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Business, rice farmers beg to differ on Japan FTA

09 April, 2014

Tony Abbott announced this week (Monday, April 7) Australia had finally struck a historic trade deal with Japan, a move that will allow a number of local industries – most significantly agriculture – to add billions to Australia's economic growth.

Locally the deal will see trade barriers slashed for food exports, and also allow for potentially stronger trade in resources and services. In return, Australia will reduce the price consumers pay for Japanese car and automobile components, whitegoods, and electronics – a majority of which will be free of tariffs within the time-span of the deal being sanctioned.

The Business Council of Australia (BCA) have joined the coalition who have embraced the deal, with BCA President Catherine Livingstone labelling it "a major milestone for one of Australia's most important bilateral agreements", according to a statement released on Tuesday.

"The Japan–Australia Free Trade Agreement will reinvigorate and strengthen an already critical bilateral relationship by providing a modern commercial framework for increased trade and investment," Livingstone said.

"As Australia's largest trade partner for much of the last four decades, and the third largest foreign investor in Australia, Japan has long been a significant source of the capital and markets needed to develop key Australian export industries, including coal, iron ore and LNG.

"An effort now needs to be made to push ahead with implementation, which is a task for both government and business.

"The highly complementary nature of our economic relationship should provide significant gains for both sides.

"For Australia this means more access for agri-producers, services providers and investors to the large, affluent Japanese market, and Japan will benefit from greater food and energy security and greater access to investment opportunities in Australia."

'Extremely disappointing' for some

Despite the general chorus of approval from most corners of industry, there was one group who felt short-changed by the outcome.

Having been excluded from deal, the Ricegrowers' Association of Australia (RGA) said they were "extremely disappointed" with the announcement, according to a statement.

This was despite, according to RGA President Les Gordon, the rice industry working closely with the government to develop a range of options for inclusion deal which would have delivered "commercial benefits" to industry.

"The Australian government seems unable or unwilling to even acknowledge rice in any statements about the agreement," Gordon said. 

"Australian rice growers are recognised as the most efficient in the world. 

"This announcement punishes Australian growers by preventing expansion into this important market for our high quality specialty rices and our value added rice food products.

"We have strongly supported the Australian government's efforts to finalise these trade agreements but only if they are comprehensive, and do not exclude any agricultural products.

"Given that rice has been excluded in the Korea FTA and the Japan Trade Agreement our industry is calling on the Australian government to ensure that we have access to China. 

"The same cultural sensitivities do not apply in China and they already import more than 6 million tonnes of rice annually.

"Australian rice technically already has access to the Chinese market under World Trade Organisation rules but we have been waiting for protocols to be finalised for more than six years to actually gain access. This should now be completed as a matter of urgency."

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Justin Willmett | Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 3:01 PM
In regards the comment: "Japan will gain greater access to investment opportunities in Australia" -- Will that also include the access of Japanese Banks into the Australian Mortgage market ? The banks in Japan offer mortgage rates of < 1.0 % ! If allowed into the Aussie Home Loan market, these banks can offer rates of 2.0 to 3.0 % - in direct competition to the BIG 4 Aussie banks. That will shake up the finance and credit rate 'hold' of the Aussie banks.
Ken Goldsmith | Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 4:19 PM
"Having been excluded from deal, the Ricegrowers' Association of Australia (RGA) said they were "extremely disappointed" with the announcement, according to a statement." Obviously, we can't sign up to export rice, or any other foodstuff, when governments at all levels are destroying the farms and water resources required to produce them, so that CSG producers can honour their contracts, signed up often before the gas had been found, let alone tapped.
Lou Furbadamo | Friday, April 11, 2014, 11:00 AM
Given that our flawed, duplicating, inherently over regulated, inefficient, wasteful and crony political system, has been unable to world best practice provide a viably competitive, level operating field for Australian manufacturing. Continued manufacturing industry sell-out and demise, with resulting growing unemployment, lowering living standards, government revenue, costs gouging and service provisions is inevitable. So too, the reactive political spin, hype, blatant lies and deception. Such that if you wait long enough, the damning truths always, embarrassingly come out to bite! Pity our poor, lackadaisical, snorting multi sell-out governments, don’t have to compete and survive in the cut throat international market place, like failing manufacturers, real private industry employers and true national wealth generators. Notwithstanding, although not many local yokels and intellects can detect, expose or effectively oppose it. The recent free trade deal’s corner stone reliance, “after supposedly seven years of hard work and tough negotiations”, on attractively sacrificially tossing in the car & manufacturing industry’s 5% carrot tariff reduction and other previously prudent local protection mechanisms. Treacherously clearly tells us, all we needed to know, to deservedly finally Chinese neck noose, jerk shock teach them a long overdue lesson! Which under decaying looming circumstances, would probably be too scheming good, for our betraying, bestowing Dark, Low Knights? Talk about a conniving, rigged set up! Water ecologically nonsense compatible rice growers may well gripe and complain, but so too would the higher employing car companies, if they still had genuine local interest?? Otherwise, not pre-consigning their terminal end and concocted failure of local car manufacturing and component suppliers. How else could our deplorable Gov. wheeler- dealers, realistically, make such foreign attractive “foul chalk for cheese” gullible concessions? The far more business astute and opportunistic foreigners, must have seen our smelly coalition country bumpkins and wood duck pollie, bimbos coming for miles? Crucially, imagine our car manufacturer’s impressions and shocking impact on future local viability calculations and recent planning decisions, when they were earlier privy informed of this current liberal trade and open for mug’s sell-out business eventuality? Clearly, the Auto Companies would’ve had to prior commit pulling up stumps, to minimise objections the worker furore, before these treacherous deals could have been set and mug conceded. Otherwise, why would Toyota, Ford and GM persevere with continued Australian activity and jobs, when our dopey government was set to continue pulling the forever internationally uncompetitive rug from under them, and better still; Clueless hand them our cheap “open businesses” on a uniquely unexpected, exploitable, bigger scale sell out plate anyway! Way You Go Primary & Farming Industry “clever basket case,” agricultural and simpleton industry based , backward Bumkin Dodo Oz! Cheers Furbo!