Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott should reveal the negative impacts of free trade with China, Oposition Leader Bill Shorten says, accusing the government of “selective leaks to soften up the electorate” for painful concessions to Beijing.
The Australian this morning revealed one million beef cattle valued at more than $1 billion are set to be shipped to China each year under the groundbreaking Chinese trade deal that will double Australia’s live-export cattle trade.
The Opposition Leader urged Tony Abbott to reveal what was being negotiated away in exchange for such benefits, highlighting the potential impact on the sugar, iron ore and aluminium sectors.
Labor warned sugar producers were especially at risk. China has not allowed preferential access to any other free-trade partners for sugar because it is a key source of income for its southern ethnic minority groups.
“This would be a rerun of the Howard government’s approach of selling out the sugar industry in the dying hours of the negotiations for an FTA with the United States in 2004,” opposition trade spokeswoman Penny Wong and agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said in a joint statement.
Treasurer Joe Hockey said Australian envoys were “working incredibly hard” to seal the pact, and claimed sugar growers had received “great deals so far” from other free trade agreements.
Mr Shorten said in Brisbane: “We see the government again just playing politics. They’re doing selective leaks to soften up the electorate for the bits of the free trade agreement they don’t get.
“When it comes to sugar, that is a relevant issue. When it comes to access for beef cattle into Chinese markets, that’s a relevant issue. There are also tariffs on our aluminium, on our iron ore, which the Chinese have put on.
“If the Abbott government really cares about agriculture, just be straight with us. If he really cares about the mining industry, just be straight with us.
“If it is a good deal, Labor will support free trade with China.”
Mr Hockey said the trade deal was “not finalised” but Australian envoys were “working incredibly hard” to ink the pact.
“My great hope out of that negotiation is that the 70 per cent of the Australian economy involved in services, which represents only 17 per cent of our exports, are going to have a chance to break into the Chinese economy in the same way that iron ore and agriculture is starting to break in,” Mr Hockey said in Adelaide.
“If that comes off it will be a tremendous boost for the Australian economy.”
Greens senator Lee Rhiannon said the government was turning “a blind eye to the suffering of animals” by moving to expand live exports.
“Around 20,000 sheep die on ships each year — from heat stress, illness, injury and failing to eat the unfamiliar food on board — before they even reach their destination country.
“The only way to stop this cruelty is end of live exports by working with Australian farmers to expand and strengthen the processed meat trade.”Source: The Australian – Shorten: tell us what was traded away for China cattle deal
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