Bishop to move on FTAs

26 Jul, 2013 02:00 AM
Shadow Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Julie Bishop said Australia was missing out on trade opportunities.
Shadow Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Julie Bishop said Australia was missing out on trade opportunities.

CONCLUDING Free Trade Agreements (FTA) will be at the top of the to-do-list for the Coalition should it win government at the next election.

Shadow Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Julie Bishop said the Labor Government had dropped the ball on FTA's and competing countries were leaving Australia behind and Australia was missing out on trade opportunities.

FTAs have been a major talking point for some time now, in particular with China, since the Howard Government began negotiations with the power nation in 2005, but so far the Federal Government has failed to complete negotiations.

Ms Bishop said the Coalition was committed to finally concluding FTAs in the region.

"Since the collapse of the Doha Round, other countries have been very busy signing up FTAs and our competitors now have an advantage over us in a number of ways," Ms Bishop said.

"Canada for example has signed a number of FTAs.

"They have about 18 in negotiation now covering about 74 countries.

"But importantly in the agricultural area, New Zealand has concluded FTAs with China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and they are gaining market share.

"The US has signed a FTA with South Korea and they are gaining market share in the lucrative beef export market and Australia still hasn't concluded a FTA with China or with South Korea."

Premier Colin Barnett said in June he doubted the current negotiations for a FTA with China would happen, saying the Federal Government was having its 19th round of negotiations when he was in Beijing.

Mr Barnett has turned his focus to Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) rather than FTAs.

But Ms Bishop was confident the Coalition would be able to get the FTAs over the line by following the New Zealand Government approach.

"New Zealand got a FTA for as much as they were able to and now they have proven themselves as a reliable supplier and China is now talking much more favourably about extending the FTA," she said.

But Ms Bishop also signalled that she would not just be focusing on Asia as a market and would look for more trade opportunities.

"I see the globe as our marketplace and I believe Australian agriculture should be looking at accessing new markets and enhancing existing markets anywhere we can," she said.

"We will be very active in seeking trade opportunities because our country is based on an open export-oriented economic model and our standard of living is dependent on us being able to export our goods and services to the world.

"I believe the government has dropped the ball on trade and we will be dedicated to opening new markets when we can.

"India is an obvious market for us and so is Russia, yet you don't hear anything from the current government about pursuing trade opportunities with Russia.

"We are losing out on these opportunities."

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27/07/2013 3:13:37 AM, on Farm Weekly

Will Ms Bishop be ensuring that the FTAs are Fair Trade agreements, especially when the other side of the trading partnership has high subsidies?


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