TPP: Farmers the big winners in trade pact

Australian farmers, rural exports and local agribusinesses are the big winners from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Beef, cotton, wool, wine, fruit and grain exports all stand to ­benefit significantly from the new Pacific Rim trade pact, with ­foreign investment in Australian agricultural companies and farms also expected to boom.

But the sugar industry is deeply disappointed at its lack of access to new markets, particularly in the US, while dairy farmers described the TPP’s gains as only “modest’’.

The TPP eliminates 98 per cent of all tariffs imposed on Australian exports by the 11 other nations ­participating in the multilateral deal — the US, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia — within 10 years.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce praised the historic deal as a significant step for Australian ­agricultural commodities.

“Australia is a trading nation and exports underpin our producers’ prosperity; to make sure farmers receive the best returns for their products, we need to have the best possible trade opportunities in a wide range of markets,” Mr Joyce said.

“There are major gains for Australian farmers in the signing of the world’s largest regional trade agreement. While the agreement does not deliver on the aspirations of all industries, the overall gains for the agriculture sector are real.”

Sugar and dairy access to the protectionist US are among key ­issues holding up last-minute signing of the complex negotiations.

Australia sells one-third of its $15 billion of agricultural exports to nations involved in the TPP, with the deal eliminating stiff ­tariffs on $4.3bn of food and farm goods.

Bigger beef, wine, flour and cheese sales to Japan, wheat and barley exports to Mexico, cheese, salmon and dairy shipments to Canada, and sugar and cotton deals with the US are assured under the trade breakthrough, ­according to Trade Minister ­Andrew Robb.

For the first time in more than 20 years, Australia will be able to export more rice to highly protectionist Japan.

The Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia yesterday welcomed Japan’s rice concessions, ensuring access for 6000 tonnes a year of Australian rice into Japan, ­increasing to 8400 tonnes over time, and its widened total import quota for medium grain rice, ­Australia’s major export type.

National Farmers Federation president Brent Finlay said the deal was a “game-changer’’ in terms of trade liberalisation and creating a more level-playing field between all competing nations.

Major gains for Australian food exports include lower tariffs on beef in Japan and Mexico, the elimination of price safeguards on beef in the US, and the immediate axing of entry tariffs for lamb and mutton imports to all TPP countries other than Mexico.

More wheat and barley can be sold to Japan and all remaining tariffs on Australian raw wool and cotton exports to TPP countries will immediately be axed.

The deal will eliminate tariffs on certain cheese products into Japan and Canada, and eliminate import barriers on Australian fruit, vegetables and nuts sold to Mexico and Canada.