Thursday, 12 November 2015
Questions without Notice
Trade with China
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, Minister Scullion. As you well know, Minister, Australia recently entered into a free trade agreement with China. Given the increasing demand for Australian made complementary medicines, such as vitamins and mineral supplements, and the premium Chinese consumers place on Australian made products of this type, can you explain to the Senate what impact ChAFTA will have on this growing Australian industry?
Thank you very much for the question, Senator Madigan. This is a really important question. He asked me about the ChAFTA. At its core, this agreement will mean more jobs for more Australians. It will mean better access to the world's second largest economy, an improved competitive position for export markets, more prospects for increased two-way investment and reduced costs for imports for Australian businesses and consumers alike.
ChAFTA will open significant opportunities for Australia in the world's second largest economy and one of the fastest growing. China is Australia's largest export destination for both goods and services, accounting for nearly a third of total exports. It is our largest export market for agriculture, resources and services and a growing source of investment, creating jobs and economic prosperity for Australia.
The benefit of this agreement is far reaching. One of the great beneficiaries in our economy is services, particularly our world-class health sector. We often forget that China is already Australia's largest services market, worth nearly $7.5 billion in 2013-14. The opening up of the Chinese health industry to foreign investment represents an unprecedented opportunity for Australian businesses, given China's growing middle class and its increased demand for quality health care.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, is the government aware that under our labelling laws there is no mandatory requirement that complementary medicines manufactured here be labelled 'Made in Australia'? If so, what plans does the government have to ensure our products are easily identified by Chinese consumers?
As I understand it, medicine labels are required to include the name and the address of the Australian sponsor. The country of manufacture is not required to be identified on the labels. Senator, as you would know, country-of-origin labelling for medicines is a voluntary measure at this time. I am advised that this proposal was discussed with Minister Nash's office this morning for the first time. I have sought some advice from Minister Nash's office and I am happy to take the remainder of this particular question on notice. It is a very important issue, and we will provide you with a brief and the Senate with a further answer to that question on notice.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Minister, I was recently shown packaging used by a big name complementary medicine label for products it sells in China. The packaging prominently displays an Australian flag and the company is identified as based in Australia, yet the product is made in China, this not being stated anywhere on the packaging. Minister, what plans does the government have to ensure that foreign made products are not able to be passed off to our biggest foreign market as Australian made? (Time expired)
Again, I thank Senator Madigan for the question. It is a very important question. As I indicated, the office of Senator Nash only became aware of that this morning. I have made some inquiries. We are currently preparing a comprehensive brief for the senator and we will also provide a comprehensive answer to your question on notice.