The Australian Farm Institute's Future Trade Opportunities for Australian Agriculture Conference was held at the Hotel Realm in Canberra, on Wednesday 10 June and Thursday 11 June, 2015.

During the last 12 months Australia has negotiated trade agreements with Korea, Japan and China, has upgraded negotiations with India, and is also heavily involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement with 12 other nations. These agreements, when finalised, are likely to result in substantial new opportunities for Australian agriculture particularly in the growing markets of Asia.

Despite the welcome progress, much work still needs to be done by policy-makers to complete these agreements, and past experience shows that the real opportunities and shortcomings of negotiated agreements only become evident when they are finalised and operational. It will also take time for the agriculture sector to become fully conversant with the opportunities that are available, and to establish the relationships and supply chain arrangements that will be required. Nevertheless, the successful completion of three major trade agreements provides a very important opportunity for Australia's agriculture and food sector to expand into new markets.

The Future Trade Opportunities for Australian Agriculture Conference provided industry participants and policy-makers with a clear understanding of the agricultural trade opportunities that are now becoming available.

Session 1: Trade Outlook

Australian agriculture is largely an export-dependent sector, with around 60% of annual production (in value terms) sold internationally. Over the last decade, Australia's annual share of world export value of agricultural products has declined from 4.5% to 3.5%. This session will consider whether recent developments in free trade agreements with major export partners will be the key for reversing this trend by unlocking Australian agriculture's export potential.

Session 2: North Asia

The North Asian region is a dominant export market for Australian agricultural products, with over 40% of total agricultural exports from Australia destined for this region on an annual basis. In 2010/11, China displaced Japan as Australia's leading export partner for agricultural products. This session will examine whether recent trade negotiations in this region will deliver further opportunities for growth in Australian agricultural exports, with specific industry reference to dairy and wool.

Session 3: ASEAN and South Asia

ASEAN and the South Asian region includes some of the largest and fastest growing country populations in the world. Many of the countries in this region also display relatively low per capita consumption of agricultural products. This session will review regional trade access conditions, future demand prospects for food, and discuss the competitive trading environment and export risks for agricultural products such as wheat.

Session 4: Americas

The region of the Americas is largely self-sufficient for most agricultural products, with some of the world's largest agricultural producers and exporters dominating regional markets. Nonetheless, the value of Australian agricultural exports to the region grew from US$1 billion in 1996 to around US$3 billion in 2013, with around 55% of the current trade value involving Australian beef and wine exports. This session will provide an overview of regional trade access arrangements in the Americas region and include industry case studies on Australian beef and wine exports.

Dinner: Future directions and developments for Australia's agricultural trade policy

Free Trade Agreements have been agreed with Korea, China and Japan, but there is still plenty of work to do to improve the access Australian agricultural products have to global markets. Technical and non-tariff barriers to trade persist, and markets such as India and Europe still have significant barriers for Australian agricultural exporters. What will be the priority areas over the next few years to continue to improve market access for Australian agriculture?

Session 5: Europe and the Middle East

The European Union (EU) and Australia have discussed the potential for a free trade agreement which could potentially benefit Australian agricultural exports for products such as beef and lamb. However, tough clauses by the EU on human rights and the rule of law are likely to present ongoing stalemates in these negotiations. Australia's trade negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council in the Middle East were also stalled due to concerns for some tariff arrangements such as those impacting on the car industry. This session will discuss the trends in agricultural trade in Europe and the Middle East and present industry case studies that examine market access arrangements for live animal exports and sheep meat products from Australia.

Session 6: Commodity trading and finance

The world trade of agricultural products is currently worth around US$700 billion annually. For agricultural commodities such as grains, around 20% of total world demand of these products annually is made possible by export trade. There are various products and services, such as trade advice, trade insurance and trade finance that Australian businesses can access when looking at opportunities in export markets. This session will include presenters with first-hand knowledge of the products and services offered to Australian businesses that are looking to participate in international trade.

Session 7: Future trade opportunities and risks

Little real progress was made in securing multilateral trade agreements at the World Trade Organization (WTO) level or bilateral agreements with Australia's major trading partners over most of the past decade, but during the last 12 months Australia has negotiated trade agreements with Korea, Japan and China, and also upgraded some other negotiations. This session will involve discussion about the preferred future focus of Australian trade policy, and where the likely future opportunities will arise.

An expert panel reviewed the main lessons emerging from preceding conference sessions to answer the critical question: Can agricultural trade fill the economic gap left by the mining sector?

Details of the key speakers can be found here

Venue: Hotel Realm, 18 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600

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