Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, the Hon. Keith Pitt today visited the world’s biggest exporter of rock lobster, based in Western Australia, to discuss opportunities arising from the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA).

Mr Pitt toured the Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative (GFC) facility in North Fremantle and heard first-hand about some of the challenges and benefits of exporting to North Asian markets.

“Australia’s free trade agreement with China, in force since December last year, has seen the tariff for fresh or chilled rock lobster cut to nine per cent this year and it will fall again to six per cent in just four more months, on 1 January 2017,” Mr Pitt said.

“Encouragingly, for the first six months of 2016, direct Chinese imports of live, fresh and chilled Australian rock lobster more than trebled compared to the same period last year, to reach $20.7 million.

“We anticipate the continuing tariff cuts under ChAFTA for these and many other Australian exports will boost trade opportunities, leading to sales growth for Australian businesses abroad, and increased jobs here at home to meet this demand.”

GFC was founded in 1950 and is now the world’s largest processor as well as exporter of rock lobster.

It has invested heavily in response to ChAFTA, recently becoming the first Australian seafood exporter to own a live holding facility in China, opening more direct, faster and safer routes to the Chinese market.

Its new live lobster facility within the grounds of Guangzhou airport will be paired with another under construction alongside Perth airport. When complete, the latter will be the largest facility of its kind anywhere in the world, aiming to have the shortest tank-to-tank flight time of just 14 hours.

“Over 90 per cent of GFC’s catch is exported, mainly to China, Japan, Taiwan and the United States,” Mr Pitt said.

“GFC attests to the value of ChAFTA, which has opened doors almost overnight and allowed the co-op to export directly to any port in China, previously not commercially viable due to high tariffs.

“As well as reviewing the investment GFC has already made, it was great to learn how ChAFTA is helping GFC partner with Chinese internet sales platforms and logistics companies to develop more direct export channels.”

GFC has a membership of 200 fishermen, employs 350 Australians and currently sells around $450 million worth of rock lobsters each year.

Western Australian Fisheries Minister Joe Francis said GFC was a standout success story in the state’s fishing industry.

“The West Coast Rock Lobster Fishery is one of the most sustainable fisheries in the world and this is recognised through 16 continuous years of certification from the Marine Stewardship Council.  Increases in direct imports will provide opportunities for Chinese consumers with the opportunity to purchase top-quality, certified sustainable, Western Australian lobster,” Mr Francis said.

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