China FTA treated with skepticism by industry

Though
it has been heralded as a “game changer” by the federal government, the free
trade agreement with China – expected to be signed this afternoon – is the
subject of “mixed feelings” for the industry.

The
ABC reports that the government’s figures show a benefit to the national
economy of $18 billion over the next few years, with as much as 95 per cent of
exports to China to eventually be tariff free.

I think this is a game changer,” said Josh Frydenberg, parliamentary secretary to the
prime minister.

When you consider China is Australia’s major trading partner, $150 billion worth of two-way trade, this is great news for the
Australian cultural sector, the services sector.

“Services make up 70 per cent of Australia’s economy,
but only 17 per cent of Australia’s exports.”

Fairfax reports that major winners are likely to include winemakers and dairy
producers, both tariff-free after four years.

However,
there are concerns within the manufacturing sector around issues such as
intellectual property and unfair competition, as well as proper efforts to
explain to the industry how it can access the befeits of the agreement.

“While [the Department
of Foreign Affairs and Trade] provides information by putting the agreement on
their website, this does little to inform companies of the steps that must be
undertaken to take advantage of potential benefits and is not an effective way
to extract value from the great expense and often considerable compromises
involved in negotiating FTAs,” said Innes Willox, the Ai Group’s chief executive, in a statement.

“From our close
engagement with a wide cross-section of domestic manufacturers, and through the
research papers we have prepared on manufacturers’ attitudes to a
China-Australia FTA over several years, we have distilled the following list of
five hot spots for manufacturers.”

These areas of
concern were around transition arrangements for tariff cuts, anti-dumping
protections, non-tariff barriers to exporters, IP protection and fair access
for local companies in domestic projects.

According to Fairfax
and others, the FTA is likely to be signed this afternoon after the Chinese
President, Xi Jinping, addresses a joint sitting in the parliament.

Image: http://www.chinaimportexport.org/