Forgotten in ChAFTA

WE’RE HERE: Wilson Transformer general manager Jon Retford wants the federal government to pay attention to the transformer manufacturing sector.
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The owner of a Wodonga transformer business says his industry was forgotten by the federal government when it negotiated theChina-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

Transformers imported from Chinaattracted an import tariff offive per cent, which dropped tozero under the new agreement.

Wilson Transformer general manager JonRetford said he was disappointed the 10.5 per cent tariff onAustralian transformers sent to China would only reduce over five years.

The costs on his equipment wouldremain at8.4 per cent in the first year.

“There’s no level playing field there,” Mr Retford said.

“It means a potential lack of sales.”

He said he felt the government rushed to pass the ChAFTA and would be surprised to hear the transformerindustry wasstrong.

“It appears that our politicians have been dazzledby the promise of the benefits into the food and wine sector,”Mr Retford said.

“I suspect they don’t realise what they’re giving up.”

His conversations with Farrer MP Sussan Ley and Indi MP Cathy McGowan after theChAFTAwere too late.

Mr Retford said the agreement would be greatfor both countries’food and wine industries and could have passed without giving up extra benefits.

”I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

“I realised that we had dropped the ball.”

The general managercalled on thegovernment to focus on the positives of the industry and back a funding bid fromWilson Transformer to expand their business.

PfeifferWines managing partnerChris Pfeiffer said the ChAFTA benefits for the wine industry would also be phased in, but ultimately be good for business.

“Australian wine is doing quite well in China,” he said.

“They’ve got a better chance now.”

MrPfeiffer said he was optimistic, but the ChAFTA would only solve one issue.

Winemakers still had to find a way to succeed in a Chinese market where consumers based their choices on cost rather than brand recognition.

PfeifferWines has its eye on the whole Asian marketing after taking part in the VictorianGovernment’sinbound wine trade mission earlier this year withmore than 150 international buyers from Asia andEurope.

“I can’t help thinking we’re going to be the next food bowl,”MrPfeiffer said.

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