Question Time: Trade with China

  • Transcript, E&OE

Ms PRICE (Durack) (14:27): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister advise the House on the benefits that the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement will bring to the Australian economy as a result of its early passage through parliament?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:27): I thank the member for Durack for her question. She well knows the important role that the mining and energy sector plays in her electorate. In Western Australia last year, China accounted for over 50 per cent of the state's exports, bringing almost $65 billion into the Western Australian economy, and two-thirds of these exports were from the resources sector. What makes the Western Australian economy stronger makes the Australian economy stronger.

There is an air of optimism and confidence across Australia because business and consumers can grasp the enormity of the opportunities that await this country from the signing of the free trade agreements, including the China FTA. When the China free trade agreement enters into force, around 93 per cent of resources, energy and manufacturing products from Australia will enter China duty free. Existing zero tariffs on iron ore, gold and LNG will now be locked in at zero. Other tariffs on alumina, refined copper and alloys, coking coal, zinc, nickel and the like will be eliminated. This means that Australian commodity exports will be even more competitive in the Chinese market. We are in a highly competitive global market. This deal will increase the international competitiveness of Australian resource, energy and manufacturing products.

The passage of the China free trade agreement this year is significant because, should entry into force occur this year, it will allow Australian businesses to receive two rounds of tariff cuts in quick succession, the first on entry into force and the second on 1 January 2016. This will help place Australian businesses and Australian exporters at the head of the pack.

This is a huge deal. As Brendan Pearson, the CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia said:

The trade agreement is a watershed moment in Australia's economic history. Together with the trade agreements with Japan and Korea, ChAFTA will anchor the Australian economy in East Asia for many decades to come and will provide increased opportunity and prosperity for future generations of Australians.

So the government has recognised the opportunities that lie to our north. We have acted by concluding these three free trade agreements that combined provide Australian exporters with access to a market of over 1.5 billion people.

In summary, the China free trade agreement gives better access to our largest export market, a greater competitive advantage, greater opportunity for two-way investment and reduced costs for imports. This means more jobs for the Australian people.

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