National Farmers' Federation

Government needs to bargain hard on free trade agreements

Finalising trade agreements with markets such as Korea, Japan and China that provide commercial outcomes for the entire agricultural industry needs to be priority for Minister for Trade Andrew Robb and the Government, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) today said.
“We have heard comments from a number of senior government Ministers on the issue of trade in the last week or so, and while it’s good to hear them talking, farmers need action to back up the words,” NFF President Duncan Fraser said.
“We, and our members, are becoming increasingly concerned that our competitors are gaining advantages over Australian farmers in key markets such as Korea and Japan. We are urging the Government to make sure that Australian farmers are paramount when these deals are negotiated.
“We believe that trade agreements are beneficial for agriculture and should be progressed. There is a general understanding that Australia can play an important part in supplying food and fibre to growing Asian markets, but we can only do this if we reach comprehensive agreements and commercially-driven outcomes,” Mr Fraser said.
The NFF understands the Government’s commitment to finalising trade agreements quickly, but cautioned against signing a deal at any cost.
“Critically, any free trade agreement with China – like those in negotiations with Japan and Korea – must take a holistic view of Australian agriculture and not leave key agricultural commodities out,” Mr Fraser said.
Mr Fraser’s comments come as a report currently being finalised by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) examines the implications of recently implemented trade agreements. The report suggests that Australian agriculture is significantly disadvantaged by bilateral deals that have been completed by some of Australia’s neighbours – and highlights the importance of reaching positive outcomes for Australian agriculture.
“The RIRDC report acknowledges what Australian farmers have known for years – that we continue to do our best, but we are up against agreements that put us at a disadvantage. This cannot continue – we need Government to play its part and negotiate hard for strong outcomes,” Mr Fraser said.
“We have been waiting years for the finalisation of these agreements – and while we can understand the Government’s interest in getting the deal done, it is important that in doing so, we agree on the best possible outcome for Australian farmers.
“We welcomed Deputy Prime Minister Truss’ comments just yesterday that agriculture will be at the centre of free trade agreement negotiations with key export partners – and we will work with the Government to ensure this translates into positive outcomes for our farmers,” Mr Fraser said.

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