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Australia pursues trade agenda in Asia
SBS | 7 December 2016
Australia pursues trade agenda in Asia
The latest GDP figures show Australia cannot be complacent about growth and must push ahead with opening up export and trade opportunities, Trade Minister Steve Ciobo says.
And Asia, he believes, is just the place to do it.
Mr Ciobo is in Jakarta again this week for talks over the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA), which both countries hope to have finalised by the end of next year.
His visit comes after figures showed the Australian economy had contracted by 0.5 per cent in the September quarter - the first decline in growth since March 2011 and the weakest since the global financial crisis.
"What today’s GDP figures show is that we can’t be complacent about growth, we have got to maintain vigilance, not only with respect to our domestic reform process but also with respect to opening up opportunities for Australian exports," Mr Ciobo said on Wednesday.
Mr Ciobo dismissed comments that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) had "collapsed", despite US president-elect Donald Trump vowing to scrap the deal on his first day in office in January.
Nevertheless, he said Asia was providing a healthy environment for Australia to pursue a trade agenda.
"I believe that the Asian region in general appreciates that trade and engagement with the world is crucial to higher living standards in the future and that is a point of contrast to other parts of the world where they have adopted a more protectionist approach."
While he would not go into the details of where the trade talks were at, Mr Ciobo said he and his Indonesian counterpart Enggartiasto Lukita had discussed the importance of the Australian live cattle trade.
Mr Ciobo said he was also keen to reduce the tariff barrier for Australian sugar.
"Australian sugar exporters currently face a higher tariff barrier then other sugar exporters throughout the region. I want to make sure that, if we possibly can, we can reduce that tariff barrier," he added.
Australia is also in negotiations around the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) - a trade deal which would encompass not only the Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) member states, but also China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea and New Zealand.
The 16 RCEP participating countries account for almost half of the world’s population, almost 30 per cent of global GDP and over a quarter of world exports.
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