AUSTRALIA’S peak wool grower body is hoping the favourable tariff and quota conditions for wool can continue as formal negotiations on the Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement commence.
WoolProducers Australia has welcomed Trade Minister Simon Birmingham’s announcement on the start of talks, and said it has already discussed the A-UK FTA with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
WoolProducers said it would detail its ‘policy asks’ across a range of issues in a submission to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade consultation on the A-UK FTA. The peak body also said it is continuing to provide information on Australian wool to assist the negotiations after welcoming a delegation of British farmers and policy staff to Australia in March this year.
WPA president Ed Storey said Australian growers were very fortunate position their wool did not really compete with British wool.
“They are very different products, and this was a key takeaway for both the British and Australian delegates when we met.
“So, while we already enjoy relatively low, if not zero tariffs and adequate quotas for entry to the United Kingdom, we expect this will remain without any non-tariff barriers under the A-UK FTA,” he said.
WPA said the Northern Hemisphere is a key market for Australian wool, and WoolProducers acknowledged the opportunities the AUK FTA would present to bolster trade between the countries, especially with increasing consumer awareness of the eco-credentials of wool.
“It makes sense for trade agreements to favour natural fibres such as wool as they provide a wholistic approach to overcoming some of the environmental issues we need to tackle across the globe,” Mr Storey said.
“Consumers are shifting away from fast fashion as they learn of the negative impacts it has on the environment, like microplastics polluting our oceans.
“We have a great product that can lessen these impacts, and free trade agreements support this as they expand and strengthen our market access.”
WPA said with the economic effects of COVID-19 resulting in significant decreases in consumer spending on apparel, securing important trade agreements is a step forward for Australian wool when the global economy begins its recovery.
“Wool was the first export from Australia to the United Kingdom back in 1807, so as an industry we have a longstanding relationship with the United Kingdom and that’s something to be proud of.
“But we must be equally as proud of the production systems and standards that Australian woolgrowers work in and uphold to produce this wonderful, natural and sustainable fibre,” he said.
“It is imperative in any trade negotiations that our production standards across animal welfare, antimicrobial use, environmental practices, and sustainability cannot be compromised for the sake of concluding a trade agreement.
“Our standards are underpinned by regulations that are informed by world-class science, and this must be acknowledged,” Mr Storey said.