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China FTA: A good deal is essential

7 March 2014

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has welcomed the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s commitment to accelerate a free-trade deal with Australia. An agreement could be signed by the end of the year, which could translate to significant gains for the Australian farm sector.

NFF President Brent Finlay has reiterated the importance of finalising the agreement, acknowledging that China could become Australia’s biggest trading partner.

“This deal is a potential boon for agriculture. It looks as though agricultural and food sectors will be major winners from this agreement, with mining and manufacturing sectors also benefiting,” Mr Finlay said.

“The projected changes in exports of agricultural products are estimated at around an additional $600m per year. However, results will obviously depend on what the final details of the agreement might be.

“Regardless, with a population of over 1 billion people and incomes expanding, there is no doubt that a trade agreement with China is a priority for the Australian farm sector,” Mr Finlay said.

The agreement with China is likely to improve the trade opportunities, for which there is already an impressive record. From 2003 to 2013 agricultural exports to china increased from eight per cent of total exports, to twenty per cent. This represents a value of over $7 billion in 2012–13. The largest exports include wool (at $2.2 billion), grain and oilseeds ($1.3 billion), and meat and livestock (at $600 million).

“There are major opportunities for our farmers in finalising this deal. In saying that, this deal is only one of several being negotiated at the moment. We’re still focusing on bilateral agreements with Japan and India, as well as regional agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Mr Finlay said.

“We strongly support a free-trade agreement with China, but the agreement must take a holistic view of Australian agriculture and consider trade access across all markets. We will not support a deal that is signed at any cost. A second-rate agreement in any area is simply not good enough.

“The momentum gained from progressing positive outcomes in other negotiations indicates we’re on the right track. Achieving new export market opportunities and reducing trade distortions within global markets is essential for Australia’s farmers, given we export some 60 per cent of the food and fibre we grow,” Mr Finlay said.

The NFF will continue to be the united voice for Australian farmers and, more broadly, agriculture across Australia, ensuring trade agreements are forward-thinking, inclusive and bring greater gains across the Australian farm sector.

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