Trade agreements fuel farm exports to Asia

By Country News

Australia's free trade agreements have fuelled a rise in agricultural exports, with sharp increases in produce flowing to Asia in the past two decades.

On Friday, September 11, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences released a report into the impact of trade agreements.

Australia sends more than three-quarters of its agricultural exports to Asia, up from a little over half 20 years ago.

“That growth can be directly attributed to our trade within the Asian region, and indirectly with Australia's FTAs with several Asian countries, including ASEAN, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea,” the report says.

Asia's portion of Australia's agricultural exports has risen from about half a per cent 20 years ago to 76 per cent in 2019-20.

In the same period, exports to China went from a seven per cent share to 29 per cent, while Association of Southeast Asian Nations now have an 18 per cent share.

That makes China and ASEAN Australia's two biggest farm export markets.

The report found Japan and Korea remained important markets despite relatively stable demand compared to China and ASEAN.

It said Australia's overlapping agreements with some countries led to greater market access and trade liberalisation.

But multiple agreements can also increase complexity for exporters and increase costs where there are varied rules.

ABARES also nominates agreements currently being negotiated with the European Union, United Kingdom and India as having key importance to future trade.

The bureau's head of agricultural forecasting and trade Jared Greenville said 81 per cent of exported produce was now destined for countries Australia has a deal with.

“The importance of FTAs to Australia's agricultural export performance cannot be overstated,” he said on Friday.

The value of agricultural exports to countries Australia has FTAs with is estimated to be about $39 billion.

According to the report, Australia is now among the top 15 agricultural exporters in the world, with the sector exporting about 70 per cent of production to 192 countries.