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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11718

Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (16:53): I am delighted to speak on the Joint Select Committee on Trade and Investment Growth's inquiry into business utilisation of Australia's free trade agreements, and the opportunity this provides to highlight the amazing achievements of the coalition government in negotiating free trade agreements that are unrivalled in size, scope and opportunity. Under the stewardship of my colleague the member for Flynn, the Joint Select Committee on Trade and Investment Growth has performed vital work inquiring into measures to further boost Australia's trade and investment performance.

This report looks into a wide range of existing free trade agreements. This includes FTAs with New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, Chile, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Malaysia. Importantly, the report includes a chapter on informing future free trade agreements, which includes identifying and accessing priority markets, positioning business to benefit from agreements and prenegotiation modelling. This research goes all the way through to market access negotiations, occurring post agreement, followed by post-implementation evaluation to ensure we learn from our experiences for future agreements. This is a most comprehensive approach, and the member for Flynn, together with his committee colleagues, deserve our appreciation for the contribution this work will provide to government for many years to come.

In the chair's forward, the member for Flynn states:

This inquiry investigated the experience of Australian businesses using these FTAs. While the business community strongly supports the policy of pursuing FTAs, this inquiry has also identified potential reforms which could increase the ability of business to realise the benefits of FTAs.

Current Government processes have clearly been very successful in conducting and finalising FTA negotiations with partner countries. There is potential, however, to make these processes more transparent and open to involvement from business.

Interestingly, the report goes on to look in detail at the impediments faced by Australian businesses when trying to access markets with which we have signed free trade agreements and ways to work with domestic regulations around customs to ensure transactions are expedited whilst our standards and protections are in no way affected. The report also advises on options to further improve our processes of negotiating free trade agreements. However, I must take issue with this, considering the Minister for Trade and Investment's performance over the past two years. I would question whether there is any chance of improvement. It is a little bit like being Roger Federer, for instance!

Since the coalition took office in September 2013, Minister Robb has done what many previous trade ministers have tried but failed to achieve. He has signed free trade agreements with Japan, Korea and China. If that was not enough, he has recently stared down the US negotiators to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement—the largest trade agreement of its kind, covering 40 per cent of global GDP. These agreements usher in a new era of economic growth and opportunity across our region. We are witnessing significant economic transformation across the Asia-Pacific, and these agreements will allow us to harness these enormous opportunities whilst also strengthening our economy to face future challenges.

The Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement has already delivered 84 per cent tariff reductions on Korea's imports. On full implementation 99.8 per cent of Australia's goods exports will enter Korea duty free. The Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement will provide improved access to Japan's growing markets, with more than 97 per cent of Australia's exports receiving preferential or duty-free access when fully implemented. The minister describes the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement as:

… by far the best FTA Australia has done with any country—from the perspective of goods, services and investment.

This agreement will see more than 95 per cent of Australia's goods exports entering our biggest trading partner tariff free. Finally, the TPP will eliminate over 98 per cent of tariffs across 12 countries that comprise 800 million people and one-third of Australia's total trade. The TPP will remove import taxes on around $9 billion of Australia's trade. Clearly, these agreements will deliver an unrivalled amount of benefits to Australians and have provided heavy-duty foundations for our economic prosperity. This will be even further strengthened by the work of the Joint Select Committee on Trade and Investment Growth in this inquiry.

In conclusion, I wish to pick out one particular recommendation for closer analysis—that is, recommendation 11, which states:

The Committee recommends that Austrade, in consultation with Australian business, facilitate:

the development of a recognisable Australia brand logo and signage for exported Australian goods and services; and

the development of anti-counterfeiting measures for exported Australian goods.

Whilst I understand the committee's focus, I believe it is important that this recommendation for a recognisable brand Australia logo and marketing campaign should be extended to include the promotion of our sporting and performance art events to attract tourists to Australia.

As chair of the coalition policy committee on tourism, I have worked on a concept entitled 'Australia, The World's stage', which brings together our policy approaches to tourism, sport and the arts, to cross-promote Australia as a world-class destination for sport and the performing arts, combined with our current campaign of 'Restaurant Australia' as a food and wine destination.

While the FTA agreements usher in a new age of trade and clearly demonstrate that Australia is a sophisticated trading partner, we are also a more sophisticated tourism destination than just beaches and a big rock. But I digress.

Madam Deputy Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak to this report, and thank you again to the member for Flynn, his committee colleagues and the committee secretariat for producing an excellent report on the inquiry into business utilisation of Australia's free trade agreements.

Debate adjourned.