Question Time: Trade with Asia

  • Transcript, E&OE

Ms MARINO (Forrest–Government Whip) (15:18): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister advise the House how the free trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea will help increase economic prosperity in Western Australia? Are there any threats to the realisation of these benefits?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (15:18): I thank the member for Forrest for her question. As she well knows, the three free trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea are critical for the Western Australian economy and, therefore, the Australian economy. Almost 80 per cent of Western Australia's exports are destined for these three markets.

Mr Champion interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Wakefield.

Ms JULIE BISHOP: We want to grow our trade because it means more jobs and it means more opportunities for Western Australians. It means more opportunities for Australians and higher standards of living for all.

The Western Australian economy has had a long and prosperous relationship with our North Asian trading partners. In fact, it was through decades of strong trade with Japan that Western Australia built its iron ore and oil and gas industries. South Korea has played a significant role in Western Australia's prosperity, consistently appearing as one of our top five export markets for two decades.

China, which already accounts for more than half of all exports from Western Australia, offers significant opportunities for the west across diverse industries and sectors, from resources to agriculture to wine to services. Western Australian businesses and workers will stand to benefit from this free trade agreement with China. Wines of Western Australia chief executive Larry Jorgensen says the China free trade agreement means:

… we are on the pathway towards having a level playing field in China with regard to our international competitors.

The CEO of the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council, John Harrison, said that the agreement was 'a real game changer'. Free trade agreements with other Asian countries had 'greatly stimulated domestic job creation and opportunities for Western Australian businesses'–that was WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Deidre Willmott. She said:

WA's manufacturing, agriculture, food and service industries stand to benefit greatly from the agreement …

Ms MacTiernan interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Perth has been warned and will cease interjecting.

Ms JULIE BISHOP: But what is really exciting for us is our creative economy. Western Australia is the exemplar. We boast talented designers, architects and fashion designers, and graphic and industrial expertise. We have engineers, those in the IT industry and researchers. They all have new and enhanced opportunities to sell their services into China. We have among the most innovative and creative and entrepreneurial talent in the world, and now they are being given access to one of the largest markets in the world.

What I cannot understand is why Labor is doing everything it can to prevent Western Australians and Australians from reaping the benefit of this free trade agreement. The Leader of the Opposition is showing that he puts the interests of the union bosses ahead of the interests of Western Australian workers. His readiness to sell down Western Australia's future economic prosperity should send a shiver down the spine of every Western Australian worker whose job depends on selling goods and services to our North Asian partners. It is time for Labor to back the jobs of Western Australians–back the free trade agreement.

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