The Korea–Australia Free Trade Agreement is unambiguously good news for the Australian economy, Business Council of Australia Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott said.
Ms Westacott welcomed the release by the Minister for Trade and Investment of the full text of the agreement, which makes clear that the deal is in Australia’s interests. “In complex trade agreements, the devil is often in the detail, but this agreement is one of the best Australia has struck with a major trading partner,” Ms Westacott said.
“The Korea–Australia Free Trade Agreement is good news for our farmers and miners, eliminating tariffs on 98 per cent of Australian agricultural exports to Korea and cutting tariffs on key resources exports.
“It’s good news for our services sector, by providing better market access across a range of areas, including legal services, financial services, accounting services and telecommunications. And it’s good news for our competitive manufacturers, with Korea phasing out tariffs on imports of Australian manufactures,” she said.
Ms Westacott welcomed the pragmatic approach taken by the government to finalising the agreement, an approach which has been important in overcoming longstanding barriers in the negotiations.
She highlighted the importance of bipartisanship in Australia’s trade policy to achieving success in free trade agreements, acknowledging the vision of the former government in starting negotiations with Korea in 2009.
The concession to Korea to include investor-state dispute settlement provisions in the agreement was a pragmatic solution that provides certainty for both Australian and Korean investors, while maintaining Australia’s ability to regulate public health and the environment.
The agreement to increase the screening threshold by the Foreign Investment Review Board for Korean private sector investment from $248 million to $1.1 billion is another win-win outcome, potentially increasing the amount of capital available to further develop Australia’s economy.
“Foreign capital has historically been the backbone of Australia’s economic success and this agreement will contribute to Australia being a more attractive destination for global investment.
“We encourage the government to push ahead in making progress on the Japan and China agreements. The long-held vision of a free trade network with our top three export markets is increasingly becoming a reality,” Ms Westacott said.