South Australia’s forest industries need justice in trade agreement

South Australia’s forest industries are urging Federal Trade Minister Steven Ciobo to ensure that a future Australia-Indonesia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is just in its treatment of timber products.

Minister Ciobo today admitted that Indonesian trade negotiators are targeting increased imports of timber products from Indonesia in the fast-progressing Australia-Indonesia Free Trade Agreement.

SABRA LANE: Indonesia officials say they’d like to see more palm oil and timber products coming to Australia suggesting that there seemed to be some unofficial barriers from stopping these things from coming here. Are you sympathetic to that desire?

MINISTER CIOBO: I am, but there’s of course a clear focus on securing a win-win outcome in any trade negotiation.
– ABC AM, 6 March 2017

SA State Manager of the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA-SA), Ms Clare Scriven, said it was essential that any new trade agreement treated Australian industries fairly.  “Nationally, Australia already imports about $500 million worth of timber and paper products from Indonesia, compared to our exports to Indonesia of around $48 million in 2015*,” Ms Scriven said.

“Australia’s forest industries operate to the world’s highest environmental standards and we should not be seeking to further increase timber and paper products coming into this country from arguably less sustainable operations. It is alarming that even as this deal is being discussed, the Government is considering weakening protections against illegally logged timber imports.”

“A poor outcome for forest industries in this deal would alarm the 7,000 people who are directly employed by forest industries in South Australia, mainly in the Mt Gambier region, as well as the further 14,000 people whose jobs are indirectly dependent on the industries.  This would come on top of the recent China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) which failed the Australian paper and tissue products sector by lowering our tariffs to zero whilst leaving China tariffs between 5% and 7.5%.”

“Australian producers face significant international competition, and there are many examples of importers engaging in dumping activities, as well as selling products with varying levels of quality, and with dubious standards and environmental compliance. The price of these imported products may not reflect the true cost of inputs for competing products around the globe,” Ms Scriven said.  “Any free trade agreement must consider all of the factors that affect Australian manufacturing, and AFPA urges the Federal Government to ensure this is so.”