Brisbane FTA seminar

  • Speech, E&OE

I think this is actually the grandest building we've had (for a FTA seminar), Christina. They didn't do things by half in 1880, did they? What a magnificent building. 

Look, it's great to be here. As Christina said, I have probably the longest title in Canberra. It's probably not the most important job in the eyes of others, but it is- I've got the Regional Health, Regional Education, Telecommunications, Local Government, Decentralisation. But I'm the Assistant Trade Minister, and that's why I'm here today. So it's a job that I'm very proud to have, as trade underpins the economy of Australia, but also underpins my electorate. My electorate's half of New South Wales and I'm actually closer to my house now than I am if I'm in my office in Dubbo.

So it's great to see you all here, and see such good attendance. So today's seminar is part of the Australian Government's commitment to build business awareness, and uses our expanding networks of free trade agreements. During the course of today's seminar, you will hear how you can take advantage of Australia's free trade agreements, or FTAs, as they're known. What to look forward to- you also- know what to look forward to as the Government works to negotiate new free trade agreements, as well as implement recently concluded FTAs such as with Indonesia, Peru, and Hong Kong. And the legislation actually went through Parliament in the last fortnight for those last three FTAs.

What Government services that are available from organisations such as Austrade, TradeStart and other agencies that will be here to help you. I'm really pleased and looking forward to hearing today from our local business representatives, and that's Shannon Graham from Graham's Natural Alternatives and Dalene Wray from OBE Organic Beef. And I can tell you, ladies and gentlemen, it's always the case studies that are the highlight of these seminars because it's the people who are actually doing this. They know the benefits, but they also know the pitfalls. None of this is ever completely straight sailing and so it's very important that we have people who are actually in that space to hear their story, and so thank you for giving your time for that.

Ladies and gentlemen, Australia has 11 free trade agreements in force with 18 different countries. These FTAs are already delivering significant benefits for Australian businesses, including businesses based in the Brisbane metropolitan area. There will also be some major FTA wins for Australia over the last 12 to 24 months. The comprehensive progressive agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership entered force on 30 December 2018, or otherwise known as the TPP 11. You know, it would have been TPP 12, except President Trump changed his mind. And just as an aside, it's probably the most exciting thing I've ever done is to represent our country at the first ministerial meeting in January this year in Tokyo in Japan, with 10 other countries from right around the Pacific region, and the excitement was in that room for the benefits that was going to come from all of those in attendance. 

So, this agreement opens up a new range of opportunities for Australian exports, including in Canada and Mexico. And they've already delivered two rounds of tariff cuts. Australia signed the Peru-Australia free trade agreement in February last year, and we signed the Indonesia-Australia comprehensive economic partnership agreement and the Australian-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement in March this year. So as I said, the legislation has now gone through the Parliament for that.

We are now working through our domestic procedures. So these agreements enter into force and the new export opportunities become available to businesses like yours as soon as possible. At the time when rising protectionism is evident in some parts of the world, the Government is also working hard to negotiate new FTAs that will open up new export and investment opportunities for Australian businesses. 

Our negotiations with major trading partners like the EU, a market with over 500 million consumers, is one example. We're also committed to launching free trade agreements and negotiations with the UK as soon as possible after Brexit. We've actually had people in Britain for some time now; I've got to say a bit sort of poised I guess to know exactly what we're going to be dealing with. We're still not completely sure, but it's important that we reopen that communication directly with Britain after Brexit as it will be a much more important market on its own.

The negotiations and limitations of new FTA's will deliver even greater benefits to Australia. Trade creates new export opportunities and promotes economic growth. It gives consumers and businesses greater choice, it makes imports cheaper and encourages innovation and creates jobs in Australia. I want to emphasise that FTAs are not just for big businesses or for only those who are already exporting. These FTAs also open significant opportunities for new small and medium enterprises, including those new to exporting. These FTAs are expanding opportunities for our traditional exports but also helping new and lesser known exports from Australia. The Australian Government's focus is on fostering a strong economy among other  businesses like yours to thrive and employment opportunities to grow.

It's quite amazing. It's opened my eyes as to what other countries are looking- when I travel particularly through the ASEAN region, it's not just our produce or our minerals, it's more likely our education system, our financial services, our agricultural expertise, our mining expertise. A lot of these companies in the service sector are right at the front. I even had a gentleman come up to me in Melbourne who represented the people who- the music examiners that go around and test your kids when they're learning the piano. They were looking to get into Asia because a lot of these countries don't have the transferable standards that we do have here and it's one of the things as they become more modern they're looking to do. So the range of opportunities through these FTAs is quite large.

The Australian Government's focus is on fostering a strong economy, one that will allow businesses like yours to thrive and opportunities to grow. So thanks again for taking the time. I'm just the warm up act. The really important thing to do at the end of this is, as the other representatives from Austrade and DFAT and other government agencies are here, just get a good look at them and then before you leave get their card because they have the expertise, many of them have already had extensive experience in overseas countries as trade commissioners and they can- they are the best friends you'll ever have if you're looking to get into trade. 

The other one is you'll probably need to understand about acronyms. It is the most acronym intensive industry known. 

Okay enjoy the morning ladies and gentlemen and I'm sure it will be of great interest and benefit to you Thanks very much.

Media enquiries

  • Minister Coulton’s office: Steph Nicholls +61 417 314 920
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555