CANBERRA, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo announced on Saturday that Australia has launched Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with the Pacific Alliance, the Latin American trading bloc made up of Mexico, Chile, Peru and Colombia.
In a press release, Ciobo said the Australian government is seeking a comprehensive, high quality agreement to open markets for Australian exporters.
An FTA with the Pacific Alliance will create new export opportunities for Australian farmers, miners, manufacturers, educators, service providers and investors in some of Latin America's major economies. The FTA will also open the door to Mexico for Australian exporters.
The Pacific Alliance is a trade bloc with a combined GDP of more than 1.8 trillion U.S. dollars in 2016. The four countries account for 38 percent of Latin America's population and 57 percent of its total imports. Pacific Alliance Members imported goods and services worth more than 600 billion U.S. dollars in 2016.
Ciobo said currently tariffs of up to 80 percent are imposed on Australian beef, while dairy products attract tariffs of up to 45 percent and sugar attracts tariffs of more than 30 percent. Australia's services exports - including education and mining services - also face competitive barriers.
An FTA will bring down these barriers and ensure Australian businesses have competitive access.
Business Council of Australia (BCA) and National Farmers' Federation (NFF) all welcomed the launch of FTA talks with the Pacific Alliance.
"An FTA with Pacific Alliance countries can deliver increased exports for Australian companies, more jobs for Australians, and investment and innovation that is driven by a growing economy," BCA chief executive, Jennifer Westacott said.
NFF President Fiona Simson said a free trade deal with four Latin American nations stands to unlock almost untapped markets for Australian farmers.
"Today's news means, that, hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, our Latin American counterparts will be enjoying much more Aussie meat, dairy, sugar, grain, fruit, vegetables and fibre," she said.
The latest FTA negotiations with the Pacific Alliance is part of the Australian government's efforts to build free trade agreements with a wide range of nations.