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Korea, Japan and then China: Australia’s trade hit list

22 September 2010

AUSTRALIAN farmers are urging new Federal Trade Minister Craig Emerson to hit the ground running by ramping up negotiations in north Asia and, first up, securing an agreement with Korea by early next year.

“There’s a big chance we can nail agreements with both Korea and Japan in the short-term, while China will be a longer negotiation,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President David Crombie explained following an NFF Trade Committee meeting in Canberra today. “Collectively, these three markets buy 31% of Australia’s total agricultural exports.

“They are growing markets, but changing trade dynamics mean the Australian Government needs to move fast. We need new trade deals just to keep pace.

“First up, Korea is the priority. Korea has stitched up bilateral trade agreements with our two biggest competitors – the United States and the European Union – those deals, once ratified, will leave Australia’s farm exports out in the cold.

“According to the Centre for International Economics (CIE), the US deal with Korea will slash Australia’s agricultural and food exports into Korea by 12.4% by 2030 – gouging around $800 million from our accumulated agricultural and food exports.

“That is, of course, unless we act quickly to get our own deal with Korea.

“The CIE estimates that an Australia-Korea trade agreement would see our agriculture and food exports into the Korean market increase by 53.3% by 2030 (or around $700 million), even if the US deal is ratified.

“It’s an all-or-nothing proposition. If we can clinch a Korean deal the Australian economy will be $700 million in front... if not, we’re $800 million in the hole.

“Our farmers are acutely aware of Korea’s importance. It is already one of our biggest markets for beef, dairy and sugar. As much as we’d like to grow our Korean market, sealing a deal is equally defensive in shoring-up our existing foothold.

“The beauty of an Australia-Korea trade deal is it’s a win for both countries, given Australian exports would be complementary to, rather than competition for, Korean products, such as beef and dairy. We can, in fact, help grow the market for food in Korea and are a stable, secure supplier of safe, high quality product.

“The NFF is committed to doing everything in our power to assist Minister Emerson on this. Like the Australian Government, we remain committed to the World Trade Organisation’s multilateral trade reforms through the Doha Round, however, in the meantime, important bilateral trade with Korea, Japan and China pose tangible benefits for Australia and Australian farmers.

“We want these deals done and we expect an ambitious outcome for agriculture.”

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