ABC Country Hour with Cassandra Hough and Megan Hughes
CASSANDRA HOUGH, HOST: Megan also met with Trade Minister Don Farrell a short time ago. He’s been touring Japan and Korea, savoring Australian produce like lobster and wine. The minister says he thinks China might be ready to come back to the table to talk about lifting some of these trade bans.
MEGAN HUGHES, HOST: So I guess if you could get those bans lifted in the future, you’re looking at trade diversification right now, because actually Australia had a lot of eggs in that Chinese basket. How do you see, I guess, the future if these trade bans are lifted?
TRADE MINISTER DON FARRELL: Well listen, obviously if the bans are lifted, we’ll start trading all of these products again in China, and that’s obviously a good thing. But I don’t think we would ever want to find ourselves in a situation where we are again dependent on China as the source of our exports. So one of the reasons I’m here in Japan and Korea is to encourage them to buy, especially our lobsters, but also our other products. We also need to expand our free trade agreements, so there are quite a few on the horizon.
We have two agreements that have already been negotiated, one with the UK and one with India. The Australian Parliament is in the process of approving these two free trade agreements, and I am confident that this will be achieved by the end of the year.
On top of that, we have negotiations with the Europeans. And again, I had very positive meetings with the Europeans, and I am confident that by the middle of next year we will have a full-fledged free trade agreement with Europe.
We also have further discussions with the United States about an Indo-Pacific Free Trade Agreement and again this represents opportunities to sell our products in a range of new countries. So there’s a lot going on. I believe all will come to fruition when we do. Of course, we also have a whole bunch of new and diverse markets to sell our products to.
MEGAN HUGHES: I think when you talk about, in particular, Chinese trade, in terms of crawfish, no other country took the volume that China did and also paid the prices that China did. Do you think that if Australia could come back to China, this situation could happen again? Because from a market perspective, that’s where the best money is.
TRADE MINISTER: Look, there are some issues there, Megan, I’ve had some discussions with South Australian lobster exporters, and what they’re telling me is that the prices that they get to Australia for their product in many cases don’t. actually cover the cost of production. So prices have to be pushed up, there’s no doubt about that. The industry is only sustainable if fishermen and women get a fair price for their product.
I don’t think anyone wants to go back to the old days. We have seen the error of our ways there, but at the same time we need a sustainable industry. And a sustainable industry means that fishermen in that industry get a fair price for their product.
CASSANDRA HOUGH: Australian Trade Minister Don Farrell is talking to Megan Hughes there and, as I said before, he is touring Japan and Korea, offering Australian products like lobster and wine. So hopefully there will be a breakthrough there to get more markets for the products that have been affected by these trade situations.