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Tuesday, 10 November 2015
Page: 8098

Trade with China

Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:07): My question is to the Cabinet Secretary, representing the Minister for Trade and Investment. Will the Cabinet Secretary update the Senate on progress of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement coming into force?

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:07): I thank Senator Bushby for his question and his ongoing interest in expanding Australia's trade opportunities for the great state of Tasmania. ChAFTA is set to come into force by the end of this year. This is great news for Australians. The Customs Amendment (China-Australia Free Trade Agreement) Bill 2015 and the Customs Tariff Amendment (China-Australia Free Trade Agreement) Bill 2015 passed the Senate last night after having passed the House of Representatives last month—a great achievement for the House of Representatives and a great achievement for the Senate. Associated with this, the Executive Council will shortly consider amendments to several regulations.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator SINODINOS: Hang on, this bit should interest you. After this, and once China has completed its treaty ratification process, ChAFTA will enter into force. This is important for Australians across the country who are listening to this broadcast, because it means there will be an immediate round of tariff cuts, and this will be followed by a second round of tariff cuts on 1 January 2016.

I congratulate Andrew Robb, the Minister for Trade and Investment—a great Australian trade minister. The minister has been an indefatigable advocate for free trade and for Australia's national interest since coming into office in 2013. Over the past two years the minister has concluded four free trade agreements, including ChAFTA. These agreements cover a large part of the Asia-Pacific region and capture a significant part of global economic activity. The Japanese, Korean and Chinese free trade agreements collectively account for more than 62 per cent of Australia's export market and give Australian businesses access to more than 1.5 billion consumers.

Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:09): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Will the Cabinet Secretary inform the Senate of the benefits set to flow to Australians thanks to the passage of the ChAFTA legislation?

Senator Whish-Wilson: Show us your modelling on this—come on!

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:09): 'Show us your modelling'—you don't want to see my modelling! As mentioned, Australian exporters will benefit from two tariff cuts within the next eight weeks, eliminating tariffs on beef within nine years, dairy within 11 years, sheepmeat and goat meat within eight years and pork within four years. Fruit and vegetables, wine, cereals, seafood, a host of processed foods and even hides will all have tariffs eliminated within seven years. But the benefits do not flow just to goods exports. Australian services, the major component of our economy, are set to gain. Education providers, financial services, tourism operators, and health and aged-care services, amongst others, are all set to have red tape slashed and greater access into Chinese markets.

I also take the opportunity to thank the opposition for their support of ChAFTA. This continues a longstanding tradition of bipartisanship when it comes to free trade.

Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:10): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the Cabinet Secretary aware of how Australian businesses are preparing for ChAFTA coming into force?

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesCabinet Secretary) (14:10): Businesses right across the country are getting ready for the benefits of ChAFTA to kick in. The Mildura Fruit Company is located in the birthplace of one of my great friends and colleagues, the Minister for Cities and the Built Environment, Mr Briggs. One of Australia's leading citrus packers, Mildura Fruit Company, situated in the picturesque north-west corner of Victoria, is gearing up for ChAFTA. Senator McKenzie is getting very excited. China has become a major destination for the Mildura Fruit Company, after exporting there in 2011. Mildura Fruit Company source from orchards across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

Perry Hill, the General Manager of Mildura Fruit Company, has said the big market in China for citrus fruit has been tough to compete in against Southern Hemisphere competitors such as Chile, who already has an agreement with China. Mr Hill says:

ChAFTA means that tariffs of up to 12% across oranges and mandarins will be eliminated over the next 8 years. This outcome will make our fruit more and more competitive …

(Time expired)