TRADE minister Andrew Robb stressed the importance of completing the Free Trade Agreement with China before the end of this year, in a prepared message to meat processors attending the 2015 Meat Industry Conference on the Gold Coast this morning.
A late no-show at the conference due to the developments that have unfolded in Canberra over the past 72 hours, Minister Robb said the trade agreements with Japan and Korea already in place were delivering benefits across a variety of sectors, including red meat exports.
“Our agreement with China will complete this historic trifecta,” he said.
Yesterday, Mr Robb introduced the implementing legislation into Parliament for the landmark FTA with China. Parliamentary debate on the Bill will take place after the release of the report by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties on October 12.
“But there’s a significant economic imperative in bringing this agreement into force before the end of this year,” Mr Robb told meat processors.
“Scheduled tariff cuts are based on the calendar year, which means entry into force this year will deliver an immediate round of tariff cuts for Australian red meat exporters, followed by a second round of cuts on 1 January, 2016.”
Under the China export agreement beef, sheep meat and goat meat tariffs will be phased out – creating enormous export and job opportunities in the sector for decades, given the growing demand for Australian quality protein among China’s growing middle class, Mr Robb said.
“This agreement represents a high water mark in Australia’s relationship with China. Once implemented, it will help create thousands of jobs for Australians, add billions of dollars to our economy and improve our living standards for years to come.”
Mr Robb told the AMIC conference that the red meat sector had been a major contributor to the recent success of agribusiness in Australia. “And when you consider what is in prospect in our region, there is great cause for optimism about the future of your industry,” he told delegates.
“Without doubt the global centre of economic gravity is moving closer and closer to us; in this sense we are blessed by our geography.”
Opportunity would increasingly be driven by the surge from 600 million people in the Asian middle class to more than three billion within 35 years, from India through to China and all the countries in between.
“There is a narrow window of opportunity to grab market share among the exploding middle class in the region to the north of us, to lock in prosperity for decades to come. This explains the urgency the government has placed in securing export agreements with China, Korea and Japan – three of our largest trading partners – giving Australian businesses greater access to these key markets,” M Robb said.
- More AMIC conference reports later today, and tomorrow