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Farmers happy at trade policy shake-up

AAP | December 10 2010

Farmers happy at trade policy shake-up

Farmers have applauded the federal government for "cutting the bulldust" in trade policy by promising agreements with genuine economic benefits.

The federal government wants to introduce trade reform that focuses less on geopolitical concerns and more on national productivity.

It includes a return to the Hawke doctrine of trade liberalisation and reducing tariffs.

In a speech to the Lowy Institute on Friday, Federal Trade Minister Craig Emerson said he didn’t want Australia to be stuck in "interminable processes" and be continually saying "negotiations are proceeding".

"Nor am I interested in collecting trophies for the national mantelpiece, empty vessels engraved with the words `free trade agreement’ if they are nothing of the sort and of token value to our country," Dr Emerson said in his address.

The National Farmers Federation (NFF) welcomed the shift in trade policy.

NFF president Jock Laurie said Dr Emerson’s speech was refreshingly direct and applauded him for "cutting the bulldust and horse trading".

"The minister is right to focus on bilateral trade agreements with Korea, Japan, China and Indonesia, markets that directly reflect NFF’s trade priorities," Mr Laurie said.

"Opening markets, strengthening the international rules-based trading system, reducing subsidies and generally facilitating the free flow of food and fibre has been, and remains, one of the NFF’s highest priorities."

The government says it wants to reconnect with the Hawke-Keating government’s "first guiding principle in economic reform" that competition is good.

"In negotiations with trading partners, we neither seek exclusive nor preferential access to other countries’ markets — just an opportunity to compete," Dr Emerson said.

"It’s the quality of the deal, not the quality of the strategic relationships, that should determine whether the deal is worth having."

The new policy aims to to reduce tariffs to increase competition.

It will also continue negotiations for free-trade agreements with South Korea, Japan, China and other nations, through the stalled Doha round of international talks and through the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum.

The government will release a revised trade policy framework around the end of the first quarter of 2011.

A Productivity Commission report on the existing approach to trade policy will be released in the near future, Dr Emerson said.

 source: AAP