AUSTRALIAN farmers are big winners from tariff cuts delivered under the ground-breaking Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA).
The JAEPA was signed in mid-2014 and entered into force on January 15, 2015.
Last week saw the fourth round of tariff cuts delivered under the trade deal with farmers and government officials taking the opportunity to proclaim its benefits.
Trade and Investment Minister Steven Ciobo said the JAEPA had eliminated tariffs on more than 3400 Australian product lines since it entered into force and continued to give Australian exporters a competitive edge with the nation’s second biggest trading partner.
Mr Ciobo said Australia was the only major agricultural exporter to have a Free Trade Agreement with Japan and exports were “booming under this landmark agreement”.
He said between 2014 and 2016 Australian exports of fresh table grapes increased 5183.5 per cent to $30.8 million, carrot exports increased 499.9pc to $3.4m and beef exports increased by 22.5pc to almost $1.1 billion.
Australian exports of honey and rolled oats both roughly doubled, fresh orange and asparagus exports grew by almost 50pc and bottled wine exports increased by 13pc to reach $35.6m, he said.
Mr Ciobo said over the same period, Japanese imports of Australian sugar had more than doubled.
“At a time when some are calling into question the benefits of international trade, the results of opening access to new markets through agreements like JAPEA are more important than ever,” he said.
“Our farmers produce more than Australia can consume so they need access to the world to thrive and prosper.
“Trade agreements like JAPEA have unlocked the door to markets that are worth billions of dollars to the Australian economy, creating jobs and promoting job certainty.”
Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce said the latest round of tariff cuts and quota volume increases under the JAPEA provided even more opportunities to exporters of a range of agricultural commodities, including honey, beef, dairy, wine, seafood, cereals and horticulture products.
Mr Joyce said Japan had been a leading market for Australia’s high quality and safe agriculture, food, fishery and forestry product exports for several decades and currently ranked second with $4.7b worth of trade in 2016.
“This fourth round of cuts includes chilled and frozen beef tariffs falling to 29.9pc and 27.2pc respectively, down from 38.5pc,” he said.
“Beef remains our leading agricultural export to Japan, worth $1.8b in 2016.”
Mr Joyce’s media statement said other tariff cuts included; honey by a further 2.3pc; table grapes by 1.6pc; oranges by 1.4pc; mandarins by 1pc; and grated cheese by 1.2pc along with a quota volume increase of 80 tonnes to 440 tonnes for the year.
Citrus Australia Market Access Manager David Daniel, said the third round of tariff cuts under the agreement last year, combined with a favourable exchange rate, had helped Australian citrus to become more competitive with the US than ever before.
Mr Joyce also commended his Department for ongoing work to negotiate improved technical market access into Japan to enable more exporters to realise the opportunities under JAEPA.
National Farmers’ Federation President Fiona Simson said Australia’s high quality, safe food and fibre had long been preferred by Japanese consumers and the JAEPA was having “real benefit” for Australian farmers.
Ms Simson also welcomed the federal government’s continued focus on trying to cut non-tariff trade barriers.
“The government’s ongoing work to negotiate improved technical market access into Japan is important and has already started to pay dividends,” she said.
“In 2016 melon growers gained new access for melons through JAEPA and Tasmanian pumpkin growers also now have a new, Japanese-market for their produce.”
The Australian Melon Association Industry Development Manager Dianne Fullelove also welcomed the market access improvements.