The implementing legislation for the landmark China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) was today introduced into Parliament by the Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb.
Mr Robb said the FTA will create significant new commercial opportunities for Australian businesses, through increased trade in goods, services and investment. It affords Australia unprecedented levels of access to a market of more than 1.35 billion people, which includes a rapidly rising middle class.
“This is an outstanding agreement; the highest quality and most liberalising trade deal that China – the world’s second biggest economy and our largest two-way trading partner – has done with any other developed country,” Mr Robb said.
“It is by far the best FTA Australia has done with any country – from the perspective of goods, services and investment. More than 85 per cent of Australian goods exports will be tariff free on entry into force and on full implementation 95 per cent of our goods will enter tariff free.”
Mr Robb said there is a significant economic imperative to doing everything we can to bring this agreement into force before the end of this year.
“Scheduled tariff cuts are based on the calendar year, which means entry into force this year will deliver an immediate round of tariff cuts, followed by a second round of cuts on 1 January, 2016. A delay would cost Australian businesses hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars in extra tariff payments in 2016 alone.
“Failure to implement the agreement at all would be a disastrous outcome for business, for job creation and for growth at a time when we are trying to aid the diversification of our economy in this post mining boom period,” Mr Robb said.
“Today, for instance, we see reports of National Farmers Federation (NFF) estimates, that if this deal does not proceed, Australian agriculture stands to lose a massive $18 billion over the next decade. The stakes are extremely high and the passage of this legislation is absolutely in the national interest. It should be above politics.
“I am hopeful that our proud tradition of bipartisan support for trade liberalisation in this country will prevail, notwithstanding the disgracefully dishonest scare campaign that the militant unions, led by the discredited CFMEU are waging,” Mr Robb said.
The Customs Amendment (China-Australia Free Trade Agreement) Bill 2015 and the complementary Customs Tariff Amendment (China-Australia Free Trade Agreement) Bill 2015 set out Australia’s tariff commitments under ChAFTA and will enable goods that satisfy the FTA’s rules of origin to enter Australia at preferential rates of customs duty.
Mr Robb said there was no legislation required to amend the Migration Act because all labour provisions under ChAFTA, including safeguards for workers, operated within the existing migration system and were totally consistent with provisions in previous Free Trade Agreements.
ChAFTA has been the subject of an inquiry by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) under the outstanding chairmanship of the Member for Longman, Wyatt Roy.
While this legislation is being introduced this week to meet tight parliamentary deadlines, debate on the Bill won’t continue until after the release of the Joint (JSCOT) report on the Monday of the next sitting week.
“ChAFTA builds on agreements already concluded by this government with Korea and Japan; it forms part of a powerful trifecta of deals with Australia’s three largest export markets that account for more than 61 per cent of our exports of goods,” Mr Robb said.
Trade and Investment Minister’s Office: 0400 940 968, 0437 971 721 or 02 6277 7420
DFAT Media Liaison: 02 6261 1555.