Australia's free trade negotiations with Japan remain deadlocked on a few outstanding issues including Japan's desire to protect farmers from Australian beef imports
April 4, 2014
(Australian Associated Press)
– Australia's free trade negotiations with Japan remain deadlocked on a few outstanding issues including Japan's desire to protect farmers from Australian beef imports.
Trade Minister Andrew Robb said the free trade agreement could be finalised ahead of Tony Abbott's visit to Tokyo only if material gains on some issues were achieved in the next two days.
A key issue is Japan's 38 per cent import tariff on Australian beef.
Australia wants that halved. Japan says 30 per cent.
Mr Robb said talks would not be concluded without "important and necessary" change to tariffs on beef and dairy products.
"For us to concede what we think is important for Japan, we want to see material gains across these agricultural areas," he told ABC radio.
"Negotiations are still very much alive. I am not going to get into detail about particular items. But certainly we want to see a lot better than what's on the table at the present time."
Car import tariffs are also at issue.
Mr Robb said there was still a large car component industry in Australia even if manufacturing was ending and cutting tariffs would cost hundreds of millions in revenue.
He said this was always politically difficult - if it wasn't, it would have been done long ago.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott departs on Saturday for a major trade mission to northern Asia, taking in Japan, South Korea and China, countries which take more than half of all Australian exports.
A delegation of more than 400 companies will attend the inaugural Australia Week in China trade expo, along with most state premiers, chief ministers and high-profile chief executives and senior business figures.
He's expected to sign a free trade agreement with Korea, which has already been finalised.
Mr Abbott's parliamentary secretary, Josh Frydenberg, played down fears that local manufacturers could hit hard by cheaper imports because of the agreement.
"New opportunities will open up for manufacturers particularly advanced manufacturers," he told ABC radio.
He pointed to Thales in Victoria, which manufactures Bushmaster armoured vehicles and exports some to Asian countries.
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