Thursday, 10 December 2020
Questions without Notice
Trade with China
My question is to the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Senator Birmingham. The increasing trade tensions with China are escalating the concern of Australian farmers and export focused businesses and highlighting the need for Australia to secure our sovereignty and diversify of our trading markets. Can the minister update the Senate on how the Liberal and Nationals government have been growing our export opportunities for Australian businesses to drive the comeback from COVID-19?
Opposition senators interjecting—
on indulgence—Can I again acknowledge, with the late Susan Ryan's family in the gallery, the enormous contribution that she made, in a groundbreaking way, to this nation.
I thank Senator McKenzie for her question. There is no stronger advocate for so many of Australia's exporting industries than Senator McKenzie, and indeed I know full well how strongly she and all members on our side have championed the interests of our export industries in recent years. In recent years our government has succeeded in bringing into force more trade agreements that provide more opportunities for new markets than any other government in Australian history.
The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership included new free trade agreements with markets in Canada and Mexico, and in doing so eliminated more than 98 per cent of tariffs across them. The Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement sees this year over 99 per cent of Australian goods exported by value entering duty free or under significantly improved preferential access. It is a long-sought-after agreement with Indonesia that we have secured and delivered. The Hong Kong agreement guarantees all Australian goods enter duty free. The Peru agreement eliminates more than 99 per cent of tariffs by 2024. PACER Plus, I am pleased to say, will enter into force this Sunday and will support our Pacific neighbours, particularly in their economic recovery from COVID-19. These come on top of the trade agreements negotiated earlier in the life of our government with the three large north Asian countries of China, Korea and Japan.
On Tuesday this week we brought into force our world-leading digital economy agreement with Singapore, which improves regional digital trading conditions and makes it easier for exporters to do business. Meanwhile, we have implemented some 26 of the actions under the 15-year India economic strategy of our government, delivering opportunities in that market and in so many others for Australian businesses to grow.
Can the minister please outline what action Australia has either considered or is pursuing through the World Trade Organization to stand up for Australian primary producers following the imposition by China of prohibitive tariff increases on Australian wine and barley?
Indeed, I have expressed, as has our government, our deep dissatisfaction and concern with the actions of China in a number of areas disrupting trade by Australian exporters into that market. We have, as a government, used and stood by the rules based international trading system, based around the World Trade Organization. We have done so by initiating a dispute with our friends in India on concerns about sugar subsidies. We, indeed, initiated a dispute with our friends in Canada in relation to wine subsidies. In that matter, we settled the arrangements with Canada on those wine issues following dialogue and discussion. I emphasise that just because you get to the point of initiating a WTO dispute it doesn't take dialogue off the table. The opportunity will always remain to do so, and whilst we consult and consider initiating such action against China in relation to barley, we also wish the Chinese government would come to the table and be willing, as Australia is, to have that dialogue to resolve these disagreements. (Time expired)
Whilst having achieved many new market opportunities for Australian farmers and businesses, we have been relentless in seeking to create even more. During our time, we have grown the amount of Australian trade covered by preferential terms from 26 per cent up to 70 per cent. Recently we signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, providing more common rules of origin across the nations of our region, which will make it easier for goods exporters and provide new opportunities for services exports across the region. We are actively continuing to negotiate with the United Kingdom and the European Union to secure trade agreements with those entities and economies as well as with the Pacific Alliance countries of Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Chile. We are also reengaging with India as part of our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership arrangements with India on a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement. We are also building on a new economic cooperation program with Vietnam and on our strategies to pursue opportunities with the market of Indonesia.