Adjournment debate – Benefits of Free Trade Agreements
Mr PITT (Hinkler—Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment) (12:14): I rise to update the chamber on the activities within the trade portfolio, particularly in areas of regional Australia. Mr Deputy Speaker Hastie, I am sure that you, as a proud Western Australian, are very well aware how important trade is to this nation. Australia is a trading nation, and the message is very, very simple: trade in this country equals jobs. More trade equals more jobs. That is the wholehearted focus of this government, to ensure we can provide jobs and jobs growth—not only in the cities but in the regional areas. Trade is an incredibly important part of that growth.
Across the domestic area we have hosted a number of free trade agreement seminars. The intention of these seminars is to provide information to small- and medium-sized businesses as to how they can be involved, particularly in the Asian country free trade agreements. We have signed free trade agreements with South Korea, with Japan and with China. They have been extraordinarily successful, but we need to ensure that Australian exporters are aware of the activities that they need to undertake to absolutely maximise the potential for their businesses under these arrangements.
The FTA seminars are a way to actually ensure they have that information available and, most importantly, that they issue what is called a certificate of origin at the time that they provide their goods and exports into these nations. Without the certificate of origin they do not get the tariff benefits that they should. Certainly, it has been quite a surprise to me that there are some areas where the uptake has been low. But there have been enormous improvements.
On the Sunshine Coast I was welcomed by the member for Fisher, Andrew Wallace, and the member for Fairfax, Ted O’Brien, and, of course, Kylie Watson, who is the CEO of the successful Sunshine Coast exporter Nutworks, at a recent FTA seminar. She spoke about her company’s experience following the reduction in Chinese tariffs for Australian macadamias. I am someone who comes from what is now the largest region for growing macadamias in this country. It is an incredibly important export and it has been an absolute success under the ChAFTA. Kylie spoke very highly of the success they have had. This is about real people who provide the sources of their exports and their business expertise at FTA seminars across the country.
At a seminar in Melbourne I was joined by Simon Vogrinec who, with his wife Michelle, is a successful Melbourne skin-care manufacturer and exporter—Gaia Skin Naturals. He spoke for some time about how his family business had benefited from tariff reductions secured as part of the FTAs. Simon’s quotes included:
Where the FTAs have come through, what we’ve seen is about a 36 percent increase. It’s quite significant growth for us – just in those market places.
I am sure that every business you are aware of, Mr Deputy Speaker Hastie, would like a 36 per cent increase—a 36 per cent increase! Simon continued:
To still be experiencing double-digit and triple-digit growth this far into our journey I think is exceptional, because it’s enabled us to grow and enabled our supply chain to grow.
So I would encourage all of my colleagues, regardless of which side of the chamber they are on, to get people involved in the FTA seminars. They provide good practical advice about how to ensure that exporting businesses are receiving the absolute maximum benefit of what has been negotiated in their interests.
I was recently in China, at Guangzhou airport. Just as a practical example, as we walked through the airport at Guangzhou there was a small fruit stall, a fruit seller. I thought, ‘I’ll just have a quick look at this.’ And, lo and behold, there were mandarins from 2PH, a Central Queensland company that grows citrus, provided into Guangzhou airport. Fortunately, through a translator, we were able to determine that Australian fruit and Australian products at this stall sell out not in three hours, not in two hours and not in one hour but in 30 minutes. It is such a highly-regarded product in China that it lasts just 30 minutes on the shelves of these small domestic facilities.
Another success story from your area, Mr Deputy Speaker, is the Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-Operative. It is just a magnificent cooperative. Its greatest line, I believe, is the fact that they support 350 families. That is who they employ—350 families. They have a live lobster facility within the grounds of China’s second-largest airport. It makes it the first and only Australian business to own holding tanks for live seafood in China. It is an incredible success story: almost half a billion dollars’ worth of exports every single year.
So they now have live tanks in Western Australia and live tanks in Guangzhou, which gives them the capacity to deliver an absolutely premium product to Chinese consumers. Can you imagine, Mr Deputy Speaker, being able to knock on a door in Guangzhou, in Shanghai or in other cities throughout China and receive, alive and fresh, Australian rock lobster for a premium price? It is a high-quality product—it is safe, it is lean, it is green and it is certainly what the consumer in Asian markets is after.
We need to continue to negotiate good agreements for our country. It is in our best interests and it will create more jobs.