FTA 'deals taking too long’

As the Australian government was very excited about the ‘new openings’ to some of its Free Trade Agreements, a major fresh produce group says the deals are taking too long.

A range of annual tariff cuts took effect on January 1 this year under free trade agreements settled by the government, improving opportunities in China, Korea and across the Pacific.

Speaking as agriculture minister at the time, Senator Bridget McKenzie said last December that the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA), which came into force in December 2015, continued to deliver for Australian agricultural and food exports, particularly for meat, dairy, wine, seafood and a range of horticultural products.

"Since ChAFTA came into force, agriculture, food, fisheries and forestry exports have increased by 60 per cent from $9.9 billion in 2014-15 to $15.9 billion in 2018-19," Mrs McKenzie said, adding that horticulture growers had the opportunity to build on the record 2018-19 export peak of $3.4 billion with tariffs on oranges and mandarins both falling.

"These reductions follow the most successful export season Australian citrus growers and exporters have had with industry estimating that over 273,000 tonnes worth over $500 million of citrus was exported to China in the 2019 season," she said.

Sluggish negotiations

But Australia's sluggish negotiation progress was holding horticulture exports back , according to the Australian Fresh Produce Alliance (AFPA). AFPA chief executive officer, Michael Rogers, said Australia's approach to negotiating market access arrangements appears to be different to competitor countries such as the USA and Chile.

"Under the new China-USA trade deal, China has agreed to finalise market access protocols for US avocados, blueberries, potatoes, and California nectarines. While Chile seems to be concluding new market access negotiations with China in about two years, compared to the six years it took Australia to negotiate access for table grapes to China."

Source: Fresh Plaza

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