AUSTRALIAN lamb could complement the United Kingdom’s domestic supplies, a visiting member of the European Parliament told sheep meat industry leaders today.
Welsh MEP Derek Vaughan told the Sheepmeat Council of Australia he understood Australia is a high cost producer of red meat and could complement the Wales domestic market “rather than inundating us”.
“Not only that, I see the importance placed on food safety, welfare and traceability systems, which I believe are of equivalent standards to Wales’s own sector.”
Mr Vaughan said the key to any future post-Brexit negotiations would be demonstrating the beneficial nature of an agreement for both regions.
“The EU has always been very interested in free trade and I am excited to see our relationship with Australia develop.
“With the FTA currently being scoped and Brexit discussions building, I was eager to discover firsthand how to build a mutually beneficial trading relationship and I am grateful to the Australian red meat and livestock industry for being so providing of a thorough education of their first-rate industry,” Mr Vaughan said.
Mr Vaughan is a Welsh Labour representative from the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament and visited a prime lamb operation in the Riverina and talked with SCA leaders to explore what a complementary relationship could look like between Australia and the major European lamb-producing nation.
Mr Vaughan is also on the delegation for relations with Australia and New Zealand. He said he was eager to discover the facts about Australia’s sheep meat sector, as his constituents had flagged concerns on adequate production standards and supply capabilities ahead of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations between Australia and the European Union beginning next year.
“Naturally Welsh producers see down under as a very big country and they are wary of its size and
SCA chief executive officer Kathleen Giles welcomed Mr Vaughan’s visit as an important first step for Australia’s sheep meat producers and their Welsh counterparts in embracing positive trade discussions with Europe.
“We are eager to share knowledge and assist with information wherever possible, particularly understanding the implications of Brexit and what this will mean for our respective industries.
“We view EU as a natural long term trading partner but our industry strongly believes that transformation of our existing EU – and future UK – import arrangements, through significant improvements in current access, will be a necessary requirement of any negotiations with the region,” Mrs Giles said.
Mr Vaughan’s visit was facilitated with the help of Meat & Livestock Australia, whose primary function in Europe is to achieve greater market access for the red meat and livestock sector.
MLA international business manager for Europe and Russia, Josh Anderson, said strengthening ties with EU operatives was vital.
“Establishing open lines of communication to fully understand the concerns and opinions of our future trading partners in Europe and the UK can only be beneficial as our country embarks on trade negotiations.”
Australia’s sheep meat access to the EU is currently constrained by a 19,816 country-specific quota with a 0 percent in-quota duty. Australia regularly fills its quota and once fully subscribed is unable to respond to any additional EU customer demand. Access above this quota via import duties of 12.8pc plus up to €3.1/kg effectively stifles most above-quota trade opportunities.
Trade in goods between Australia and the EU was worth (A$80) billion in 2015, with the Australian sheep meat industry contributing just 0.25pc in exports to overall trade.