Keith Pitt speaking from a podium.

tKeith Pitt By Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, the Hon Keith Pitt MP

Like that classic song I’ve Been Everywhere Man, the past ten months have seen me on the road taking the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) message to cities and towns across Australia.

And that message is pretty simple, but very important – the FTAs Australia has in place cut tariffs and give Australian exporters a competitive edge. That edge in turn means better opportunities for more sales abroad, and means more investment and jobs here at home. The response from people I’ve met to that message has been very positive.

And as I’ve travelled across the country presenting at the free FTA seminars, from Kununurra to Coffs Harbour, Hobart to Darwin, and Mackay to Murray Bridge, it’s been really pleasing to meet Aussie business people taking advantage of our FTAs.

Keith Pitt standing next to a road sign on the Hume Highway 9 kms from Chiltern.

Mr Pitt on the road.

Keith Pitt speaking from a podium.

Mr Pitt speaking at an FTA seminar in Mooloolaba.

At a seminar held in Mooloolaba in October 2016, I met Kylie Watson, CEO of local macadamia exporter Nutworks, whose company is benefitting from tariff reductions under our FTA with China.

Raw macadamias into China, shelled and unshelled, previously had a tariff of 24 per cent, which ChAFTA has already cut to 10 per cent. This tariff will be completely gone by 1 January 2019.

Aided by the tariff cuts and booming Chinese demand, 2016 exports of Australian shelled macadamias into China increased 14 per cent to almost $19 million, since ChAFTA came into force.

In addition to generously sharing her exporting experiences, Kylie Watson also noted, “With the reduction in the tariff, the increase in [demand for our] macadamias has gone significantly higher. There’s been a 40 per cent increase in macadamias in the last two years. The reason that we are able to compete is that Australian products are seen as premium.”

See caption.

Mr Pitt with Nutworks CEO, Kylie Watson, Andrew Wallace MP and Ted O’Brien MP.

It’s these stories, from a diverse group of hard-working men and women in rural and regional Australia, that are showing how these trade deals can deliver genuine, practical outcomes.

Importantly, the more other business owners hear of the benefits brought by our FTAs, the more they are likely to use them and reap the benefits. Benefits that will flow to their business, employees, families and local communities.

While out on the road, I’ve learnt businesses are really keen to understand what the Government might have to offer them, to help them grow and succeed. That’s why it’s been really important that these FTA seminars have involvement from a range of government agencies, explaining the services we can provide. In addition to representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, who negotiate and bring these FTAs into force, Austrade explains how it is focused on using its extensive international network to find buyers for Australian products and services overseas. Austrade also offers the Export Market Development Grant, which can help offset some of those start-up marketing costs when getting into international markets. I can’t recommend strongly enough that Australian small businesses use these services to break into overseas markets.

Also at the seminars, Efic, the Government’s Export Finance Insurance Corporation, outlines how it can fill the funding gap in the market when you have an export opportunity, but your usual bank isn’t able to lend you the funds. And AusIndustry, from the Federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, talks attendees through the extensive package of services it can offer Australian small businesses to grow, improve their operations and commercialise their innovations.

I will continue to be an enthusiastic participant in the FTAs at future seminars held all across the country. The next seminar will be held in Canberra on Thursday 27 July 2017. It is important to ensure that all businesses understand the significant opportunities offered by these trade agreements and are provided the tools to translate this knowledge into growth for their business and more Australian jobs.

To find out when the next FTA seminar will be on in a town near you go to: Free Trade Agreements Information Seminars.

Or you can email fta@austrade.gov.au.

*A tariff is a customs duty on merchandise imports. Tariffs give price advantage to similar locally-produced goods and raise revenues for the government.

Useful FTA links

Keith Pitt speaking from a podium to a room of people seated at tables.

Mr Pitt addresses seminar attendees in Port Macquarie.

Keith Pitt is Australia’s Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment.

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