Coalition commits to trade priorities for farmers

Posted by Josette Dunn on 4th August 2010

In A double windfall for farmers the Coalition has committed to pursuing comprehensive trade agreements – reaffirming agriculture as a central pillar in all negotiations – and returning to a dedicated, stand-alone federal trade minister who has a seat in Cabinet.

“Some have suggested Australia should throw in the towel and carve out sensitive sectors, such as agriculture, from future trade negotiations,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President David Crombie explained. “Such a weak-kneed approach to our national trade objectives would send a signal to our trading partners that they can undermine Australia’s $32 billion-a-year farm exports.

“Agriculture is already the most distorted area of international trade. If we are to remain sustainable and prosper, Australia must be resolute and pursue all-inclusive trade deals to ensure the export side of the ledger works for us.

“Today’s commitment is reassuring for Australian farmers who export over 60% of everything we produce.

“It is also important that trade be a stand-alone portfolio with a seat in Cabinet. In the wake of the global financial crisis trade liberalisation has been put on the back-burner, which is ironic given that now, more than ever, freeing up trade can provide a significant boost to economic welfare.

“Nevertheless, now is definitely not a time to be watering down Australia’s focus on creating new trade opportunities. There are enormous gains to be made from concluding an ambitious Doha deal, as well as finalizing key bilateral trade negotiations with Korea, Japan and China.

“A dedicated Minister for Trade is essential to keep on top of the breath of issues at play in the trade environment – not only fostering existing trade relations but also branching out to crack new international markets. It’s a role that cannot be diluted or distracted in these efforts.

“The NFF hopes that that Labor will follow the Coalition’s announcement and make the same commitment.”