After the first landmark economic agreement between Japan and Australia was signed almost 57 years ago to the day, a second historic instalment will be signed, which leverages our strengths to drive growth and job creation.

Back on July 6, 1957, then Japanese prime minister Nobusuke Kishi signed a progressive post-war commerce agreement with Australian prime minister Robert Menzies. Today, in a most fitting historical moment, Shinzo Abe — grandson of Kishi — will join Tony Abbott in signing the Japan Australia Economic Partnership Agreement. Negotiations started back in 2007 under the Howard government.

The EPA is the most ambitious trade deal Japan has concluded with anyone and affords Australia major concessions across a range of areas, most notably agriculture, an area of traditional sensitivity for the Japanese.

When fully implemented, more than 97 per cent of Australian exports will enter Japan, ­the world’s third-largest economy, duty free or with preferential ­access. We will also gain new ­levels of access to the Japanese market for a range of services where Australia has an enviable reputation.

In agriculture, we have secured rapid upfront reductions and an ultimate halving of the prohibitive 38.5 per cent tariff on beef, our biggest agricultural export to Japan, worth about $1.4 billion last year.

Modelling shows that this will deliver gains to the industry of ­between about $300 million and $400m a year while giving us a major advantage over our fiercest competitor in the US.

Senior beef industry figure ­Lachie Hart said JAEPA would “make our beef more competitive to consumers, increase the export volume and further strengthen the strong relations we hold”.

Tariffs will also be eliminated on Australian wine (15 per cent), a range of seafoods, on processed foods and across a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts.

There are also gains for dairy, grains and raw sugar, which will provide new market opportun­ities. De Bortoli Wines, our fifth largest wine exporter, described JAEPA as “great news” in a market where Australian wine has been under pressure and provides “the ability to claw back sales”.

On the resources, energy and manufacturing exports fronts, currently worth $42bn to Australia, we will benefit from tariff-free entry into Japan for effectively 100 per cent of items as soon the agreement comes into force.

Japan, with a population of about 127 million, including a strong middle class, presents ­enormous new opportunities for Australian exporters of goods and services as a result of this agreement. In agriculture and horticulture, for example, we enjoy a well-earned reputation for “clean, green and safe” produce and there is no reason why previously modest or non-existent export levels cannot develop into markets worth hundreds of millions off the back of this agreement.

Australian consumers will also benefit from cheaper Japanese cars and parts, and a range of household items including whitegoods and electronics through the elimination of tariffs.

Japanese-made components used in Australian production and manufacturing will also become more affordable, which will aid our competitiveness. Cheaper Japanese imports improve consumer buying power and enhance our standards of living.

Therein lies the essence of quality bilateral trade deals such as this — they leverage the relative strengths of each country to the benefit of both.

This agreement also sends a strong signal to Japanese investors that we both welcome their capital and are open for business. JAEPA will afford private Japanese investment in non-sensitive areas a new screening threshold of $1.078 billion, up from $248m.

Since the First Fleet, Australia has relied on foreign capital to ­develop our commerce and infrastructure and the same applies today.

Japan is Australia’s third-­largest source of foreign investment, currently worth about $131bn, while our investment stock in Japan stands at about $50bn. Precedent shows that when you develop stronger trading relationships additional investment inevitably follows.

The new openings in the Japanese market for a range of Australian services will also encourage investment. Australian legal firms, for instance, will be able to set up corporations under Japanese law and our financial services providers will be able to supply a clearly defined list of services, including investment advice and portfolio management services.

Japan has also guaranteed us market access for Australian education providers to the higher ­education services market, including vocational and technical ­education. We have also committed to advancing efforts towards the mutual recognition of professional services qualifications.

Japan will allow new levels of investment by Australia in telecommunications and internet-based services with commitments on non-discriminatory treatment, regulatory transparency and fair and reasonable access to tele­communications networks and services.

Australian suppliers will also gain access to the lucrative Japanese government procurement market, which includes 23 central ministries and agencies, 118 statutory authorities, 59 metropolitan cities and other state-owned enter­prises and institutions.

There will be guaranteed visa access arrangements for Australians, including spouses and children, to enter and stay in Japan.

The signing of JAEPA follows our successful conclusion of a free-trade agreement with Korea of the highest quality. We are now striving to conclude a free-trade agreement with China, our biggest trading partner, by the end of this year. This remains a realistic objective.

These massive economies of North Asia are our three biggest export markets, collectively representing 50 per cent of all our ­exports. This figure highlights why the Abbott government placed such priority on concluding these agreements as soon as reasonably possible.

The previous Labor government had six years to conclude them and failed to land a single one. These were lost years which saw our competitive position in these markets eroded rather than moved forward.

If we can conclude the three deals, they have the combined potential to add billions a year to our economy and create tens of thousands of jobs. Modelling shows the Korea agreement alone will create more than 15,000 jobs out to 2030, and that does not ­factor in the opportunities that will be created through market ­access gains for Australian services.

The middle classes of the Asia- Pacific are exploding in what will be the century of food, water and energy security, and Australia is extremely well placed to help meet surging demand. What are effectively niche markets in Asia for us can represent mass markets and trade agreements help us to unlock the potential.

So when prime ministers ­Abbott and Abe sign the economic partnership agreement it will ­indeed be historic, but it will also lift our economic prospects to a whole new level.

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