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Grape expectations in trade deals

Wine tour: Prime Minister Tony Abbott chats with MP Christian Porter and Houghton's chief winemaker, Ross Pamment during a tour of Houghton Winery in the Swan Valley. Picture: Bill Hatto/The West Australian

WA's oldest winery says free trade deals between Australia and the powerhouse Asian economies of China, Japan and South Korea will be one of the biggest boosts to producers in decades.

After Prime Minister Tony Abbott visited Houghton winery yesterday, the Swan Valley producer welcomed moves to lower tariffs into the north Asian countries as vital and long overdue.

In November, Australia sealed years of negotiations by signing a free trade agreement with China, cementing earlier deals with Japan and South Korea.

The breakthroughs will slash the cost to Australian firms of exporting into the three countries.

Jeremy Stevenson from Accolade Wines, which owns Hough-ton, said the deals would put WA producers on a level footing with competitors in other countries.

He said such a step was crucial given demand for wine - especially the kinds of premium wines produced in WA - would rocket in coming years as Asia's middle classes swelled. "For the wine industry in particular, Chile and New Zealand, and the US to a lesser degree, were just killing us in north Asia," Mr Stevenson said.

Federal MP Christian Porter, whose seat of Pearce takes in Houghton, said the deals meant 98 per cent of Australian wine exports would be duty-free.

Late yesterday, Mr Abbott travelled to Northcliffe, where he praised the resilient community that was left "traumatised" by the extent of February's bushfire.