Free trade agreement with Korea to boost industry

EXPORTS across several major Australian industries could soon be bolstered by a free trade agreement with Korea, after the Federal Government finished lengthy negotiations this week.

The agreement, which is yet to be officially signed, will remove tariffs of up to 300% across agriculture exports of beef, wheat, sugar, dairy, wine and seafood.

It also could create new Korean markets for resources and energy exports as well as manufactured goods.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said agriculture exports to Korea could be 73% higher after 15 years as a result of the deal, with overall exports expected to jump 25% in that time.

"Independent modelling shows the agreement would be worth $5 billion between 2015 and 2030 and boost the economy by around $650 million annually after 15 years," he said in a statement.

"Australian automotive suppliers would benefit from the immediate removal of tariffs as high as 8%; the wine industry from tariffs of 15% and Australian wheat growers, potato farmers and cherry, grape and mango producers would all stand to benefit."

Trade Minister Andrew Robb finished the trade negotiations this week with his Korean counterpart, and the deal will be sealed once domestic approvals are completed.

While Shadow Trade Minister Penny Wong welcomed the deal, she raised concerns about investor state dispute mechanisms.

It is understood new clauses inserted into recent negotiations include making the Commonwealth directly responsible for such deals, which could impact on the government's legal responsibilities.

However, there is no evidence such clauses have been included in the negotiations with Korea to date.

Senator Wong urged the government to release the full test of the proposed agreement "in the interests of transparency" as soon as possible.

"Labor looks forward to examining the proposed agreement and will assess it carefully to ensure it is in the national interest," she said.

Mr Abbott said the deal would see bilateral trade between the two countries boosted above the already hefty $32 billion level recorded in 2012.



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