Australia’s sugar and rice industries are demanding the Abbott government does not sell them short again.
The broad-based and highly secretive TPP talks, which include 12 countries that account for almost one-third of Australia’s total trade and 38 per cent of world GDP, are in a final round of negotiations in Washington.
Brett Finlay, president of farm lobby the National Farmers’ Federation, said that all agricultural commodities need to get better market access.
“Australian agriculture exports approximately two-thirds of what we produce,” he said.
“Improved market access is critical to the entire agricultural sector and we have been advocating strongly to government for good outcomes across the board. We know it is difficult to get everything included, however, that’s the starting point for us.”
Canegrowers Queensland chairman Paul Schembri said that the sugar industry, which was left out of the 2004 free-trade agreement with the United States, also had poor outcomes in the government’s free-trade deals with China and Japan.
“We are playing for keeps. It is TPP or bust for us. We are an export-focused industry with more than 80 per cent of our 4.5 million tonnes of sugar exported every year,” he said.
“We are sick and tired of being the bridesmaid and being thrown off the table at the eleventh hour,” Mr Schembri said.
The sugar industry has just sent Dominic Nolan, the CEO of the Australian Sugar Milling Council, and Warren Males, Cane growers’ policy manager, to Washington to lobby the government.
Australia’s cane growers desperately want better access to the highly protected US and Japanese markets.
Rice Growers Association executive director Dean Logan said the industry has repeatedly been disappointed in past negotiations.
“We support our government … but we don’t want any special deals or carve-outs. We hope the government flies the flag for Australian rice growers,” he said.
“Rice has got to be there. They have to go in to bat for rice. We have missed out too many times.”
Australia has the capacity to produce up to 1 million tonnes of rice a year and exports 80 per cent of its rice in a non-drought year to 60 countries.
The NFF’s Mr. Finlay said it is critical that Australian farmer quality, safety and traceability is not compromised by product aggregation or other changes to rules of origin.