No protectionism for Australian manufacturing, says NFF

Australia’s manufacturing industry future might be in limbo following BlueScope’s job cuts, but the nation’s farmers have stood up saying no to protectionist measures which would do more harm to Australia’s manufacturing sector in the long-term.

The comments follow recent roundtables and meetings the Government has held to discuss measures and possible opportunities to assist local manufacturing companies in the face of a high Australian dollar and falling exports.

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President Jock Laurie said that it is in the interests of Australian farmers to see a strong manufacturing industry, particularly food manufacturing, without resorting to protectionist measures.

“Agriculture is one industry that has learnt how to become globally competitive through policies that focus on productivity, rather than jeopardising our position in the international trading community through trade-distorting subsidies,” Laurie said in a statement.

“Our farmers export around two-thirds of our domestic produce, and we do so competitively in the most distorted area of international goods trade.”

Laurie said that while achieving this result has been a long and difficult process for Australian farmers, the end result is one which can be achieved in other trade exposed sectors, like manufacturing.

He noted that the high Australian dollar and the multi-speed economy have placed considerable pressures on the local manufacturing sector, just they have for farmers, but monetary policy, such as floating the Australian dollar can be effective means of keeping inflation stable and low and ensuring the local economy grows sustainably, without eroding living standards.

However, the NFF said it is concerned that the Reserve Bank of Australia pays little regard to the impact of monetary policy on the Australian dollar in setting interest rates, and, as a result, little regard to the performance of Australia’s trade exposed industries like agriculture and manufacturing.

The RBA needs to broaden its mandate in setting interest rates to take into account the impact of its decisions on the Australian dollar – creating a policy, rather than a subsidy, solution, Laurie said.

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is the industry body representing Australian farmers at a national level.

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