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Call for clearer country of origin rules

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The Australian Made, Australian Grown (AMAG) Campaign has called for the introduction of an administrative mechanism to provide greater surety for businesses seeking to make a particular country of origin claim for their products. In its submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Trade Practices (Australian Consumer Law) Bill (No.2) 2010, AMAG expressed its concerns that the definition of substantial transformation didn’t provide "a clear and objective criterion" to assess claims. Substantial transformation is currently defined in the Trade Practices Act as "a fundamental change in that country in form, appearance or nature such that the goods existing after the change are new and different goods from those existing before the change". It forms the basis of AMAG’s criteria for using the AMAG logo with the claim 'Australian Made'. However, businesses unsure whether their products can be classified as substantially transformed in Australia are currently unable to obtain a clear ruling from the ACCC or any other body, unless the matter is dealt with in a court of law. "A new approach to the concept of substantial transformation is essential in order to reduce confusion on the part of both business and consumers," AMAG chief executive Ian Harrison said. Under the AMAG proposal manufacturers could apply for and receive a ruling on the matter. It also suggested that alternative approaches to evaluating substantial transformation, such as the Change of Tariff Classification (CTC) method used in Free Trade Agreements, should be considered. The Bill proposes to insert definitions for 'Australian Grown' into the country of origin provisions. AMAG supports this but is concerned the criteria allow for as little as 50 percent by weight, rather than 90 percent prescribed in the AMAG rules to use the 'Australian Grown' logo. "This Bill before Parliament is an opportunity for significant improvements to the law relating to country of origin labelling in this country - an opportunity which is not likely to come again in the near future," said Harrison. "AMAG believes that, rather than adopt a hasty, cut-and-paste approach to the new legislation, it is important to take the time to consider what has and hasn’t worked under the current regime, and take steps to rectify any problem areas identified."

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