Farmers Federation pushes free trade after Trump victory

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NFF president Brent Finlay NFF president Brent Finlay has expressed concerns after Trump's election victory NFF president Brent Finlay
President-elect Donald Trump Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States President-elect Donald Trump

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has expressed concerns over US president-elect Donald Trump’s protectionist campaign rhetoric.

After months of Trump promising to break down trade deals and set up barriers for trade with China and Mexico, the NFF says Australia could also feel the effects of decreased trade to the US.

NFF president Brent Finlay says a move away from open markets can only have a negative impact on Australian Farmers.

"With the US presidential election now called for Donald Trump, any move by the new administration to implement protectionist measures is of concern to Australian farmers," Finlay says.

"Australia exports over 70 per cent of what we produce so any trade-damaging measures such as increases in tariffs, reductions in import quotas, or increases in US domestic subsidies will hurt Australian farmers and other exporting nations.

"The US is a major partner in trade and investment and we trust that the strength of our relationship will place us in good stead going forward."

Meanwhile, NFF CEO Tony Mahar is joining with Cairns Group Farm Leaders nations in Geneva for the 30th anniversary of the Cairns Group as well a series of meetings in preparation for the next WTO Ministerial Meeting.

"Reform of agricultural trade subsidies is as urgent and crucial today as it was when the Cairns Group was first established 30 years ago," Mahar says.

"Australian farmers receive just 1.3 per cent of farm income from subsidies – the OECD average is 17 per cent.

"This is unsustainable and we simply cannot give up on seeking a more level playing field for Australian farmers.

"Our message to trade ministers and world leaders, particularly in the current geo-political climate, is loud and clear – do not retreat to the comfort of protectionism, rather have a real crack and back serious reforms to trade rules that stimulate a vibrant sustainable agriculture sector."

Finlay says while the TTF understands that not everyone benefits equally from trade, the loss for farmers if trade were to decrease between Australia and the US would be too severe.

"Australia must not give up the substantial gains that come from trade and opening up new markets. More trade liberalisation of markets means more growth, innovation and investment, and that is consistent with the future of agriculture.

"We do, however, understand that voting trends around the world suggest that governments must do more to better manage the impacts of trade liberalisation and technological transformation, particularly where people are challenged by or do not fairly share in the outcomes of that change."

Finlay says rather than holding out hope for a continuation of the TPP, the NFF will focus on finding ways to mitigate the impacts any changes in trade will have.

"With a TPP ratification increasingly unlikely, our attention will shift to other negotiations such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the next round of WTO negotiations to salvage any gains forgone," he adds.

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