CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA — Grain Producers Australia (GPA) on Aug. 3 said  the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) should proceed to ratification without delay, and that people who want to disrupt the process fail to grasp the importance of this agreement for Australia.

GPA chairman Andrew Weidemann said the fundamental issue in ChAFTA was Australia’s improving trading relationship with China, which was all about a willingness to do business.

“Trade is the bedrock of the Australian economy and always has been, with the key to successful trade being the relationships we have with our trading partners,” Weidemann said.

“The notion that Australia would go back on an agreement it has already signed with a major trading partner just beggars belief.

“It was the Hawke-Keating and Howard-Costello governments that recognized the benefits of opening up the Australian economy, so given that both sides of politics understand this, it is grossly irresponsible that elements of the labor movement would now seek to turn the clock back 30 years to an era of protectionism that dragged so heavily on our economy.

“For the grain industry ChAFTA is about much more than changes to tariff arrangements – it is about attitude, which in turn begets behavior and a willingness to find solutions that facilitate trade outcomes,” Weidemann said.

China is a growing market for Australia and its potential is huge, although like anywhere, there are challenges to be addressed and this is already happening, to the benefit of all concerned. Over the past year or so the grain industry has seen important progress with China on export arrangements for canola that resulted in trade recommencing. A new biosecurity protocol has been signed with China for wheat and barley, without which trade would have stopped. Most recently a new arrangement has been negotiated to facilitate large volumes of Australian sorghum being shipped to China for stockfeed. All these things have occurred while ChAFTA was being negotiated, in an environment where people were keen for solutions.

“The grain industry has more issues to work through with China and will continue to pursue further opportunities, but clearly we are already seeing positive steps. Australia is one of many possible sources of grain for China in a competitive world market.