PM Tony Abbott Inks Japan Free Trade Deal; Opens Up Dairy, Beef, Wine Exports & Makes Available Cheaper Japanese Cars, Hi-Tech Devices to Aussies

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By Vittorio Hernandez | April 8, 2014 9:14 AM EST

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott signed on Monday evening in Tokyo the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The multi-billion dollar agreement would cover the next 20 years and open doors for both Australian and Japanese markets for each others' products.

REUTERS
Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott addresses during the Commonwealth Government Meeting (CHOGM) opening ceremony in Colombo November 15, 2013.

The deal will allow Australia to export dairy, beef, wine, sugar, horticulture and a range of services to Japan, while in turn, it would allow Aussie consumer access to cheaper Japanese vehicles, cameras, TV sets and other high-tech devices.

It would translate into the removal of Australia's current 5 per cent tariff on 75 per cent of Japanese cars, while the remaining 25 per cent would become tariff-free after three years. Aussie consumers were advised to expect an average cut of $1,500 on their purchase of Japanese cars.

While it would mean the loss of protective tariffs on Australian car parts on similar products made by their Japanese competitors, the locals would get a longer five-year grace period, granting them enough time to be a part of the global supply chain.

In turn, Australian export of products to Japan such as beer, lamb, wool and cotton would have zero tariffs and even given protection on a most favoured nation status. Australian beef used to be slapped a 38.5 per cent Japanese import tariff, and its removal is expected to further boost the beef trade currently valued at $1.4 billion which could lead it to expand by $2.8 billion in the next 20 years.

On the first year, the tariff on frozen beef would go down 8 per cent, followed by a 2 per cent cut on the second year and 1 per cent in succeeding years until it reaches 19.5 per cent. Fresh beef tariff would be reduced by 6 per cent on the initial year and by 1 per cent in the next years until it reaches 23.5 per cent.

However, the president of the Cattle Council of Australia, Andrew Ogilvie, said he was disappointed with the outcome.  "Cattle Council is disappointed that substantial tariffs still exist on Australian beef after the phase out period, unlike in previous free trade agreements, and also that different tariffs apply to chilled and frozen beef," Mr Ogilvie was quoted by ABC.

For dairy, the duty-free access was placed at 47,000 tonnes annually, up from the current 27,000 tonnes.

Also removed are tariffs on Aussie seafood exports for marine products such as shrimps and prawns, rock lobsters and preserved abalone, oysters, crabs, yellowfin and southern bluefin tuna, toothfish and fish oil.

"Better access for key agricultural products including beef, cheese, horticulture and wine will give Australia a head start over our competitors in the market," Mr Abbott said, quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald.

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(Photo: REUTERS / )
Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott addresses during the Commonwealth Government Meeting (CHOGM) opening ceremony in Colombo November 15, 2013.
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