Japanese farmers oppose FTA with Australia

ABC REPORT - Australia's proposed Free Trade Agreement with Japan is facing stiff opposition from Japanese farmers. The deal, if finalised, would be Australia's largest bilateral trade agreement, and could open the traditionally closed Japanese market to Australian agricultural products. But Japanese farmers say the deal puts their futures at risk.
calendar icon 6 December 2006
clock icon 1 minute read
North Asia Correspondent Shane McLeod reports.

SHANE MCLEOD: Farmers from the northernmost Japanese island of Hokkaido have been vocal on their concerns about a free trade deal between Australia and Japan. They say they simply can't compete if tariffs are removed from agricultural products.

Norio Nagai is the executive Director of the Hokkaido Union of Agricultural Cooperatives.

(Sound of Norio Nagai speaking)

"Most of the agricultural products in Hokkaido are protected by high tariff barriers," he says.

"If the tariffs are removed then cheap produce from Australia will quickly come into the market. Agriculture products produced in Australia are cheap and we really can't compete. We are making efforts to cut costs, but there is a limit. I don't think we can easily match their competitiveness."

SHANE MCLEOD: Mr Nagai was part of a delegation from Hokkaido that was in Tokyo yesterday to take its concerns to MPs, ministers, and even Australia's ambassador to Japan, Murray McLean.

Figures published by the local prefectural government estimate the consequences of an FTA could be the loss of nearly 50,000 jobs, and $15 billion for the local economy.

The farmers want beef, sugar, wheat and dairy excluded from the negotiations.

Source: ABC World Today
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