Government refers SPC Ardmona request to Productivity Commission
The Australian Productivity Commission will undertake “safeguard” inquiries into the impact of imports of processed fruit and tomatoes on Australian producers, following a request by food processor SPC Ardmona to introduce measures to protect its Australian cannery operation.
The Federal Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury and the Minister for Trade and Competitiveness Craig Emerson announced on Friday 21 June 2013 that the matter had been referred to the Productivity Commission after the food processor’s request in May 2013. Australian Food News reported at the time that the Government was not enamoured by SPC’s request imposition of tariffs on cheaper competing imports.
However, the request has come in the midst of a Federal election campaign in which the future of Australia’s manufacturing industry has become a political ‘hot potato’.
SPC Ardmona, which is a subsidiary of Coca-Cola Amatil, is one of Australia’s largest food processors, employing more than 800 full-time-equivalent staff directly. Its operations make a substantial contribution to the economy of Goulburn Valley.
As a World Trade Organisation (WTO) Member, Australia has made binding commitments in relation to the trade of goods and services. The WTO Safeguards Agreement allows Members to investigate whether safeguard measures such as tariffs on imported products are justified.
Following an investigation by the Productivity Commission, WTO rules allow safeguard measures to be applied to respond to unexpected and unforeseen increases in imports which are causing or threatening to cause serious industry to the domestic industry.
As well as investigating whether there are grounds for definitive safeguard measures, the Commission has also been asked to provide an accelerated report examining whether critical circumstances exist to justify provisional safeguard measures.
The Commission is to provide the accelerated report to the Government as soon as practicable and, in any event, within three months.
SPC Ardmona has released a statement saying it hopes the Productivity Commission will rule in its favour.
Mr Paul Barratt AO has been appointed as an Associate Commissioner to the inquiries. Mr Barratt, an independent consultant and Chair of Australia 21 Limited, has more than 40 years’ experience in policy advising and international negotiations.
The Commission will seek expressions of interest from parties wishing to participate in the inquiry. All interested parties are invited to make a submission.