Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Senator Birmingham. Minister, how is the government delivering certainty for Australian exporters by growing export markets, including seeking a free trade agreement with the European Union?
I thank Senator Fawcett for his question and, as chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, for his very strong interest and advocacy in relation to trade, business, export growth and, of course, across the Foreign Affairs and Defence portfolios.
In relation to Australia's negotiations with the European Union, we seek an ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreement. We do so because the EU offers a potential market of more than half a billion customers to Australian businesses. Despite very significant trade restrictions that those Australian businesses already face, the EU is our second-largest trading partner and a significant export partner already. So the scope for growth is real if we can manage to see removal and reduction of tariffs and an increase or elimination of quota volumes.
What is really important is to make sure we get a great deal for our farmers and businesses, and the coalition government are committed to do that, as we have in all of our other trade negotiations. Industry knows this. We have been pleased with the reaction from industry as we have worked through this. The Australia-EU Red Meat Market Access Taskforce has described this FTA as a 'once-in-a-lifetime opportunity'. The Business Council of Australia has identified opportunities for farmers and businesses in relation to government procurement markets.
Trade sustains one in five Australian jobs, and the opportunity that we seek to realise is to keep those jobs and to grow further employment opportunities in the future. Businesses such as Almondco, in our state of South Australia, Senator Fawcett, or Premium Fresh in Tasmania, or Macadamias Direct, in subtropical northern New South Wales are the types of businesses who have identified that they can gain by growing market access into the European Union. They would have the ability to export more goods and, in exporting more goods, ensure an increase in revenue into Australia, create more jobs, sustain more jobs, pay more taxes and create the opportunities that will make Australia stronger into the future.
Minister, you are aware that the European Union has required that we issue a list of geographical indicators that they wish to protect. That has caused concern amongst some of my constituents, particularly people in the dairy industry. Can you outline the process that the government has taken with this and reassure them that our approach will support our interests?
As part of our negotiations, we have recently published a list of EU requested terms. There are 236 terms relating to spirits products and 172 relating to agricultural or other food names. In publishing this, it is important to identify, firstly, what's not on the list, because there were a number of concerns that existed in relation to this.
We are not being asked to protect a number of names that our dairy industry, in particular, had been concerned about—for example, brie, mozzarella, edam, gouda, pecorino, provolone, cheddar and, of course, camembert. We do acknowledge, though, that there are concerns in relation to products such as feta and parmesan. These are genuine concerns, and I emphasise we have made no commitments to the EU other than to publish this list of names—no commitments. We want to hear directly from Australian industry so that we can advocate emphatically on their behalf. That's why I have been visiting and meeting with many dairy industry representatives. We will continue to make sure that we get the best possible— (Time expired)
We continue to pursue these negotiations. They are about building on a proven method of success. Our trade agreements have created record levels of exports and record trade surpluses for Australia, and it's because of the network of free trade agreements that we as a nation have struck with the North Asian economies of Japan, Korea and China through the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Of course, we should never forget that those opposite said of the TPP that we should just give up and walk away when the United States gave up on it. But we didn't. We negotiated, we secured the deal and, in doing so, we've struck the first ever opportunities for trade agreements between Australia and Mexico and between Australia and Canada, as well as ensured continued elimination of trade barriers for many of our goods that have seen our good exports to China, Japan, Korea and ASEAN countries all grow significantly compared with the previous year. There is strong growth right across these markets, fuelling job opportunities and a stronger economy for all Australians. (Time expired)