Agriculture ’a must’ in Japan FTA

Tha Australian

Agriculture ’a must’ in Japan FTA

April 21, 2005

THERE is no point proceeding with a feasibility study into a free trade agreement between Australia and Japan if agriculture is excluded from the deal, Labor says.

Opposition trade spokesman Simon Crean today said previous free trade agreement talks between the two nations had failed because Japan refused to include agriculture.

"Why would we be going down the path of a free trade agreement with Japan that excluded agriculture?" he asked on ABC radio.

"It’s not worth pursuing if agriculture is excluded because it not only disadvantages our agricultural products, it undermines our leadership at the Cairns Group and it therefore undermines the negotiations in the World Trade Organisation."

Australia and Japan last night agreed to study the pros and cons of a free trade agreement, but Japan indicated it may be many years before it would actually lead to a deal.

It follows a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Australia and China, also paving the way for the start of negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA).

Mr Crean questioned what signal Australia was giving China by agreeing to talks with Japan, given China’s sensitivities in opening up its agriculture markets.

"What sort of a signal does it send there if the prime minister of Australia in 24 hours after reaching an all-inclusive deal, according to him, everything on the table with China, is then prepared to proceed down the path of a feasibility study which he knows the Japanese will not include agriculture in," he said.

"I think the prime minister has to insist on agriculture being in (on a deal with Japan), it’s as simple as that.

"It’s a simple proposition and a fundamental test for John Howard.

"What he has to do is argue some basic principles and that is we cannot agree to an approach to a free trade agreement that contains exclusions."

source : The Australian

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