Japan agreement to open doors

Rueben HaleCountryman
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The Australian red meat industry has touted a $5.5 billion boost after the signing of a historic trade deal with Japan.

The Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement between the two nations was formalised by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in Canberra on Tuesday.

The free trade agreement comes after seven years of intense negotiations with Japan, which is known to be ultra-protective of its domestic agriculture markets.

Beef was one of the major sticking points in reaching the agreement, but ended up the big winner with the hefty 38.5 per cent tariff slashed to 19.5 per cent over 18 years.

Other agricultural commodities will also gain advantage from the agreement.

The duty-free quota for cheese — Australia's single largest dairy export to Japan — will be boosted from 27,000t a year to 47,000t.

Australian Beef Industry Japan Taskforce chairman, Lachie Hart, said the agreement was a win-win outcome for both countries.

"Independent modelling suggests the JAEPA will benefit Australian beef export sales to the tune of $5.5 billion over 20 years and thereby deliver an increase in the annual gross value of Australian beef production by up to 7 per cent," he said.

Under JAEPA, tariffs on frozen Australian beef entering Japan will drop from 38.5 per cent to 19.5 per cent over 18 years (involving an 8 per cent cut in year one), while the tariffs for chilled beef will fall from 38.5 per cent to 23.5 per cent over 15 years — including a 6 per cent cut in year one.

Mr Hart also said the agreement marked a change with the longstanding trade environment with Japan and would provide leverage for other commodities to be included in future agreements.

"It is hoped, however, that the signing of the JAEPA will only be the forerunner of further trade enhancing agreements between our two countries," he said.

"Our industry continues to seek the elimination of all global import tariffs - including those which Japan will maintain on our products.

"Additional trade reform with Japan, involving potential gains from the current Trans-Pacific Partnership and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations, will be vigorously pursued."

Meanwhile, WA Farmers vice-president Tony York said he welcomed the agreement but hoped benefits for agriculture would come sooner.

Mr York said he hoped the deal could be revised to shorten the tariff cut timeline in the future.

He said it was a positive development which was a start to "break down the protections imposed on agricultural products" in Japan.

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