Meat envoy confident on positive EU deal

Zach RelphCountryman
Currently, Australian red meat exports to the EU are constrained by low-volume import quotas and high quota tariffs.
Camera IconCurrently, Australian red meat exports to the EU are constrained by low-volume import quotas and high quota tariffs. Credit: Danella Bevis/Countryman

The man thrashing out Australia’s red meat trade talks with the European Union after the Brexit decision is confident beefed-up market access will be secured for the nation’s farmers.

EU-UK Red Meat Market Access Taskforce chairman Andrew McDonald told Countryman he was bullish about securing a beneficial Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement for livestock producers.

The taskforce, which is leading negotiations on behalf of Australia’s red meat industry, this week negotiated on trade reform with the EU in Canberra.

Discussions surrounding the A-EU FTA started on Monday and were set to conclude today.

Ahead of the trade talks, taskforce chairman Andrew McDonald said the taskforce was aiming for open red meat market access.

“We want exporters to Europe to have a free and open opportunity to trade,” he said.

“Overall, we want the Government to maintain the effort to look for free and open trade with the EU. The benefits to the red meat industry will be quite significant, if the deal is complete.”

Currently, Australian red meat exports to the EU are constrained by low-volume import quotas and high quota tariffs.

Australian exporters only have access to a 7150 tonne high-quality beef quota, with a 20 per cent in-quota tariff.

Australian exporters are also bound by a 19,186 tonne combined sheepmeat and goatmeat quota, with zero in-quota tariff, to the EU.

Last week, National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson raised concern the EU might be unwilling to grant full market access to Australian exports.

Ms Simson also said farmers were concerned about geographical indications on food products.

“Europe is the largest exporter of agri-food products in the world, but they continue to plead that their farmers need protection from international competition — this is just ludicrous,” she said.

“We need a parliamentary inquiry into geographical indications to ensure the Australian public is fully aware of what the EU is asking of us.

“We will only get one chance to get this right. The Government must hold the line on demanding the best market access deal the EU has with any trade partner, with exceptional market access, and ensuring any agreement on GIs and other rules don’t leave Australian farmers worse off.”

NFF and agriculture representatives met Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Trade Minister Simon Birmingham about the EU negotiations.

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