Free Trade Agreements

Senator McGRATH: My question is to the Minister for Human Services, Senator Payne, representing the Minister for Trade and Investment. Can the minister inform the Senate of the successful conclusion of the historic free trade agreement with China today? What benefits will this free trade agreement bring to Australia?

Senator PAYNE: I particularly thank Senator McGrath for that question because today Australia did sign a landmark free trade agreement with China, which is our largest trading partner, with total trade worth almost $160 billion in 2013-14, and a significant and growing source of investment. The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, the ChAFTA, will lock in existing trade and provide the catalyst for future growth across a huge range of areas, including goods, services and investment. The agreement secures for Australia better market access to the world's second largest economy, improves our competitive position in a rapidly growing market, promotes increased two-way investment and reduces import costs. It is a win for households and businesses alike.

On day one of ChAFTA, more than 85 per cent of Australian goods exports will be tariff free. This will rise to 95 per cent on full implementation. Most importantly, Australia's agriculture sector will be able to capitalise on its well-deserved reputation as a clean, green producer of premium food and beverage products. Tariffs will be progressively abolished in Australia's $13 billion dairy industry. Australia's beef and sheep farmers will also gain from the phased abolition of tariffs, which range from 12 to 25 per cent, and all tariffs on Australian horticulture will be eliminated.

As Senator Brandis said on arriving in the chamber in relation to the historic signing today, there was a great sense of occasion at this particular event. That we have brought to fruition this free trade agreement with our largest trading partner is an extraordinary accomplishment for this government and a great credit to the trade and investment minister, Mr Robb. It will enhance our trade in goods and services, which already stands at $160 billion.

Senator McGRATH: Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Will the minister inform the Senate of the government's record in successfully negotiating free trade agreements with other countries?

Senator PAYNE: This is a very important supplementary question from Senator McGrath because it enables us to focus on the fact that ChAFTA completes an historic trifecta of trade agreements with our top three export markets, which account for more than 55 per cent of Australia's total goods and services exports. Together, these agreements will enhance our vital trade and investment relationships in the region, they will assist the process of reform and they will foster greater prosperity. Our free trade agreements with Korea and Japan are only months old, and we are already seeing increased exports compared to just a year ago. For example, there has been a 26 per cent increase in frozen beef prime cuts to Korea and, extraordinarily, a massive 84 per cent increase in the same product, frozen beef prime cuts, to Japan. Macadamia exports to Korea have more than doubled, and Japan is importing 82 per cent more of our rolled and flaked oats. (Time expired)

Senator McGRATH: Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Will the minister advise the Senate how free trade agreements enhance Australia's standing as a trading nation and create more jobs for Australians?

Senator PAYNE: Due to this trade trifecta, Australian exports of goods to Korea, Japan and China will be 11 per cent, or nearly $17 billion, greater in 2035 compared to what they would have been without these agreements. Our services exports will be 13 per cent, or around $2.2 billion, greater in 2035 than without these agreements. Our domestic consumption will be $46 billion higher over this period, which equates to almost $4,500 per household. But, most importantly, Mr President and Senator «McGrath» , modelling shows that between 2016 and 2035 there will be 178,000 additional jobs as a result of the FTAs, which is almost, on average, 9,000 extra jobs per year. I thought those opposite might be interested in jobs, but I am continuously disappointed by their attitude and today is no different. Our FTA will create new jobs and higher living standards for Australians. (Time expired)