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Delays to China-Australia FTA will hit exports, business groups warn

Delays to China-Australia FTA will hit exports, business groups warn  article image

Australia risks missing out on a surge in jobs and export opportunities if the Parliament delays approving the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA), say key industry groups.

Australian exports to China already account for nearly 6 per cent of Australia's GDP, making it Australia's largest trading partner.  

Worth $100 billion annually, Australian exports to China are more than the combined value of Australia’s exports to the US, Germany, the UK, South Korea, France, Canada and all of South East Asia.

The trade agreement will deepen and broaden this relationship with one of the world’s fastest growing economies, says Kate Carnell CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI).

ACCI has joined forces with the National Farmers' Federation and the Minerals Council of Australia in a national campaign to inform the public on the benefits of the landmark deal.

The campaign explains how the deal will offer improved access to our largest trading partner, creating new jobs and economic opportunities across Australia.

The campaign urges the Federal Parliament to ratify the agreement before the end of the year, ensuring Australia benefits from more rapid tariff reductions.

The campaign will tell the stories of Australian businesses across the farming, small business and minerals and energy sectors that see enormous potential in the Chinese market but are burdened by restrictions on trade.

Scaremongering

Ms Carnell said it was disappointing some groups created community fears that the agreement would lead to unqualified overseas workers.

"Their scaremongering is damaging to Australia's interests and our relationship with China, a key trading partner," she said. "Many Australian small businesses are exploring export opportunities and China has enormous potential as a destination, so it is vital we make it as easy as possible for them."

Brent Finlay, the President of the National Farmers' Federation and a farmer from Stanthorpe, Queensland, said Australian farmers rely on trade and international markets to generate $42.4 billion for the Australian economy each year, with $9 billion in earnings from China alone.
 
"If the Parliament fails to ratify ChAFTA this year it will mean that farmers and the
Australian community will miss out on two rounds of tariff cuts," he said.

"This will damage the competitiveness and affordability of all Australian products in China, and set Australian agriculture back $300 million in 2016."

‘A decision to block the trade deal is unthinkable’

Brendan Pearson, CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia, said the agreement will eliminate tariffs that add nearly $600 million in costs to the bilateral minerals and energy trade, including about $380 million for exporters of thermal and metallurgical coal.

"A decision to block the trade deal is unthinkable. An extended delay will simply advantage our competitors in the Chinese market. This includes Indonesia, whose thermal coal exports enter China tariff-free courtesy of an earlier FTA while Australian thermal coal exports face a 6 per cent tariff impost," he said.

The campaign involves advertising across all major media platforms and other efforts to explain ChAFTA to the Australian community.

Massive job opportunitiesKate Carnell

The key business groups say the Labor Party must publicly reject the misleading claims being propagated by the union movement in relation to the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. 
  
“ChAFTA will bring massive job opportunities for Australians,” said Ms Carnell.

“Claims that the FTA will allow for cheap, unqualified Chinese workers in Australia are false and have been comprehensively discredited by experts.
 
“The agreement will not allow Australian employment laws or conditions to be undermined. Instead, it will create more job opportunities so we can maintain our high standard of living.
 
“ChAFTA is the culmination of 10 years’ work by both sides of Australian politics. The Australian business community is seeking bipartisan support to pass the enabling legislation through Parliament this year.”  

Meanwhile, Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Innes Willox said the current fears of a flood of foreign workers are overblown. 

“When Enterprise Migration Agreements were introduced in 2011 there were similar claims of an inundation of hundreds of thousands of foreign workers. It didn't happen then and it won't now,” Mr Willox said.

“Opportunities need to be grasped, not shied away from and the focus on the free trade deals we negotiate needs to be kept firmly on opportunity and not on fear."

The ChAFTA, signed earlier this year, has to be ratified by both countries.

The agreement must pass through China’s council and must sit on the table of the Australian Parliament for 15 days.

‘Best deal we have had with any country’

In a recent ABC Radio interview Trade Minister Andrew Robb warned the agreement would “fall over” if the Opposition blocks if the deal is blocked in the Senate.

“We’ve got a deal which is the best deal China has done with any country in the world,” said Mr Robb.

“It is the best deal we have ever had with any country.”

 “The opportunities are unbelievable for us and this China deal is giving us an advantage that no other country has got in the world.”

“There will be tens of thousands of jobs created through this exercise.

Mr Robb said the unions’ opposition to the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) is nothing short of economic sabotage.

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