Local wineries raise a glass to free trade agreement

LOCAL wineries will use a free trade agreement between Australia and Japan to create a new market of "wine lovers".

While the government excluded rice from the deal, the agreement will phase out tariffs on Australia bottled, sparkling and bulk wines over the next seven years.

It has been estimated the new trade opportunities could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars for the Australian wine industry.

Riverina Winemakers Association president Les Worland saw enormous potential in the Japanese market, but said tariffs needed to be cut quickly.

"Any reduction is a good reduction because it's taken such a long time to get to this stage, but now it's a matter of how quickly the tariffs are reduced.

"It will have a benefit for the Riverina wineries as Japan's a country just starting to appreciate wine and they'll enjoy our wine because it's approachable, easy to drink, you don't have to store it and it's full of nice up-front fruity flavours.

"We'll create a market of wine drinkers as opposed to marketing to people already set in their ways.

"Once we get a bit more volume in there people will see the quality of the stuff we make and we'll make inroads."

Mr Worland hoped for an initial reduction of about 4 per cent to kick-start trading.

"Chile started a free trade agreement with Japan in 2007 and now they're down to a tariff of about 4 per cent, whereas we're hovering around 15 per cent.

"Chile has since gone to number two supplier of wine to Japan behind France and we're number six, so there's plenty of ground to make up."

The minister for trade Andrew Robb said the deal included immediate tariff eliminations across a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and nuts.

Mr Robb said tariffs on canned products such as tomatoes, peaches and pears as well as fruit and vegetable juices will also be eliminated.

Local shoppers will find it cheaper to buy Japanese cars, household appliances and electronics and Australian financial, education, telecommunications and legal service providers will gain new access.


Wine wasn't the only locally-grown produce to benefit from the trade agreement as the citrus industry had a rare win.

Under the new terms with Australia's second biggest trading partner, oranges, mandarins and grapefruits will eventually be sold to Japan tariff-free.

During the peak of Australia's season between June and September, tariffs on oranges are currently 16 per cent, mandarins attract 17 per cent and grapefruits go up 10 per cent.

The deal will eliminate those tariffs in 10, 15 and five years respectively.

Griffith and District Citrus Growers president John Sergi said the process was slower than he would have liked but less tariffs was good news.

"I think the Asian market is starting to appreciate the quality of Australian produce and they will continue to more and more as they get better access to Riverina citrus," Mr Sergi said.

"They love the clean and green environment we have here and we need to keep working hard to supply it.

"I'm very happy to see that good things are happening for our industry, even though it's a slow process."

Riverina Winemakers Association president Les Worland

Riverina Winemakers Association president Les Worland


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