THE free trade agreement with China provides Australia with a huge global competitive advantage, and a historic opportunity to grow and diversify our economy over the next decade, according to Business Council of Australia.
CEO Jennifer Westacott (pictured) says the historic agreement is a transformative moment for the economy.
“It puts many of our most important sectors on a more competitive footing internationally, and gives Australian companies enormous scope to boost trade and create jobs,” Westacott says.
“The agreement opens an unprecedented level of access for our key sectors into Chinese markets, builds on Australia’s existing strengths and opens new avenues for growth and job creation.
“There is major access for dairy and beef products, tariffs on our resources exports have been wound back, and new opportunities have been opened up to maximise Australia’s comparative advantages in high-tech manufacturing, and in services, which is 80 per cent of our economy.
Westacott says the agreement was the culmination of a decade of effort by the governments of Australia and China.
The combined impact of this agreement, together with agreements with Japan and Korea, will put Australia at the centre of the enormous growth opportunities in Asia.
“With one in five Australian jobs linked to trade, these agreements turn the tyranny of distance into the era of opportunity,” she says.
“We have the perfect alignment of transformative agreements in the region that will drive one third of the world’s growth, and where demand will centre on the products and services we can offer.
“An agreement of this kind cannot cover every industry or product – it needs to be seen as part of an ongoing effort to build the trade relationship between our two countries.”
Westacott says that the high-level Australia–China CEO Roundtable hosted by the BCA focused on the role of business in realising the opportunities flowing from the FTA.
“It is now up to Australian businesses to make the most of the new opportunities available to them through this agreement by equipping themselves to do business in China,” she says.
“It is an opportunity for Australian companies already operating in China to build their presence and for many others to seize the advantage they have been given over competitor countries. Each sector has to think carefully about how they organise and respond to the opportunities provided in the FTA.
“It will be crucial to build community confidence in the implementation of the China FTA. This will require the effective resourcing of the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) and the Department of Immigration to enforce safeguards and properly assess the cumulative impact of changes to investment and labour market arrangements.
“But the full potential of these three historic agreements can only be realised if the government is supported in progressing its structural reform agenda to make the economy more competitive.”
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