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Trade agreements critical to agriculture’s Asian Century

21 November 2012

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has welcomed today’s announcement that the Australian Government will engage in negotiations for a new Asian region trade agreement.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, launched today, will bring together the ten ASEAN countries along with Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand to form a formal trade partnership.

“Today’s announcement is good news for Australian agriculture. The challenge now is the need to push this trade agreement along to ensure there are real, tangible outcomes,” NFF President, and Chair of the NFF Trade Committee, Jock Laurie said.

“These 16 countries collectively account for almost half the world’s population and contribute some 30 percent to global GDP. The Asian region is already a major export market for Australia, with some 64 percent of all agricultural exports going to China, Japan, the ASEAN countries and other parts of Asia.

“And, with the population of this region expected to boom, there is an enormous opportunity for Australian agriculture in Asia – as recognised by the Government in the Asian Century White Paper, and by the Prime Minister herself in her address to the NFF 2012 National Congress just last month.

“Underpinning this opportunity is the need for strong relationships and trade agreements that deliver real benefits for agriculture. The NFF has been working with Government for many years to push for outcomes on both multilateral and regional trade agreements. Today’s announcement brings us another step towards improving, and securing, international market access for Australian agricultural goods.

“Following the signing of the Malaysia-Australia free trade agreement in May, our attention is now on ensuring agriculture remains front and centre in the agreements with South Korea, Japan, China and Indonesia.

“These are all markets with enormous growth opportunities and where significant barriers to trade in agriculture still exist, not only through tariffs that restrict trade but also through technical or so called ‘behind the border’ restrictions.

“The success of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will be measured by whether it can achieve real outcomes on lowering trade barriers, driving trade liberalisation and improving the flow of Australian agricultural goods and services in Asia,” Mr Laurie said.

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