ABC Country Hour with Cassandra Hough and Megan Hughes

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: China trade blockages, trade diversification, rock lobster, Free Trade Agreements with the UK and India.
Tokyo, Japan

Cassandra Hough, Host: Megan also caught up with Trade Minister Don Farrell a short time ago. He's touring Japan and Korea, spruiking Australian products like rock lobster and wine. The Minister says he thinks China could be ready to come back to the table to talk about lifting some of these trade bans.

Megan Hughes, Host: So, I guess talking about if you could get these bans lifted going forward though, you are looking at the moment about trade diversification, because in reality Australia did have a lot of its eggs in this China basket. How do you see, I guess, the future if these trade bans are lifted?

Minister for Trade, Don Farrell: Well, look, obviously if the bans are lifted, we'll start trading with all of these products again into China, and that's obviously a good thing. But I don't think we ever want to get into a situation where we again are so reliant on China as a source of our exports. So, one of the reasons I'm up here in Japan and Korea is to encourage them to purchase, particularly our lobsters but also our other products as well. We also need to expand our Free Trade Agreements, so there's a number of those on the horizon.

We have two agreements that have already been negotiated, one with the United Kingdom and one with India. The Australian Parliament is in the process of approving both of those Free Trade Agreements, and I'm confident that will be achieved by the end of the year.

In addition to that, we're having negotiations with the Europeans. And again, I've had very positive meetings with the Europeans, and I'd be confident that by mid next year we'll have a fully-fledged Free Trade Agreement with Europe.

We're also having further discussions with the United States about an Indo-Pacific Free Trade Agreement and again, that represents opportunities to sell our products into a range of new countries. So, there's a lot going on. I believe all of them will come to fruition when we do that. Of course, we also have a whole lot of new diversified markets to sell our products.

Megan Hughes: I think when you're talking about, in particular, China Trade, when it came to the rock lobsters, no other country took the volume that China did and also paid the prices that China did. Do you think if Australia could get back into China that this situation may just happen again? Because market wise, that's where the best money is.

Minister for Trade: Look, there's a few issues there, Megan, I've had some chats with the South Australian lobster exporters, and what they tell me is the prices they're getting in Australia for their product in many cases don't actually cover the cost of production. So, we need to push prices up, there's no doubt about that. The industry is only sustainable if the fishermen and women are getting a fair price for their product.

I don't think anybody wants to go back to the old days. We've seen the error of our ways there, but at the same time we need a sustainable industry. And a sustainable industry means that fishers in this industry get a fair price for their product.

Cassandra Hough: Australia's Trade Minister, Don Farrell speaking with Megan Hughes there and as I said before, he's actually touring Japan and Korea, spruiking some Australian products like rock lobster and wine. So hopefully there's a breakthrough there to get some more markets for the products that have been affected by these trade situations.

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