WITH Australia now having free trade agreements (FTAs) with a number of its key grain export markets, industry analysts now say the focus must be on ensuring non-trade barriers do not influence potential sales.
“The expanding face of grain exports internationally means there has been a change in the nature of barriers of the global economy,” said Rosemary Richards, consultant at Grain Trade Australia (GTA).
“Increasingly we are seeing technical regulations and standards stopping the flow of grain, there’s been a big shift in terms of barriers to trade.”
She said GTA was focusing on market access and keeping in touch with importers in key markets to ensure there were no issues to stop Australian grain being exported.
In recent times, phytosanitary issues have caused problems in commodities such as barley and sorghum going from Australia into the massive Chinese market.
Cheryl Kalisch Gordon, trade and market access manager at Grain Growers, said FTAs were helping remove tariffs and giving Australian grain an advantage in key markets, but said the spin-off was an increased focus on the non-tariff measures that restrict grain imports.
Ms Kalisch Gordon said Australian now had ten FTAs, with the major ones the deals with the northern Asian giants in China, Japan and Korea, along with the deal with the deal with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“The deal with Korea is good for grains with some slow wind backs of tariffs, but with the Japan deal we only got concessions on feed barley and feed wheat.”
She said the ASEAN deal was a good one for the Australian grains sector as it allowed Australian grain and oilseeds to be traded freely in burgeoning markets across south-east Asia, with only smaller markets in Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar having some concessions.
“This is a big one, consumers there want more meat and so they need more feed grain and it is right on our doorstep.”
Ms Kalisch Gordon said the trade world was now closely monitoring two potential deals, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
“The future of the TPP is fairly uncertainty, it comes down to decisions made in the US and Japan.”
The TPP would involve some of Australia’s largest grain export competitors in the US and Canada so it will not give Australia an advantage into key Asian markets.
In terms of the RCEP, which is being driven by China, Ms Kalisch Gordon said the situation was also progressing slowly.
Ms Richards said GTA was committed to cutting out any sort of trade barriers.
“We need to participate in the markets in the most cost effective way possible and if trade barriers are making it harder to play then we need to try and work through them.”