Question Time: Trade

  • Transcript, E&OE
08 September 2015

Ms PRICE (Durack) (14:40): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister explain how the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement and other free trade agreements will provide benefits in the form of jobs and growth in the economy? Are there any threats to the realisation of these benefits?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:41): I thank the member for Durack for her question, for her electorate, like many in Western Australia, has a strong agriculture sector where produce is grown and exported to China. Western Australian agriculture businesses–indeed, exporters across the country–stand to gain enormously from the free trade agreement with China, for it will remove significant barriers to Australian agricultural exports across a range of products including dairy, beef, lamb, wine, horticulture, barley and seafood in particular.

The three agreements negotiated by this government with China, with Japan and with South Korea are an unprecedented investment in Australian jobs and in Australia's economic future. This trifecta covers an extraordinary 52 per cent of all of our exports, and the benefits are already flowing from the Japan and Korea agreements. Now our exporters and producers, from dairy farmers to pharmaceutical producers, are waiting on entry into force of the China agreement, when tariffs will be slashed on around 95 per cent of our exports into our biggest market.

But the biggest threat to the realisation of all these benefits is in fact the Leader of the Opposition. He has a history of saying one thing privately and another thing publicly. He double-deals on free trade agreements. And let me point this out: as a trade union boss, the Leader of the Opposition led the calls for Australia to deny China market economy status. That is an essential precondition for free trade agreement negotiations, and the trade union leader was leading the calls against China–

Ms Plibersek: How'd you go with the AIIB? How'd you go with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank?

The SPEAKER: The member for Sydney will cease interjecting.

Ms JULIE BISHOP: as a market economy.

Ms Plibersek interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Sydney is warned.

Ms JULIE BISHOP: And then, on coming to office, Labor terminated the funding that had been allocated by the Howard government to continue trade negotiations with China. Labor ripped out the necessary negotiating resources not only from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade but from the Department of Agriculture, from immigration, from finance, from Treasury, from education, from Attorney-General's, from communications and from IP Australia. They took the necessary funding away so that our officials could not continue to negotiate the free trade agreement.

If Australians want to know why these vital free trade agreement negotiations went nowhere under Labor, why our competitors were given a head start in the Chinese market and why Labor is now stalling, they need look no further than Labor's double-dealing on this issue.

Labor fails to realise that we are at an economic juncture. Choose the free trade agreement, back the free trade agreement and Australia will prosper. There will be more jobs, more economic growth. Choose to stall and renegotiate, and the offer will no longer exist. Labor and the trade unions have done everything possible to prevent the finalisation of a free trade agreement with China, and that affects our prosperity and our jobs.

Media enquiries