The Federal Government must negotiate for the removal of trade barriers so that farmers, and all Australians, can benefit from the increased trade of food and fibre products, the nation’s peak agricultural body said this morning.
National Farmers Federation president Brent Finlay said the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will help achieve increased trade, as it entails the complete removal of tariffs across all agricultural products and sectors to reach an agreement.
“Australian farmers export two-thirds of what they produce, earning the country around $38 billion, so it’s no wonder we view the expanding markets, including the TPP countries, as a significant opportunity for Australian farm exports,” Mr Finlay said.
“It’s clear our farming counterparts in New Zealand, Canada, and the US also recognise the need to remove costly barriers, and are collaborating to call for the complete removal of tariffs across all products, and sectors. Farmer groups have written to their respective officials calling for a more committed approach to completing this agreement.
“Export markets are vital for the future of Australian agriculture, and the continued difficulties faced by companies such as SPC Ardmona, means the growers need improved access to new markets.
“We need governments to work harder, and stronger, to finalise such deals as the TPP, ensuring Australian farmers can continue to export high quality food and fibre to the world,” Mr Finlay said.
Comprehensive tariff elimination remains a central objective of the TPP negotiations, and as the negotiations develop, the NFF demands for the complete elimination of tariffs across all products and sectors.
“Agriculture needs to be at the core of the TPP agreement, as it’s a sector that will deliver commercially meaningful trade gains,” Mr Finlay said.
“The Government needs to be careful, as allowing tariff exceptions for sensitive products – such as rice, beef, sugar and wheat – sets a dangerous precedent for other countries seeking to join the TPP agreement.
“On behalf of Australian farmers, we call on the Australian government to continue pursuing a deal that provides improved agricultural market access, and will result in all countries receiving the same reduction in tariffs on farm goods.
“Farmers will not support a TPP agreement that does not include comprehensive liberalisation of the agricultural sector by all participating countries,” Mr Finlay said.
The NFF Trade Committee will meet in Canberra next week to discuss the trade priorities and agenda for 2014, and reaffirm their commitment to working with Government to refine trade agreements.
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