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Finalise the Japan-Australia trade agreement, say farmers

22 March 2013

Australian farmers are calling on the Australian and Japanese Governments to finalise a free trade agreement to liberalise agricultural trade before Japan signs on to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President and Chair of the NFF trade committee, Jock Laurie, said the completion of the Japan-Australia free trade agreement would provide security of this market – the second largest for Australian agricultural exports – for farmers.

“Japan is a very important market for Australian agriculture. We currently export 12 percent of our agricultural produce, including beef, sugar, dairy and grains to Japan, which is why the completion of the Japan-Australia free trade agreement (FTA) is so critical.

“Negotiations around this FTA have been ongoing since 2007, and with Japan now announcing its intention to join the TPP, our concern is that the FTA talks could be put on the backburner.

“Ultimately, what we would like to see is a completed Japan-Australia FTA that improves the current arrangements and increases commercial trade between the two countries, prior to Japan shifting its focus to the TPP.

“We see Japan joining the TPP as a positive step, as long as progress made to date is not lost. The TPP represents a great opportunity for Australian agricultural trade, but it is also complex, given it involves eleven countries trying to agree on outcomes.

“We look forward to Japan engaging in the negotiations with an open and positive approach to agricultural trade, and favourably considering what is already on the table,” Mr Laurie said.

Mr Laurie’s comments come ahead of a trip to Japan in April, where he will form part of a an industry delegation discussing trade and the mutual challenges facing Australian and Japanese agriculture. This follows a trip to Korea this month around the Korean-Australia FTA.

“Combined, Japan and Korea comprise of almost 20 percent of Australia’s agricultural export trade. We have been pushing for the completion of the Japanese and Korean FTAs for many years and negotiations are reaching a critical stage: if the FTAs are not completed soon, Australian farmers will lose out.

“We are not willing to let this happen. We urge the Australian Government to get these deals done – and to ensure they’ve been worth the wait,” Mr Laurie said.

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