AUSTRALIA risks missing out on a surge in jobs and export opportunities if the Parliament delays approving the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, prompting three major industry groups to today launch a national campaign to inform the public on the benefits of the landmark deal.
The campaign by the National Farmers’ Federation, the Minerals Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry explains how the deal will offer improved access to our largest trading partner, creating new jobs and economic opportunities across Australia.
The campaign urges the Federal Parliament to ratify the agreement before the end of the year, ensuring Australia benefits from more rapid tariff reductions.
The campaign will tell the stories of Australian businesses across the farming, small business and minerals and energy sectors that see enormous potential in the Chinese market but are burdened by restrictions on trade.
Australian exports to China already account for nearly 6 per cent of Australia’s GDP, making it Australia’s largest trading partner. Worth $100 billion dollars annually, Australian exports to China are more than the combined value of Australia’s exports to the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, South Korea, France, Canada and all of South East Asia.
The trade agreement will deepen and broaden this relationship with one of the world’s fastest growing economies.
Kate Carnell AO, CEO of the Australian Chamber, said it was disappointing some groups created community fears that the agreement would lead to unqualified overseas workers.
“Their scaremongering is damaging to Australia’s interests and our relationship with China, a key trading partner,” she said. “Many Australian small businesses are exploring export opportunities and China has enormous potential as a destination, so it is vital we make it as easy as possible for them.”
Brent Finlay, the President of the National Farmers’ Federation and a farmer from Stanthorpe, Queensland, said Australian farmers rely on trade and international markets to generate $42.4 billion for the Australian economy each year, with $9 billion in earnings from China alone.
“If the Parliament fails to ratify ChAFTA this year it will mean that farmers and the Australian community will miss out on two rounds of tariff cuts,” he said.
“This will damage the competitiveness and affordability of all Australian products in China, and set Australian agriculture back $300 million in 2016.”
Brendan Pearson, CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia, said the agreement will eliminate tariffs that add nearly $600 million in costs to the bilateral minerals and energy trade, including about $380 million for exporters of thermal and metallurgical coal.
“A decision to block the trade deal is unthinkable. An extended delay will simply advantage our competitors in the Chinese market. This includes Indonesia, whose thermal coal exports enter China tariff-free courtesy of an earlier FTA while Australian thermal coal exports face a 6 per cent tariff impost,” he said.
The campaign involves advertising across all major media platforms and other efforts to explain ChAFTA to the Australian community.
Cattle Council of Australia also voiced its support for the national campaign designed to inform the public about the benefits of the FTA.
“If Parliament fails to ratify ChAFTA, Australia’s beef producers will not see the 12-25 percent tariff cuts on beef products or the $270 million gross value increase,” CCAit warned.
“This trade agreement has taken 10 years to negotiate and it needs to be passed through parliament so farm businesses can take advantage of a double tariff cut – the first on commencement and the second on 1 January 2016.
CCA President and Queensland cattle producer Howard Smith said the deal will increase beef exports which means more jobs on Australian farms, in abattoirs and across the export supply chain.
“Failure to ratify the agreement this calendar year is anticipated to cost the beef industry up to $60 million in 2016 alone,” Mr Smith said.
“Our safe, high-quality beef is in high demand from China. Holding it up is not fair for our producers, who stand to lose two rounds of tariff cuts.
“The national campaign is urging the Federal Parliament to look at the long-term job creation that ChAFTA will deliver. The agreement will create an environment for increased investment into Australian technology, workplace training and importantly local community resources.”
Opposition to China FTA amounts to economic sabotage: Robb
Speaking from Beijing on Friday, Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb said the unions’ opposition to the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) was nothing short of economic sabotage.
“I am here in Beijing with 35 Australian CEOs who are hard at work creating business opportunities that will boost prosperity back home for years to come,” Mr Robb said.
“Every one of them is eagerly awaiting ChAFTA’s entry into force later this year; they are telling me that we must move ahead or miss out on literally billions of dollars in additional revenue for industry and our economy.
“They are employing people and putting plans in place now in expectation that business will flow following entry into force in a matter of months,” he said.
The Minister’s delegation includes vitamin supplements manufacturer Blackmores who formalised a strategic partnership with JD.com that could see a ten-fold increase in its sales to Chinese consumers.
Blackmores’ Chinese business is already substantial, contributing strongly to the company’s recent 83 per cent profit increase, which supported paying an additional six weeks profit share to most of its 900 staff.
Sanger Australia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with JD.com to provide the first Australian chilled, retail-ready beef product to Chinese consumers online.
The MOU will see a new premium brand introduced to the Chinese market, First Cut Pure Australian Beef, building on Australia’s strong reputation for high quality food.
According to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), Australia is China’s number one beef supplier with 42 per cent of total imports worth $760 million. MLA’s latest estimation is that ChAFTA will be worth an additional $830 million each year by 2024 to the Australian red meat industry.
“Today we have two major deals between Australian and Chinese companies that illustrate the future of our business relationship with China,” Mr Robb said.
“In both sectors the FTA delivers lower tariffs for their exports to China, and it just beggars belief that certain union officials would be leading a campaign to white-ant these kinds of opportunities.
“Even the esteemed former Labor leader Bob Hawke has come out in support of the China Free Trade Agreement, so I call on Bill Shorten to stop doing the unions’ bidding and start putting Australia’s future first,” he said.
Sources: National Farmers’ Federation, the Minerals Council of Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Minister for Trade, CCA