AUSTRALIA-EUROPEAN Union Free Trade Agreement negotiations to be started by the Coalition Government in Belgium next month have been welcomed by the nation’s red meat industry.
Negotiations with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Australian Minister for Trade, Steven Ciobo, with the European Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, will start in July in Brussels.
Chair of the Australia-EU Red Meat Market Access Taskforce Jason Strong said the announcement was an extremely positive first step in seeking to improve market access arrangements with a long-term customer of Australian beef and sheep meat.
“The launch of FTA negotiations with the EU provides a significant opportunity to revisit Australia’s red meat access to the European market for the first time in over forty years.
“The EU is a major consumer of imported meat – with the European Commission identifying an ongoing requirement for both imported beef and sheep meat due to deficits in domestic supply,” Mr Strong said.
For sheep meat and goat meat, Australia’s country specific quota with the EU is currently just 19,186 tonnes or less than 2pc of total EU sheep meat consumption.
For beef, Australia currently has access to a country specific quota of only 7150 tonnes, as well as shared access to a 45,000 tonne global grain-fed beef quota – which in combination represent a meagre 0.2 percent of total EU beef consumption.
A-EU FTA will open door to half a billion consumers
In a media statement, Mr Turnbull said a trade agreement with the EU will open the door to a market of half a billion consumers and a GDP of US$17.3 trillion – making it one of Australia’s biggest trade agreements once concluded.
“Australian exporters are currently at a disadvantage to many of our biggest competitors because Australia lacks preferential access into the EU.
“We will be working to secure better access for Australian food and agriculture products, creating the framework for open, fair and equitable trade,” he said.
Mr Strong said while Australia is ideally positioned to help service this market requirement via dedicated supply chains, our access is limited by the EU’s highly restrictive import regime.
“Compared with many other countries supplying the EU, Australia experiences disproportionately low volume quotas, high duties within certain quotas and trade prohibitive above quota tariffs.”
“Australia’s trading relationship with the EU is based on shared values and is heavily focussed on meeting EU customer demand for high quality red meat products,” Mr Strong said.
Mr Strong said the taskforce was encouraged by the Australian Government’s commitment that it would seek an ambitious and comprehensive FTA with the EU, prioritising enhanced access for agricultural products, including Australian red meat.
“We look forward to working closely with Australia’s negotiating team to deliver the best possible result for Australian red meat producers, processors and exporters,” Mr Strong said.
The first round of A-EU FTA negotiations will be held in Brussels in early July. The Coalition Government is inviting stakeholders to provide their views throughout the negotiating process.
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