ABC | 5 December 2013
Australia, South Korea finalise arrangements for free trade agreement
Australia has concluded negotiations with South Korea for a free trade agreement.
The deal, which still needs Cabinet approval in Australia and government agreement in South Korea, will increase Australian exports to Korea by 73 per cent over the coming 15 years, the Federal Government says.
Tariffs will be eliminated on Australian agricultural exports to Korea such as wheat, sugar, dairy, wine, horticulture and seafood, as well as resources, energy and manufactured goods.
The Government has acknowledged some sectors - including the automotive and steel industries, as well as textiles, clothing and footwear - will face increased competition from Korean imports.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott says Korea is Australia’s third-largest goods export market and fourth-largest trading partner, with trade between the two nations worth $32 billion in 2012.
"The benefits of the FTA [free trade agreement] start flowing immediately and will be long-lasting," Mr Abbott said in a statement.
Audio: Trade Minister Andrew Robb speaks to Anna Vidot (ABC Rural)
"Independent modelling shows the agreement would be worth $5 billion between 2015 and 2030 and boost the economy by around $650 million annually after 15 years."
Trade Minister Andrew Robb says the agreement is "world class".
"This is the best trading deal that we’ve done certainly since the United States Free Trade Agreement over 10 years ago," he told ABC Rural.
"In many respects, it’s better for us on agriculture and some other products."
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has welcomed the announcement and has asked for a briefing from the Government.
"We wish to appreciate the impact upon our budget and our economy, not least of all we want to ensure that Australian jobs are supported and maintained and Australian opportunities are available in the future to make sure our national interest is advanced," he said.
The Business Council of Australia says the agreement signals the Australia is open for business and should boost confidence after the Government’s decision to block the foreign sale of GrainCorp last week.
Tariff reductions a win for beef industry but rice misses out
Tariffs on Australian beef will be reduced to zero over 15 years under this agreement, the same deal offered to the US.
The beef industry says it hopes the agreement will help Australia to be more competitive in the South Korea, Australia’s third-largest beef export market.
Rice is the only significant Australian agricultural commodity to miss out on a tariff reduction under this agreement, leaving the rice industry fuming.
Rice Growers Australia executive director Ruth Wade says the Federal Government needs to make amends, adding that the deal is "free trade" in name only.
"A free trade agreement has been struck and yet not all products are included," she told ABC Rural.
"We’re extremely disappointed rice has been excluded."
The rice industry wants greater consideration in ongoing negotiations for FTAs with China and Japan after being left out of the Korea deal.
"We are now saying to our government, we got traded off, out of this agreement," Ms Wade said.
"Please now, as a matter of urgency, address the issues of protocols which would give us access immediately to the Chinese market."