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Less talk, more action: farmers call for outcomes on trade

8 December 2012

As the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations take place in New Zealand, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is calling on the Australian Government to increase its focus on trade in order to deliver real outcomes for Australian farmers.

NFF President and Chair of the NFF Trade Committee, Jock Laurie, says while there have been some small steps forward on trade, the agricultural sector is growing restless over seemingly endless delays in completing trade negotiations.

“The NFF is one of many agricultural bodies taking part in the TPP negotiations here in Auckland, which demonstrates the strong body of industry that wishes to see real movement in the area of trade,” Mr Laurie said.

“Achieving new export market opportunities and reducing trade distortions within global markets is essential for Australia's farmers, given we export some 60 percent of the food and fibre we grow. Yet agriculture has the highest trade distortions of any sector of merchandise trade, with average global tariffs more than three times greater for food and fibre products.

“While there have been some positive steps forward on trade, like the signing of the Australian-Malaysia free trade agreement for instance, other negotiations seem to have stalled completely.

“And while agriculture is often a sticking point in trade negotiations, we believe it must remain as a central pillar in the negotiations, not be put in a too-hard basket and not negotiated.

“We will continue to strongly encourage the Australian Government to push for real agricultural trade reform. Delays in achieving tangible outcomes are already putting Australian farmers at a disadvantage to farmers from other countries, with Australia lagging behind the US, for instance, in finalising our beef trade agreement with South Korea.

“It’s time for real action, both in finalising Australia’s trade agreements with key export markets, and in liberalising global trade reform. The gains to Australian farmers, and indeed to the world’s farmers, from free trade are just too great to ignore,” Mr Laurie said.

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