A tariff by many other names: concern over EU trade deal

Forget the names, EU / Australia free trade deal could be trouble for farmers, one cheesemaker warns

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CONCERN: Tilba Real Dairy owner Nic Dibden is concerned with what else is behind a trade deal between the Australian government and the European Union. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

CONCERN: Tilba Real Dairy owner Nic Dibden is concerned with what else is behind a trade deal between the Australian government and the European Union. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

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Would a trade deal by any other name, still be as sweet? No, according to one farmer.

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NSW South Coast dairy producer Nic Dibden is less concerned about having to rename his feta and brie products under a new trade deal with Europe, than he is about the influx of subsidised European produce in Australia.

The Australian government is currently negotiating a trade deal with the European Union, which would stop Australian producers from using names like brie, Scotch lamb, feta or Kalamata olives to describe produce.

It is a similar move to France restricting the use of the term champagne for wine, unless it's from France's Champagne region.

Mr Dibden owns Tilba Real Dairy, in the Tilba Tilba Valley, just south of Narooma on the NSW South Coast.

There his outfit has its own herd and factory, producing milk, yoghurt and cheeses. This includes feta, camembert and brie cheeses.

"I've got not problem with changing names," Mr Dibden said. "We can deal with that, that's no problem."

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While he said he could change the product names, he said he was more concerned by the subsidies European farmers get and the high export tariffs the EU charged farmers.

The National Farmers Federation is also concerned about the free trade agreement between Australia and the EU.

NFF trade and economics spokeswoman Pru Gordon said the agreement should remove tariffs on Australian imports to Europe as well as increase quotas and remove other non-tariff barriers.

"Regardless of the FTA outcome - the [federation] remains concerned about the subsidies the EU continues to pay its farmers which put Australian farmers at a competitive disadvantage," Ms Gordon said.

"While subsidies are not part of the FTA negotiations, we hope the EU will commit to reduce these subsidies as soon as possible."

Mr Dibden said the Australian government didn't protect its farmers.

"Australian farmers need a level playing field and right now we don't have that. We don't have any of the subsidies," Mr Dibden said.

"[In] a lot of these trade deals, Australian farmers get sacrificed while allowing a lot of subsidised dairy products getting into our market."

Mr Dibden's wife and fellow Tilba Real Dairy owner, Erica Dibden, said the forced named changes could be a chance for the Australian industry to forge its own identity.

"It does give us an opportunity to reinvent ourselves and cement our identify on a global scale," Ms Dibden said.

"If you look at our country, where we sit and you look at our clean soil and our clean air and our clean water .... Australia has got a lot going for it."

"We've got exceptionally good products."

But when it comes to the question of what they would call their feta and other cheeses, Ms Dibden is a bit unsure.

"Where do you start, I suppose? We'll try and really involve our customers in the change and just make sure that we keep them in the loop," she said.

Ms Dibden admired the Europeans for protecting the provenance, but said it was important for Australians to always look at where their produce was from.

This story first appeared on the Canberra Times

Read more stories like this on Australian Dairyfarmer

The story A tariff by many other names: concern over EU trade deal first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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