Australia’s agriculture industry has urged new Federal Trade Minister Dan Tehan to prioritise market access and trade relationships amid China’s “discriminatory” targeting of exporters down under. Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s recent cabinet reshuffle saw the former Education Minister and diplomat take on the Trade portfolio last Friday, a move welcomed by primary industry businesses and lobby groups nationwide. Simon Birmingham lost the Trade portfolio just two days after officially lodging a complaint about China’s barley tariffs with the World Trade Organisation. Mr Birmingham took on the Finance round in October after Mathais Cormann departed Parliament — his departure triggered the cabinet reshuffle — and had also been appointed Government Senate Leader. Mr Morrison said Mr Tehan, who inherits the Trade portfolio in the middle of an escalating trade war with China, brought “incredibly strong credentials” to the portfolio, as well as a “keen sense of the particular interests of regional and rural Australia in open, rules-based trading systems”. National Farmers Federation chief executive Tony Mahar urged Mr Tehan to place agricultural exports — worth $44.7 billion and underpinning jobs in rural and regional Australia — at the top of his agenda. The Australian Government plans to pursue trade agreements with Israel, Switzerland, Norway, the Middle East and Latin American nations next year to open up new markets. “The headwinds facing our industry are numerous... recent sanctions on our exports to important markets, a proliferation of non-tariff barriers worldwide, and subsidies to our competitors which place them at an unfair advantage in global markets,” Mr Mahar said. “We urge Minister Tehan to place agricultural exports at the top of his agenda. “This includes the free trade agreement with the UK and the EU that provides substantive access for Australia.” Australian Meat Industry Council chief executive Patrick Hutchinson said Mr Tehan had started his role at a “critical time” for the $17.2 billion red meat processing industry. “Minister Tehan has come into his new role at a critical time for red meat and it is important we all continue to work together to get the best possible outcomes for our export markets,” he said. “Red meat processors are important contributors to Australia’s Gross Domestic Product and the rural economy, exporting some 68 per cent of all production to international markets and contributing $17.2 billion to the Australian economy each financial year.” Mr Hutchinson said Mr Birmingham had been a “strong supporter” of Australia’s red meat processors and their importance “when it comes to exports”. Australian Forest Products Association chief executive Ross Hampton said Mr Tehan was the “right person” at a “crucial time”, with timber logs from South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and Victoria currently blocked from entering China due to allegations of pests. “Minister Tehan’s electorate includes the key forest industries region of Colac and the Port of Portland, which is acutely impacted by China’s suspension of log imports,” he said. “Minister Tehan has a very good understanding of forest industries already and recognises the growing challenge confronting forest industries regarding the log trade with our largest commercial partner, China. “While local processors can utilise a portion of the logs which were being exported to China, it will be vital that we rapidly pivot to much greater domestic processing. “This may mean support to quickly see panels plants, bioenergy or pulp mills to create plastic replacements.” Each of the groups thanked Mr Birmingham for his work in the portfolio, with Mr Mahar saying he had demonstrated a “sincere commitment to the farm sector” and had ratified the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Partnership Agreement. “His leadership in recent months, as Australian commodities have faced significant disruptions, has been steady and resolute,” he said.