Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Keith Pitt will host a free seminar in Cairns advising regional SMEs on how to make the most of Australia’s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Korea, Japan and China.

The seminar, to be held on Tuesday, November 21 at the Hilton Cairns at 34 Esplanade, Cairns, will give local business owners the chance to hear first-hand how FTAs can help them in international markets.

“The Australian Government has secured unprecedented preferential market access to more than a billion potential customers for Australian goods and services through our North Asia FTAs,” Mr Pitt said.

“The FTA seminars give businesses the opportunity to tap into the knowledge of the people who were involved in negotiating these agreements.”

As well as taking part in the Northern Australia Investment Forum today, Mr Pitt will travel to Mareeba in the Atherton Tableland region outside Cairns on Tuesday to view construction of a new $75 million biomass energy power plant at the Tableland Mill.

MSF Sugar CEO Mike Barry said during the construction phase, the project has employed 80 people and with ‘flow-on’ effects in the community, total employment sustained by the construction project has been estimated at around 110 jobs. This is in addition to the 290 jobs sustained in the community by the company’s existing milling and farming operations.

The plant will use a 100 per cent renewable sugarcane fibre, known as bagasse, to produce 24 megawatts of electricity – enough to power every house in the region.

Mr Barry said the company’s plans have far-reaching benefits for the national energy sector as the project has potential to be replicated elsewhere using biomass-waste fibre as a source of fuel.

“Our green energy power plant will produce 576,000 kilowatts in a day – the same amount of electricity as 28,097 homes with solar panels – but the difference is that our plant will produce this power 24 hours a day, while homes with solar panels produce electricity for around six hours a day,” Mr Barry said.

“Electricity will be produced on a commercial scale using agricultural products that are traditionally considered waste, leading to baseload supply that will be reliable, efficient and carbon neutral.”

Energy supply and affordability is a critical issue for regional communities across Australia including in the Atherton Tableland and upon completion, this facility will add to the energy mix and help improve local energy security for local businesses and consumers.

“Our ultimate goal is to complete the green energy circle in the region, with the ability to supply baseload green power to ourselves, our growers, and local businesses,” said Mr Barry.

The Free Trade Agreement seminar will be held at the Hilton Hotel, 34 Esplanade, Cairns 9am – 11.30am, 21 November 2017.

Attendees can register for Cairns seminar at www.austrade.gov.au/ftaseminars or find out more information by calling Austrade on 13 28 78 or emailing fta@austrade.gov.au

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