Alexandra Tselios

Smoke Signal: Australia and Japan make their BFF status official

JAEPA signed between Australia and Japan
Image: AAP

It took a long time but Japan and Australia are officially BFF’s.

I get frustrated if a negotiation takes more than a few months to come to fruition. So the fact that it took Australia seven years to finalise negotiations with Japan in cementing the historic Economic Partnership Agreement sounds both impressive and tiring.

The Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA) has been hailed by the Abbott government as being “good for the Australian economy, good for farmers and good for consumers”. As far as sloganism goes, this sounds, well, good. Also, it sounds far more pacifying following the TPP whispers that occurred in 2013, so it will be interesting to see how this particular agreement will impact the continuation of those apparent discussions.

When you actually read the agreement you quickly identify the key focus areas and see documented emphasis being on the benefits for Australian consumers as well as our agricultural sectors and large scope of service providers. However, the ever welcoming “Australia is open for business from Japanese investors” has struck fear into some Australians as much as it has brought a sigh of relief in others – it depends on how you feel this agreement will impact our country and our trade sectors.

The expectations Australia has under the JAEPA agreement include, for example, significantly low-cost Japanese imported white goods and cars, while tariffs for frozen beef exported to Japan will be cut from 38.5 percent to 19.5 percent and completely eliminated on many canned foods. In reality, the ease of trade and accessibility is the biggest selling point for industry and provides further opportunity for international investment, while this agreement exceeds the concessions of many other trade agreements. Even the tariffs on our beer exports to Japan will be lifted, seeing Australian products potentially fare far more competitively on a global scale. While some farmers are happy with the JAEPA agreement, others have criticised it as having little or no impact on certain sectors such as our dairy, sugar and grains trade, and with very little transparency in regards to implications for our business community. Regardless, the agreement has clearly been welcomed by many with a view to an increase in Australian GDP by 2020 because of it, with even Craig Emerson tweeting the praises of the negotiation.

Personally, I welcome a less stringent agreement that cultivates trade and investment, allowing more fluidity between Japan and Australia. While the repercussions are yet to be felt, hopefully this will impact Australia resulting in positive economic change for our various sectors where, quite frankly, this country has spent the last few years struggling. In saying that, the idea that such an arrangement gives one country a monopolistic advantage of not only products but also resources will be interesting to watch unfold while simultaneously observing trade fluctuations with other nations.

Following this historic agreement, Australia is inevitably poised to lose in some areas, but potentially strengthen our position on the global stage.

Alexandra Tselios

Founder and CEO of The Big Smoke, Alexandra oversees the leading digital content platform in both Australia and the USA. As a social and technology commentator, she is interviewed most days of the week on radio and appears on ABC's The Drum and ABC News24. Alexandra is also a Director of NFP think tank, Plus61J, which explores the political and social ties between Australia and Israel; and sits on the board of Estate-Planning FinTech start-up NowSorted.

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