Australian and Chinese representatives have officially signed a free trade agreement this afternoon, after more than a decade of negotiations.
As flagged in this Beef Central article yesterday, tariffs on a range of red meat and livestock items will decline, following the ratification of the FTA agreement later this year.
Trade Minister Andrew Robb joined Chinese commerce minister Gao Hucheng to officially sign the deal, which will begin removing tariff barriers facing Australian meat and livestock exporters, plus other sectors.
Beef Central will add further content to this news item later today, as reaction from industry bodies, government and other stakeholders is released, but here is a selection of early industry and government responses:
Ag Minister Barnaby Joyce: FTA brings expanded agricultural trade a step closer
Agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce said the agreement would deliver significant benefits to Australian farmers upon entry into force later this year.
“The China–Australia FTA eliminates tariffs on a wide range of key agricultural and fisheries products in Australia’s largest agricultural export market,” Minister Joyce said.
“We exported around $9 billion of agricultural products to China in 2014 at tariffs up to 30 per cent—which makes Australian farmers less competitive and less profitable.
“The tariff cuts under ChAFTA over the first year are estimated to provide tariff savings of up to $188 million across key growth commodities like beef, sheep meat, hides and skins, livestock, dairy, horticulture, wine and seafood.
“Tariffs of 12 to 25 per cent on some of Australia’s biggest exports to China—chilled or frozen beef and sheep meat—will be eliminated in stages over eight to nine years. There are also a number of tariff phase-outs for key dairy exports over four to 11 years.
“These cuts will directly benefit our producers, and underline the commitment of this government to boosting returns at the farmgate.”
Minister Joyce said the agreement closes the gap between Australia and international competitors that already have FTAs with China, such as New Zealand and Chile, and would provide a significant advantage over major competitors such as the United States and European Union, which do not have FTAs with China.
“The Australian Government has a strong commitment to agriculture as a pillar of the national economy and we are consistently working towards the development of new markets for Australian produce,” Minister Joyce said.
To take full advantage of the outcomes of ChAFTA, the government is actively working to improve and expand technical market access to China for Australian agricultural products.
“This agreement markets the beginning of a new relationship with China and one which we will use to continue to press for improved market access for our producers and exporters.”
The next step is ratification of the agreement by both countries, with a goal of entry into force before the end of 2015.
For a guide to the agreement see:
Farmers welcome signing of the China-Australia FTA
The National Farmers Federation congratulated Minister Andrew Robb and the Government on the signing of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement today.
This agreement will further cement Australian agriculture’s place in the fastest growing and largest market in the world and will provide billions of dollars in export value to Australian farmers, NFF president Brent Finlay said.
“China is already our major trading partner with Australian farm exports doubling in five years to be valued at over $7 billion in 2013. Completing this agreement is an outstanding achievement that will build Australia’s important trading future with China and provide significantly improved international market access for Australian agricultural goods, underpinning agriculture as a key pillar of the economy.” Mr Finlay said.
“This milestone agreement will see elimination on tariffs of Australian lamb, beef, horticulture and dairy products to China. It’s an enormous achievement that will deliver increased options and improved returns for Australian farmers.”
“While the agreement is a major step forward in reducing tariffs for animal proteins and horticulture products down to zero, as it currently stands it does not deliver outcomes for all agricultural industries.
“This agreement must provide a platform to continue development of trade in these products which we know will be in demand in China in coming years.
“Beyond border issues, such as protocols, that allow trade in products need to be advanced, and we see the agreement as a critical step to help improve the current situation,” Mr Finlay said.
As part of building trade between the two countries, the NFF will work with the broader industry to develop a modern and relevant “True Aussie” brand that can bring together the true characteristics of premium quality, safety and traceability which will provide an excellent platform to boost the trade between Australia and China.
“We look forward to the agreement being ratified through parliament and to building on the relationship between the two countries both in trade and but also investment.”
CCA: Australia and China Agreement finalised
Cattle Council of Australia congratulated the Australian Government on today’s signing and finalising of the Free Trade Agreement Australia and China.
The finalising of the ChAFTA signifies a major milestone for the Australian Beef industry, Cattle Council president Howard Smith said.
“The Australian government has provided Australian producers with three major trade agreements from Japan, Korea and now China over the past year- a significant boost for Australian beef internationally,” he said.
“China continues to be an essential market for Australian beef, having doubled its imports over the past six years.”
“The flow-through benefits of ChAFTA will input an annual gross value of $270 million towards the Australian beef industry which should flow into farm gate prices.”
The Agreement is proposed to be in force in late 2015, delivering the Australian beef industry with its first tariff cuts of 12-25pc on beef products and live animals.
Asialink Business Council:
Asialink Business, Australia’s national centre for Asia capability, welcomed the signing of the historic agreement, suggesting that the time was now right for Australian business to maximise the new opportunities.
“Today’s FTA signing creates an unprecedented window for Australia to grow and diversify our economy,” Asialink business chief executive Mukund Narayanamurti said.
“China is Australia’s largest trading partner and its surging middle class – which will exceed 3 billion people by 2030 – offers great potential for companies looking to expand, create jobs and access new markets,” he said.
The signing of the ChAFTA has created a revived sense of urgency for business – especially small and medium enterprises – to develop deeper links with China and the skills needed to tap its lucrative market, Asialink said.
Asialink Business will shortly launch a new and comprehensive guide (called the China Country Starter Pack) to help businesses in all sectors enter and grow in the Chinese market. The organisation works to build an Asia-capable Australian workforce, supporting businesses in all sectors to develop the critical skills, knowledge and networks needed to better understand and engage with Asia.