Free trade agreement inquiry starts today in Canberra

THE federal parliament's Trade and Investment Growth Committee will today hold its first public hearing in Canberra as part of its inquiry into free trade agreements.

The committee aims to boost Australia's trade and investment performance.

It is looking at barriers to trade, the reduction of red tape, and structural challenges and opportunities for the Australian community.

The committee will focus on the experience of business in using Australia's existing free trade agreements with countries including New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, Chile, the Association of South East Asian Nations and Malaysia.

This will assist in informing the new North Asia FTAs.


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Committee chairman, Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd, emphasised the importance of learning from the experience of Australian business.

"We need to ensure that business is able to realise the enormous potential that FTAs provide," Mr O'Dowd said.

"The best way to do that is to learn from the experience of businesses that have been using existing FTAs on a regular basis."

The committee will hear evidence in Canberra from government agencies and from industry associations representing a diverse cross-section of the Australian economy.

"The potential benefits of FTAs are spread right through the Australian economy - in the service industries, in agriculture, in horticulture, in mining, in manufacturing," Mr O'Dowd said.

"Exporting businesses can expand their markets and businesses that use imported goods can reduce their costs."