Australian Food and Grocery Council event
Minister Coulton: It’s great be here with you today with the Australian Food and Grocery Council to talk about the strong contribution that food exports are making to our bottom line. And undoubtedly at the moment, it’s very tough out in regional Australia and if you looked at the news every night, you would think that nothing was being produced in this country because of the drought. But as you mentioned, $38.3 billion of food is still being produced. And indeed, in the largest centre in my electorate, food processing is the largest single employer and trainloads of produce are going over the Blue Mountains to the port of Botany every week and that’s despite the drought.
And so 38.3 billion is a large number but that equates to hundreds of people as you’ve said right across the country being employed in this sector. And one of the reasons that the sector continues to grow is the- our agenda, our Government’s agenda to reducing red tape. I’ve been working over the last year or so on non-tariff barriers. We have the Trusted Trader program, working with Border Force to speed up the process of allowing product to get out of the country and into- to overseas destinations.
And so when we came into government six years ago, 27 per cent of Australia’s two-way trade was covered by trade agreements. It’s now 70 per cent and we’re aiming to get to 90 per cent by 2022. And so in my role as Assistant Trade Minister and visiting countries right throughout the region, the importance that our trading partners place on buying clean, green and safe product from Australia is important. You know, last year, I was in a supermarket in Bangkok and the Australian produce there was being featured. They were paying a premium, the locals were paying a premium for that product because it came from Australia, it had a reputation for being healthy and safe and so that was very, very important. So we now have, in the last week, passed through the Senate the three free trade agreements – the one with Indonesia, Hong Kong and Peru. We’re in the final stages of negotiation with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership which is the 10 ASEAN nations and other countries to our northern border which will be a significant boost to our exporters as well. And so last- earlier this year I was in Tokyo for the first ministerial meeting of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and it’s been a huge win. On top of already free trade agreements we’ve agreed to some years ago with Japan, Korea and China- sorry, Japan and Korea, the TPP-11 has made a huge difference on top of that.
So we are streamlining the processes. Exports are important for this country.
I congratulate the Food and Grocery Council for the work you do. You are a significant part of our economy and it’s certainly, I think, very important to be here to celebrate that in the Australian climate.
- Minister Coulton’s office: Steph Nicholls +61 417 314 920
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555