Andrew Robb

Trade Minister Andrew Robb. Image courtesy DFAT.

INDUSTRY Groups have welcomed the signing of the Japan Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA), calling for closer ties to Australia’s Asian neighbours.

Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb said the agreement would leverage Australia’s strengths to drive economic growth and job creation.

More than 97 per cent of Australia’s exports to Japan will receive preferential access or enter duty-free when the Agreement is fully implemented, he said.

“This is the most ambitious trade deal Japan has ever concluded with anyone and affords Australia major concessions across a range of areas, most notably services and agriculture, an area of traditional sensitivity for the Japanese,” Mr Robb said.

Effectively 100 per cent of Australia’s resources, energy and manufacturing exports will also benefit from tariff-free entry into Japan under this agreement.

JAEPA also guarantees access to the Japanese market for financial, legal, education and telecommunications services, as well as guaranteeing Australian suppliers non-discriminatory access to the lucrative Japanese government procurement market.

“Australian consumers will also benefit from cheaper Japanese cars and parts, and a range of household items including white goods and electronics through the elimination of tariffs,” Mr Robb said.

“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.”

The agreement will also afford private Japanese investment in non-sensitive areas a new screening threshold of $1.078 billion, up from $248 million.

JAEPA will enter into force after the completion of domestic legal and parliamentary processes by both countries, including consideration by the Australian Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.

The Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) welcomed the news, saying it would be a significant boost for resource exports and investment.

“This historic agreement strengthens ties with one of Australia’s most valuable trade partners and is a significant milestone for our national resource industry, which currently contributes about 80% of total export goods to Japan,” the group said.

“Today’s Free Trade Agreement is perfectly timed with Australia emerging as a global powerhouse of LNG production and bullish economic growth likely to see Japanese energy demand increase exponentially.”

AMMA said Australia had the natural resources, the expertise, skills and technology to position itself as a major energy supply for the Asia Pacific, after a record decade of resource project investment.

“To see new opportunities presented by this FTA come to market, we must capitalise on our competitive advantages while addressing those areas in which our nation has fallen behind,” it said.

“This includes building a stable and globally competitive taxation system, having the courage to deliver meaningful, long-term workplace relations reform, and maximising the productive output of Australian industries and services.”