion in lost value.
“We should absolutely not be looking to review or unwind our trade agreements, as has been suggested by unions and the Australian Labor Party, but should be focusing on the development of a coordinated strategy to address non-tariff barriers so as to best position the agriculture sector to capitalise on the outcomes of bilateral and regional FTAs.”
Mr Mahar said the development of a strategy to pursue these opportunities should be done so in consultation with industry and should include a clear differentiation between Australia’s trade and foreign investment or aid objectives.
“The collaborative and constructive non-tariff barriers strategy between industry and government could be focused on a range of broader cross-sectoral issues including labelling, pre-market product registration and import/export certification,” he said.
“As we move closer to the election it is imperative political candidates understand the enormous impact removing these barriers would have on Australia’s ability to truly lead the global agricultural marketplace and to build on it reputation for being the best producer of high quality food and fibre in the world.”

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