China trade initiative gains momentum

China trade initiative gains momentum


Agribusiness
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WA'S farm lobby groups are eager to see the results of the industry-led initiative to bring government and industry representatives together from both China and Australia to strengthen trade ties.

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WA'S farm lobby groups are eager to see the results of the industry-led initiative to bring government and industry representatives together from both China and Australia to strengthen trade ties.

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce and a delegation of almost 40 Australians attended the first meeting of the business-to-business Australia-Sino Hundred Year Agricultural and Food Safety Partnership (ASA100) on Chinese soil last week.

ASA100 is an industry initiative to promote Australia as a competitive food supplier to China and to permanently boost the role of Australian agriculture in supplementing China's food supply.

Mining magnate and owner of Harvey Beef, Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest, called for a united approach back in June this year to form Team Australia to tap into the opportunities being offered to agriculture.

Four months on, the wheels are turning on Mr Forrest's strong warning to politicians, industry groups and farmers that "if Australia does not act quickly and decisively, we will be left behind in the race to feed Asia".

Mr Forrest joined the delegation with Mr Joyce and said the progress to form the ASA100 came from strong support of industry and government representatives in Australia and China.

"The level of Chinese enthusiasm and co-operation was very welcome and encouraging," Mr Forrest said.

"It was quite extraordinary to have all the most important players in Chinese agriculture and food distribution, all in one place at the one time – they have placed enormous significance on the ASA100.

"Everyone is looking to quickly deepen and expand the bilateral agricultural trade and investment relationship.

"China provides Australian agriculture with an enormous long-term opportunity, but we face significant global competition in securing this future.

"That is why a unified Australian approach is key to our agricultural success in China. "

The industry and trade delegation members included senior government officials such as Chinese Agriculture Minister Mr Han Changfu, Fletchers International Exports owner Roger Fletcher, Meat and Livestock Australia managing director Richard Norton, Norco dairy and co-operative chief executive Brett Kelly, Cattle Council of Australia president Andrew Ogilvie, Australian Ambassador to China Frances Adamson; key Chinese agribusiness leaders including New Hope Group chairman Liu Yonghao, Wahaha chairman Zong Qinghou and COFCO chairman Frank Ning.

For Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Tony Seabrook, news of the initiative's meeting was positive.

"Let's give it some time, and see what happens," Mr Seabrook said.

"You can meet as many government officials as you like, but you have to get the supplier together with the buyer to get the good deal.

"China is a special case, if this is the way to open the doors then three cheers, at the end of the day we will have to wait and see, but I do have a great deal of hope."

The first meeting in China celebrated the union of the two countries with a luncheon and an official launch.

The members from each country will meet biannually initially, and then annually.

Anything that makes the trade easier with China and Asia is welcomed by WAFarmers president Dale Park.

"We have been saying all along, it's not just going to happen – we have to work for it," Mr Park said.

"This is one of the ways which will help get it going.

"I'll be interested in seeing what will come out of it."

Mr Park was encouraged to see people involved in the industry and the supply chain involved in the talks from the start, not just government delegations.

Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston said he supported any measure that will be effective in bringing Australia and China closer together on trade.

"The WA government is focusing its energy on helping our producers understand and meet the demands of the emerging and rapidly growing middle class in the south east and northern Asian nations," Mr Baston said.

Mr Baston said the WA government was working with industry to improve productivity through innovative production techniques and research into genetics.

"The importance of this focus on quality was very much brought home to me on my recent trip to China, as was the need to ensure that we continue to carefully build strong relationships at the local level," Mr Baston said.

"I share Mr Joyce's view that Australian and particularly WA producers must focus on high quality produce.

"Our geography and cost structures mean that it is unlikely that we can compete on price so we have to compete on quality.

"This extends beyond the beef and sheep industry to aquaculture and fruit and vegetable production."

The meeting was a success, according to Mr Joyce who said it had been supported by politicians and industry.

"ASA100 is an industry initiative set up to promote Australia as a reliable and competitive food supplier to China and to permanently bolster the role of Australian agriculture and food in supplementing China's food supply to benefit both countries," Mr Joyce said.

"This is a commendable - and I think achievable - aim with considerable industry support behind it from both countries."

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