Trade trifecta opens seafood markets

The removal of tariffs will allow Australia to be more competitive in satisfying the growing Chinese market for seafood

Participants at the Seafood Exporters Forum.
Photo: FRDC

By Catherine Norwood

New trade agreements with China, Japan and South Korea are expected to provide opportunities to expand Australia’s seafood exports, particularly of abalone and rocklobster.

The China–Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed in November 2014 is the most recent and offers the largest potential new markets, with all tariffs on seafood to be removed over the next four years.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Richard Colbeck, says while seafood consumption has increased globally in the past 15 years, per capita consumption of seafood in China has increased 57 per cent since 2000.

“There is also expected growth in demand from Chinese consumers for higher-end seafood products, much of which will need to be imported,” he says. China is already the leading destination for Australian rocklobster and abalone exports, which have tariffs of 15 per cent and 14 per cent respectively.  

Japan agreement

The Economic Partnership Agreement between Japan and Australia, which came into effect this year, has already seen the tariff on abalone and rocklobster reduced from seven per cent to zero on 15 February 2015. Japan’s 3.5 per cent tariff on Australian tuna will also be phased out over 10 years.

Deputy director of Australia’s Seafood Trade Advisory Group, Wayne Haggar, says while China has overtaken Japan as the leader for abalone and rocklobster exports, the removal of Japanese tariffs would make Australia more competitive against competing exports from South Korea and Chile, as Australia’s reputation for quality is already well established.

Korean trade

Under the Australia–South Korea Free Trade Agreement, the tariff on rocklobster and on frozen and preserved abalone will be reduced from 20 per cent to zero over 10 years. However, live and fresh-chilled abalone (20 per cent tariff), and eels (27 per cent tariff) have been excluded from the agreement.

Wayne Haggar says the Seafood Trade Advisory Group has already prepared a submission about the exclusions in the South Korean agreement, for consideration as part of the Australian Government’s negotiations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Although South Korea is not a party to the negotiations, it has shown interest in joining. There are 12 countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, including Australia, and five of Australia’s top 10 trading partners.

General manager trade and market development with the Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Centre, Jayne Gallagher, says the seafood industry has been working quietly and consistently for many years to establish Australia’s reputation as a source of premium, high-quality food.

“With the successful conclusion of the China FTA, the industry will increase its market development efforts and focus on building preference for Australian seafood products. We will be able to compete on a level playing field.”

Following a Seafood Exporters Forum in November, and workshop in January, the Seafood Trade Advisory Group is expected to continue to focus on new issues that arise as the trade agreements come into force. Members include abalone and rocklobster exporters, and it is supported by the Australian Seafood CRC, the FRDC, Southern Rock Lobster Ltd and the Abalone Council Australia Ltd.

Executive officer with Australian Southern Rock Lobster Ltd, Ross Hodge, says recent Seafood CRC research has rated China as the number one market to target for future trade. The research has identified that as the supply chain infrastructure improves in China’s second and third-tier cities, and as consumer incomes increase, so too will the potential for significant markets in those cities.

“The China FTA will enable exporters of Australian Southern Rocklobster to leverage these research findings and work collaboratively to substantially expand our market presence in China,” he says.
Executive chair of the Abalone Council Australia, Dean Lisson, says the China FTA will make a real difference. The Australian Wild Abalone™ program is one campaign the council already has underway to differentiate Australian product from competitors.

“While we have had success with our efforts, the conclusion of the China FTA will provide the platform for us to maintain the momentum and secure the future of our industry as exporters of premium seafood.” He expects the 14 per cent import tariff on abalone will be successively reduced to about seven per cent within two years, and then to three per cent, before being removed entirely.

For more information on trade matters visit the website.

More information

Jayne Gallagher, 0438 336 712,
jayne.gallagher@seafoodcrc.com