Labor has promised close scrutiny of the government’s trade agreement with Japan, highlighting numerous shortfalls in the deal.
While the coalition has attracted praise for the historic agreement, critics warn the devil may be in the detail.
Acting opposition leader Penny Wong criticised Prime Minister Tony Abbott for rushing through the agreement without securing the best deal for Australia.
“Labor is concerned that this trade deal with Japan falls a long way short,” she told reporters in Adelaide.
While beef farmers and fruit and vegetable growers were cheering the deal, which will lift tariffs and expand valuable export markets, not everyone in the agriculture sector was pleased.
“We are disappointed with the overall outcomes for agriculture with a number of sectors facing marginal improvements or limited commercial gains,” National Farmers’ Federation president Brent Finlay said.
There had been no improvement or only marginal gains for sectors including dairy, sugar, grains, pork and rice, he added.
Even government MP George Christensen questioned the value of an agreement that fails to bring “significant benefit” to Australian agriculture.
The National MP from the sugar-growing region of Queensland seemed unappeased by the words of his party leader, Warren Truss.
“There always has to be some element of give and take. We can’t get everything that we would like,” Mr Truss, speaking as acting prime minister, told reporters in Sydney.
Cars and electronics were among the goods expected to carry a lower price tag in Australia under the deal, with the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) describing the agreement as an important building block for the nation’s trade architecture.
But the removal of tariffs on imports from Japan would impact domestic suppliers, Ai Group boss Innes Willox warned.
“The capacity of these businesses to adapt will depend in part on the timetable for their removal,” he said.
“We look forward to the release of the full details.”
Independent senator Nick Xenophon also highlighted the importance of timing, warning that if adequate time was not afforded to Australia’s struggling car industry he would not support the trade agreement in parliament.
The ACTU called on the government to reveal whether, as part of the deal, Australia would purchase off-the-shelf submarines rather than supporting the Australian ship-building industry.
The Australian Food and Grocery Council congratulated the federal government on the deal.
“Failure to finalise a deal would mean Australia faced losing market share to competitor countries in a key market,” council chief Gary Dawson said.
By Andrew Drummond, AAP