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Australia needs more FTAs: AFGC

The Australian Food and Grocery Council has urged the government to continue securing free trade agreements in its submission to the federal review of agribusiness policy.

The Council’s submission said the sector craved a “comprehensive and commercially meaningful” free trade agreement with China, followed by negotiations with Indonesia and India on a similar compact, The Australian reports.

“The government needs to continue securing free-trade agreements that deliver real commercial outcomes, particularly for sectors such as dairy and extending to packaged foods,” the submission said.

“The significant global opportunities for the Australian agrifood sector are in stark contrast to the challenges faced. We seem to have a great ­capacity for self-inflicted damage…think live cattle export bans, carbon tax and now a doubling or tripling of gas prices on the east coast as examples of how we have managed to sabotage our competitiveness.’’

The AFGC highlights how Australia’s share of global food exports to its key markets slipped from 11 percent in 2006 to 6.5 percent last year. Australia has seen a drop in the World Economic Forum’s ranking of global competitiveness, from 16 to 21.

The AFGC urged the government to address the concern that offshore capital is not welcome in the sector. Concerns were heightened after the government vetoed US-owned Archer Daniels Midland’s $3.4 billion offer for GrainCorp, but the Foreign Investment Review Board approved Canadian dairy giant Sap­uto’s $500 million takeover of Warrnambool Cheese & ­Butter.

Goodman Fielder recently refused a $1.27 billion takeover bid from Singapore’s Wilmar, saying that the offer is too low, but that it would continue to assess other opportunities and that it has appointed financial and legal advisers.

 

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