Australia should be open to new free trade deals and the war in Ukraine must end if food prices are to fall, said Labor Senator Tim Ayres.
The deputy trade minister will put the conflict in Eastern Europe at the center of his talks with international agriculture and tourism ministers at a series of G20 meetings in Indonesia’s Bali province this week.
“It’s a major driver of inflation and price shocks and pressure on the energy sector (which) is having absolutely the same impact in Australia as anywhere else in the world,” said Senator Ayres to NCA NewsWire.
“And that’s why it’s so important that the international community acts coherently, isolates Russia, exerts maximum pressure on it to withdraw its forces from Ukraine and end this sad episode.”
Asked what specific measures he would propose in Bali to reduce food prices, Senator Ayres said reaffirming Russia’s need to end its war should be “at the center of international discussions”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February turned into a protracted conflict that killed thousands and sent shockwaves through the global economy.
Energy prices rose as the West weaned itself off Russian coal and gas after imposing sanctions on Moscow in response to the conflict.
Ukraine’s food exports have also been hit hard.
As Australian inflation hits 6.1%, its highest level in 30 years, Senator Ayres will tell the G20 conference that ‘free and open trade in agriculture and food’ would help also lower prices.
His visit to Indonesia comes as negotiations for a free trade agreement between Australia and the European Union are nearing finalization, with hopes that a deal will be ratified by 2024.
Senator Ayres, who spent part of his career before entering parliament working in agriculture, said Australia’s agriculture industry had “challenges to overcome” in the global trading environment.
“There is still too much protectionism in global agricultural trade,” he said.
“And there is a lot of work to be done to open up new markets for Australian agriculture in global trade agreements.”
Senator Ayres said the Labor Party is committed to opening up new markets for Australian meat, grains and vegetables.
“Right now, of course, it’s the war in Ukraine that’s got everybody’s attention,” he said.
Senator Ayres will also promote Australia’s tourism strategy, which aims to increase visitor revenues to $230 billion by 2030, when he addresses international colleagues in Bali.
The strategy sets a target of returning visitor spending to pre-pandemic levels of $166 billion by 2024.
With local tourism operators struggling with a shortage of workers, Senator Ayres signaled that he was open to the possibility of allocating more skilled migrant visas to the sector.
The Albanian government, after its jobs summit earlier this month, said it would raise the cap on permanent migration from 35,000 places to 195,000 places.
Senator Ayres indicated that some people who migrated under the program could be recruited to work in tourism.
“What we need to do is do this job carefully and follow this requirement strictly,” said Senator Ayres.
“I don’t have a number in front of me, and I’m not sure the government actually has an idea of the number.”
Made up of 19 countries and the European Union, the G20 represents the world’s largest economies, which account for more than 80% of all gross domestic product.
This year’s G20 meetings are being held in Bali, with world leaders due to attend the main summit in mid-November.