15 January 2015
Transcript - #2015007, 2015

Interview with Stuart Bocking, 2UE Business, Sydney

SUBJECTS: Japan-Australia Free Trade Agreement

BOCKING:

The Minister for Small Business is Bruce Billson and he is on the line. Minister, Good morning.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Great to speak with you Stuart and your listeners.

BOCKING:

You too Bruce, thank you and best wishes for 2015.

MINISTER BILLSON:

And you too and all those enterprising Australians that listen to your show - and frankly value and appreciate you cheering on this crucial part of our economy. I hope it is a great year for all of us.

BOCKING:

Well it is a very important part of our economy. What has been the biggest breakthrough in terms of the upshot of this free trade deal with Japan?

MINISTER BILLSON:

The key thing is that it is one of three deals and each have built on the other where we saw Korea very keen to conclude a deal with Australia about energy, resources, food. The Japanese thought well hang on a minute; we will have Korean electrical goods and cars coming in at a cheaper price, what about ours? So really exciting stuff.

BOCKING:

I notice already we are seeing some terrific deals with car dealers, even before basically these were enacted, that they came into effect. That already a number of deals being done on cars in recognition of some of the price drops we are going to see on Korean or Japanese manufactured vehicles.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Yes and importantly it is those savings of between several of hundreds of dollars through to several thousands of dollars. For businesses that are using cars as a business input that is great news, and for people that are drawing imports for their goods and services from Japan – savings to be had there as well. But the flipside is what a great opportunity for new markets.

There is no substitute for customers. These trade agreements open the door to hundreds of millions of new potential customers, they love what we do and this agreement with Japan is all about us building on some long established relationships to create new trade opportunities and that means more jobs for our economy.

BOCKING:

Of course we have seen some of these tariffs applied by overseas countries that effectively have the impact of increasing the cost of our items into those particular markets. As part of the benefits of these free trade deals some of those tariffs are being wound back. What are the areas that will benefit most from those tariff reductions Bruce?

MINISTER BILLSON:

In the areas where we are already strong and well established, our competition and realising that it is not just Australia wanting these markets there are other markets, other countries wanting to service the Japanese market. This will give us either 97% tariff free or preferential treatment. This is on beef, we are talking about wine, cheese fruit and vegetables, nuts – they are the traditional areas.

But in the services economy, bearing in mind 70% of our Australian economy is in the services sector yet only $1 in $7 of our export earnings are from services, this opens up a whole world of new opportunities for our services economy. The financial services area, telecommunications, legal services, education, architects, our creative industries – this is a real area of growth and potential that people are very excited about, me included.

BOCKING:

That is right. I noticed that law firms will have improved access to the Japanese legal services market. I noticed in fact one of your former colleagues, Andrew Thomson, who held the seat Malcolm Turnbull now holds, he lives in Japan working as a lawyer over there.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Yes and I think Andrew and others that have been the path finders of enterprising Australians going into these international markets, we need to celebrate their success but learn from their journey. You talk about Andrew Thomson, he has been actively engaged in the region for some years and that is an important learning for all businesses looking to develop new markets in South-East Asia. It is not something that happens overnight, it is something you need to work at. But these are customers who value what we do. They like and are happy to pay a premium for our high-end quality goods and services and that is all good news for our economy and good news for jobs.

BOCKING:

I tell you what might surprise some people; I will let you answer this question Minister. What is Australia’s largest vegetable export to Japan?

MINISTER BILLSON:

You are being cute. I can tell you it is asparagus.

BOCKING:

Amazing.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Who would have thought? It gives me an opportunity to say just before ringing in to speak with you and your listeners, I was at an asparagus farm living the dream. Learning more about that business, a quarter of their production from 2,500 hectares of asparagus and broccolini and a few other products that they export, they are providing the wide share of asparagus into Japan and the Japanese love our asparagus.

There is an example where the 3% tariff comes off today. That puts us in a stronger competitive position compared to Peru. The Peruvians want the asparagus market in Japan. We want it for our businesses and our enterprises and our jobs and that is why today is such an important day and one to celebrate.

BOCKING:

Fantastic. Always good chatting with you. I appreciate your time.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Good to talk to you and keep that focus on energising enterprise for the new year.

BOCKING:

Fantastic mate, thank you.