The Government will in good faith consider the proposals put forward today by Labor with regard to the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) and will respond accordingly.

For some time now we have said that if the Opposition put forward concrete proposals we would look at them. Until today, all we have heard for months are sound bites and rhetoric but nothing specific.

We welcome Labor’s belated acceptance that in no way can the agreement with China be reopened. We also note that the Opposition is looking for added comfort through the introduction of provisions that in fact already exist.

Safeguards in Labor’s key proposals – which require labour market testing as a mandatory requirement for all occupations sought under an IFA – are indeed already clear government policy. Labour Market Testing is absolutely a non-negotiable requirement for project companies seeking an IFA.

The Turnbull Government is doing everything that can reasonably be done to ensure that the China FTA can be brought into force before the end of this year so that its benefits can quickly flow to our exporters and to consumers.

Entry into force this year will see an immediate round of tariff cuts, followed by a second round of cuts on 1 January 2016. Any delay would cost Australian industry hundreds of millions of dollars in 2016 alone.

For example it would cost our farmers alone an estimated $300 million.

As we have repeatedly made clear, we will not entertain anything that contravenes the firm commitments we have made in this Free Trade Agreement or any of our Free Trade Agreements for that matter.

Having finally received some detailed information from the Opposition we don’t intend to hold our considerations and discussions in public.

Labor needs to consider its ultimate position through the prism of the national interest, not through the narrow self-interest of the militant unions such as the CFMEU and the ETU.

For decades in this country we have enjoyed a high level of bi-partisan support for freer trade.

That is because sensible and level heads on both sides of politics have long understood the material benefits that more open economies afford in terms growth, job creation and higher living standards.

Ultimately, in regard to this agreement, with our biggest trading partner, we are hopeful this tradition will continue.

Media enquiries

  • Trade Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7420
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555