A free trade deal with Japan can’t be concluded without better concessions for Australian farmers, the federal government says.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott will lead a week-long trade mission including premiers and business leaders to Japan, South Korea and China starting this weekend.
In Seoul, Mr Abbott is set to sign a free trade deal with Korea, but work is still under way on the agreement with Japan.
A key issue is Japan’s 38 per cent import tariff on Australian beef. Australia wants that halved. Japan says 30 per cent.
“We are close to a deal, but there are one or two sticking points and let’s hope they can be dealt with over the next few days,” Mr Abbott said.
Trade Minister Andrew Robb said the talks with Japan would not be concluded without “important and necessary” change to tariffs on beef and dairy products.
“For us to concede what we think is important for Japan, we want to see material gains across these agricultural areas,” he told ABC radio.
“Negotiations are still very much alive. I am not going to get into detail about particular items. But certainly we want to see a lot better than what’s on the table at the present time.”
Car import tariffs are also at issue.
Mr Robb said there was still a large car component industry in Australia even if Holden, Ford and Toyota were ceasing manufacturing.
Mr Abbott said it would be unrealistic to expect a concluded agreement with China on this trip.
“But, nevertheless, hopefully some progress can be made on some of the contentious subjects,” the prime minister said.
The delegation of more than 400 companies will attend the inaugural Australia Week in China trade expo, along with most state premiers, chief ministers and high-profile chief executives and senior business figures.
Mr Abbott’s parliamentary secretary, Josh Frydenberg, played down fears that local manufacturers could be hit hard by cheaper imports because of the agreement.
“New opportunities will open up for manufacturers, particularly advanced manufacturers,” Mr Frydenberg told ABC radio.
He pointed to Thales in Victoria, which manufactures Bushmaster armoured vehicles and exports some to Asian countries.