Market access under attack

Australian agriculture's push to improve its access to global markets is under serious attack

THE launch of the National Farmers Federation's new website calling for public support and donations to assist their campaign backing free-trade agreements drives home the reality that Australian agriculture's push to improve its access to global markets is under serious attack.

The new online platform which went live on Thursday contains information about the value of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) and the overall value to farmers of export tariff reductions and improved market access.

The site - - will also be backed by a new media campaign on free trade.

NFF president Brent Finlay rightly says ChAFTA is a game-changer for Australian agriculture by providing unprecedented access to the world's second largest economy and creating new opportunities for many key agricultural exports.

The launch of the website and media campaign is also a reflection of the real threat that vested interests including the unions and the union-controlled Australian Labor Party represent to the long-term profitability of primary producers.

The unions have already embarked on a divisive campaign using thinly veiled racism to attack the China trade agreement.

Militant unions including the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union and the Electrical Trades Union are also using scare tactics saying the China deal is not in the interests of working Australians as it allows companies to undercut wages and conditions for Australian workers by exploiting overseas labour. The union claims, while effective in alarming everyday Australians, are far from the truth.

As Treasurer Joe Hockey says, the investment facilitation arrangements (IFAs) around the deals would not reduce the current migration safeguards or preference overseas workers over Australian workers.

IFAs do not commit Australia to any concessions on existing 457 visa requirements; employers would have to prove that overseas workers were required, only when no qualified Australians were available.

At stake are new FTAs with Japan, Korea and China that would give Australian businesses - especially the farm sector - greater access to some the world's fastest growing markets.

These countries offer a customer base of 1.5 billion people, with more opportunities on the horizon with India.

"Unfortunately, a campaign is under way to derail implementation of this historic agreement and its benefits to our economy," the NFF says.

"Attempts to reopen the negotiations at this late stage put the whole deal at risk.

"Delaying the agreement could cost the agricultural export trade up to $300 million in 2016 alone, with untold flow-on effects, is loss of jobs and future income to rural and regional communities across Australia."

The NFF is calling on the public to "come on board and support Australian farmers".

"On this new website the public can contribute funds to help raise ongoing awareness about the value of free trade to Australian agriculture," Mr Finlay said.

"We want to continue putting information out into the public domain on free trade because we believe there's been a sense of disconnect about the importance of free trade and market access, for Australian agriculture."

Mark Phelps

Mark Phelps

is editor-in-chief of Queensland Country Life
A matter of opinionA selection of editorials from around the Fairfax Agricultural Media group covering the issues of the week.


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