LEGISLATION aimed at bringing exporters closer to benefiting from free trade agreements has been passed by the Australian Parliament.

The Opposition Australian Labor Party had earlier withdrawn objections to FTAs with Peru, Indonesia and Hong Kong, allowing enabling Customs legislation to go through the Senate this week.

Agriculture Bridget McKenzie said the bill’s passage was a great step forward.

“One of the most important things our government can do for the growth and prosperity of the agriculture sector is to create as many opportunities as possible for our businesses to export their premium products to premium markets at premium prices,” Senator McKenzie said.

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“Expanding our market access and reducing red-tape for our agricultural exporters is a key focus of our government. The legislation opens opportunities for increased and more efficient trade of our horticultural, dairy, grain, meat, and agricultural fibre products.”

The agreement with Indonesia, the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or IA-CEPA, Australian agricultural producers are set to gain enjoy better market access and greater certainty, including for red meat and live cattle, grains, dairy, horticultural products and sugar.

Under the Peru agreement, Australia has secured new quotas for Australian dairy, rice and sorghum free from tariffs.

Agriculture minister Senator Bridget McKenzie. Credit: Office of Senator Bridget McKenzie

The agreement with Hong Kong provides certainty for Australian exporters and investors and locks in zero tariffs on all Australian goods exported to Hong Kong.

“All our efforts are focused on supporting our agricultural industries to be sustainable, profitable and competitive in world markets,” Senator McKenzie said.

Partner with Rigby Cooke Lawyers Andrew Hudson said there now would be a wait for domestic ratification requirements to be completed in counterpart countries.

“The focus for industry will be the necessary preparation work including ensuring rules of origin and certificate of origin requirements are met, complying with other rules and requirements and working through with clients, DFAT, the ABF and Austrade to ensure proper use of the FTAs,” Mr Hudson said.

Meanwhile the Australian Chamber congratulated the Coalition government for securing Parliament’s support for the FTAs.

“It is encouraging to see the Coalition and Opposition recognise the need to maintain momentum and support for liberalised trade in the face of ongoing trade tensions, increasing protectionism and threats to global trade rules,” ACCI chief executive James Pearson said.

“The World Trade Organization faces unprecedented challenges due to the risk of imminent collapse of the WTO Appellate Body. Without an Appellate Body, the ability of the WTO to adjudicate global trade disputes between countries will be all but removed.”

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