The Australian Minerals Council and Australian Dairy Industry Council are among the industry bodies to have welcomed the introduction of a series of Bills in Canberra on Wednesday morning to fulfil the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA).
Minister for social service Scott Morrison and minister for trade and investment Andrew Robb presented five separate Bills in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, September 16, to ratify the ChAFTA.
Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Brendan Pearson welcomed the move, saying the FTA will further strengthen a minerals and energy trade already worth more than $80bn per annum.
“The agreement will eliminate Chinese tariffs – which currently range between 1.5% and 10% – on all minerals and energy exports within two years,” Pearson explained.
“When applied at current rates, these tariffs impose a burden of about $600m on the bilateral minerals and energy trade each year.”
Pearson has encouraged the Labor Opposition to support the Bills. While the Coalition holds a majority in the House of Representatives, it will need the support of the Labor Party to get the Bills through the Senate.
The Minerals Councils boss is concerned the unions, who are anti-ChAFTA, are having too much influence over the Labor Party.
“These opportunities [from ChAFTA] … have been put at risk by a mischievous and misleading campaign by sections of the trade union movement,” Pearson said on Wednesday.
“The CFMEU made similar scaremongering claims about earlier trade deals with Korea, Japan and Thailand. None of the union’s claims about those trade deals were ever realised.
“Passage of the legislation by late October/early November is absolutely essential. It will ensure that there is sufficient time for the entry-into-force to take place before the end of the year. That will mean Australian exporters will secure a two-stage tariff cut, with immediate tariff cuts on entry-into-force and again on 1 January 2016.
“Failure to achieve that would mean that the squalid and dishonest union campaign had cost hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits for Australian exporters.”
Australian Dairy Industry Council chair Noel Campbell joined Pearson in urging Labor to support the legislation, saying it needs to put politics aside to get the deal done.
“I commend Minister Robb for introducing these Bills and urge both sides of Parliament to pass it promptly,” Campbell was quoted as saying by Farm Online.
“The ChAFTA is a great deal for Australian dairy and a great deal for the Australian community. To delay the ChAFTA means a lost opportunity, for jobs, farmers, and regional towns.
“We need to implement this deal swiftly to ensure Australia doesn’t fall further behind its competitors who already have an FTA with China.”