Export Lamb

Red meat and labour access benefits in A-UK FTA

Sheep Central, December 17, 2021

Australia’s Trade Minister Dan Tehan discusses the A-UK FTA on ABC TV today.

RED meat market access and rural labour benefits are expected to flow from the virtual signing of the Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement today.

The signing of the Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement by Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan and the UK Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan has met strong support from the Australian red meat and shearing industries.

As Australian sheep producers face a difficult flystrike season complicated by a shortage of shearers and shed staff, Mr Tehan said the agreement will allow young Australians up to the age of 35 to work and study in the UK for up to three years “and obviously vice versa for young Brits, they will be able to come here to Australia and work for three years.”

Mr Tehan told ABC news today that more than 99 percent of Australian goods get immediate duty-free access into the UK and it is exactly the same for UK goods coming into Australia.

The “incredibly comprehensive” agreement would give access into the UK market for Australia’s sheep meat, beef, dairy and rice producers, he said.

SCAA secretary Jason Letchford.

Shearing Contractors Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford said the sector would appreciate any opportunity to have access to skilled workers from the United Kingdom.

“We missed out in recent years while New Zealand has had access to those workers.

“The only way we have been able to do it has been through a 457 visa or an equivalent which can take up to nine months to process and can cost up to $5000 when you get an immigration agent involved, so it’s been prohibitive,” he said.

“We had some members who went through those processes and still weren’t successful, so there was never easy access to those workers.

“So any change is certainly welcome and applauded, especially at this time of year.”

Mr Letchford said the shearer shortage issues are only getting worse while the flock grows.

Interstate border crossings for vaccinated workers are now possible, but the industry is on tenterhooks about the potential impact of the Omicron COVID variant closing borders.

“We’re hoping that that will not be the case and it remains business as usual with testing and maintenance of COVIDSafe plans in our workplaces.”

The refusal of up to 10 percent of the shearing industry workforce to get vaccinated is also still a problem, he said.

A-UK FTA will liberalise Australian sheep and goat meat access to the UK

The A-UK FTA will mean Australian beef and sheep meat/goat meat access to the UK will be liberalised over a transition period.

For Australian red meat producers and exporters, this will mean that Australia will be better placed to help supply some of the UK’s import requirement for high-quality beef, sheep meat and goat meat.

Acting chief executive officer of Sheep Producers Australia Bonnie Skinner said through the agreement Australia is well placed to leverage counter-seasonal supply to the Northern Hemisphere.

“Substantial transition quotas will allow improved access for Australian producers to provide high-quality Australian lamb to meet British customer demand.

“The agreement provides a fantastic opportunity for Australian producers, particularly while the industry is undergoing a significant rebuild phase,” she said.

The National Farmers Federation said the trade agreement is the first reached by the United Kingdom following its separation from the European Union last year, and will guarantee tariff-free, quota-free access to the UK market for all Australian agricultural products, after phase-in periods of up to 15 years.

NFF chief executive officer Tony Mahar said Australian and UK farmers share a commitment to meeting the highest standards when it comes to caring for their land and their livestock, and that commitment shows in the quality of our produce.

“UK customers will benefit from the increased availability of high-quality Australian products on their supermarket shelves, alongside their homegrown options.”

Chair of the Australia-UK Red Meat Market Access Taskforce Andrew McDonald said the inking of the FTA solidifies an already close partnership between the two countries.

“Australia and the UK have a long history of trade, with the UK being a loyal purchaser of Australian beef and sheep meat, albeit in small volumes.

“Under the A-UK FTA, future trade will be more streamlined, removing burdensome costs from the red meat supply chain that ultimately disadvantage British consumers and stifle opportunities for market development,” he said.

“The FTA also represents an opportunity for Australian and British exporters to further diversify their markets and demonstrates both countries commitment to rules-based, open trade.”

The deal, once ratified, will result in Australian beef and sheep meat exports entering the UK under a tariff rate quota (TRQ) regime – with initial TRQ tonnages gradually increasing over a 10 year transition period. Product within the TRQ amounts will enter tariff free. Whilst there will be no TRQ regime post year 10, a volume safeguard provision will apply until the end of year 15, beyond which no safeguards will apply.

The Australian Meat Industry Council said as a member of the taskforce it has been at the forefront of FTA negotiations that will allow improved access for Australian farmers to more than 64 million UK consumers.

AMIC chief executive officer Patrick Hutchinson said the expansion of current markets is very welcomed in a time of market volatility.

“Not only does AMIC work towards new and improved market access, but we continue to strive for market “longevity”, which is becoming a far more crucial issue than accessing new markets as we defend our current market shares globally.

“We have shared, as an export nation, a long history of meat exports to the UK, dating back to 1879 when 40 tonnes of frozen beef and mutton were shipped from Sydney to the UK,” he said.

“Our export members are exceptionally positive about re-engaging on expanded trade with the UK, post-Brexit.”

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