FTA Seminar, Smithton

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Free Trade Agreements Seminar, Smithton Tasmania.
17 December 2019

Coulton: I landed in Hobart late Thursday night, so I’ve had a few days here already, I’ve got to say I’m absolutely blown away by the potential of Tasmania and also what's been achieved.

It's got so many natural resources and surrounded by an abundant ocean as well. I’ve met some very interesting businesses.

My portfolio, Regional Services is regional health, regional telecommunication, regional education – nothing possibly could go wrong with any of those three. That is, black spots, NBN rollout, mal-distribution of doctors, local government and decentralisation.

But I'm here today as Assistant Trade Minister and this is seminar number 132 we've had around Australia to promote Australia's free trade agenda and hopefully help you make connections today – I'm certainly only the warm up act.

What you need to be doing today before you leave is taking the business cards of the people that are here representing the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other people who are here to make those connections. The idea of a seminar is helping people be in a position to take advantage of the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) we've signed up.

Seventy per cent of the trade from this country now is under Free Trade Agreements so that when you are trading with those countries you have an advantage over your competitors.

You'd be going in there without some of the trade barriers that we’ve been plagued by for years and years. Only in he last fortnight of sitting, we finally ratified through the Australian Parliament the Free Trade Agreements with Hong Kong, Indonesia and Chile and they will all be slightly different but there's a lot of excitement about because of the potential of those.

And Indonesia, 165 million people, a growing economy, a growing middle class, they’re 10 minutes in a tinnie from Northern Australia – they are our largest nearest neighbour and to have an arrangement with Indonesia is very, very exciting.

The highlight of today, I can tell you without qualm, will be the local business representative. I just had a chat with Ian’s here from NatraSol Sea Products. Of the 132 seminars, I’m not sure how many I've done but I’ve done a lot, I can tell you every one of the ones I've been to it is the local business that's already in the export space that's always been the most interesting part of the show. On Friday in Hobart we had a whisky distiller.

We are on top of the arrangements we've had for some time some of the more recent ones like the TPP11 – its got a longer name than that, it’s the Comprehensive Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership – but it's basically 11 countries, it was called until President Trump changed his mind after the last presidential election. But it's 11 countries around the Pacific, which are offering enormous potential.

We've had a Free Trade Agreement with Japan for some years now but the TPP11 trumps it in a lot of ways, and people are actually getting a much better deal out of that. It also opens up opportunities with places where we haven't had a strong arrangement before – in Canada and Mexico, as well.

I encourage you to take advantage of the people that are here today. We are a trading nation.

I was in Tokyo for the first Ministerial Meeting of the TPP11 in January this year. They took me to a supermarket in downtown Tokyo, quite an upmarket area, and I've got to say products from Tasmania dominated the shelves.

Clearly Australia is an island a long way from anywhere and Tasmania is an island even further away from those places, but it gives you enormous potential with the clean, green image that you have successfully fostered over a long, long time. That is becoming more and more important as the consumers of the globe become much more choosy about the products that they buy. And Tasmania is doing incredibly well, but the potential is enormous.

So enjoy today, and I am sure as you go along there will be opportunities to ask questions of our guest speakers.

Thanks very much.

Media enquiries

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