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Stakes high for Australia-Korea FTA

6 March 2009

THE stakes are high for Australian farmers and the national economy under the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) being pursued with the Republic of Korea.

With boundless opportunities in the Korean market, which already comprises 7% of Australia’s total agricultural exports worth almost $2 billion per year and is one of the fastest growing markets in the world, failure could see Australia miss out on those benefits, but also lose its existing export foothold.

“In truth, we’re coming to the Korean FTA behind the rest of the pack and we have a lot of catching up to do,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President David Crombie said today. “Korea is our fourth biggest agricultural export destination – representing our third largest beef market and 10th largest dairy market.

“Under a Korean FTA Australian farm exports would have access to a huge, expanding and increasingly diverse market. But, equally, we need to beat other countries to the punch just to maintain the status quo, lest they cut us out of our existing Korean export base.

“In September 2007, the NFF commissioned research examining the Impact of the Republic of Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) on Australian Agriculture. The Centre for International Economics’ study rang alarm bells finding Australian agricultural and food exports to Korea could be slashed – in real terms by 12.4% ($162 million) by 2030.

“However, this raw figure would then blow out to cut accumulated agricultural and food output, gouging almost $800 million from our exports by 2030.

“Following the KORUS agreement, Australia must make up lost ground in negotiations with Korea to prevent a discriminatory environment being set against some of our biggest commodity exports, namely meat, dairy, sugar and malts. The KORUS agreement, if ratified, would give US agricultural exports a major competitive edge, in some cases eliminating Australian commodity markets altogether.

“Australia’s own bid for an FTA with Korea comes in the wake of these negotiations, making the downside for us if we fail a double-whammy – missing out on a growing market and significant losses to our existing export levels.

“Australia and Korea enjoy a close relationship, one forged in adversity and one that has endured over many years of shared sacrifice and mutual benefit. An FTA with Korea represents a new dynamic in Australia’s bilateral trade agreements, being as much about shoring-up our export base as expanding it.”

[ENDS]

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.

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