Red meat urges bold approach in EU trade talks

Red meat urges bold approach in EU trade talks


Red meat exporters look to open more doors in EU, UK


AS European Union trade negotiators line up for yet another round of talks in Canberra this week, red meat industry leaders and producers are adamant no quotas and no tariffs is a realistic outcome for Australia to set its sights on.

Any backward step from that doesn't make sense, said Andrew McDonald, who heads up the EU and United Kingdom market access task force for red meat.

"We have a very restricted access to EU markets, especially in comparison to the preferential access other global red meat exporters have secured," he said.

In terms of country-specific access, Australian exporters only have access to a 7,150 tonne high-quality beef quota with a 20 per cent in quota tariff and a 19,186 tonne combined sheepmeat/goatmeat quota with zero in quota tariff.

"An open and free trade deal with the EU is a big opportunity for Australian beef," Mr McDonald said.

"Good access on global scale equals the best opportunity to maximise global returns."

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Queensland EU supplier Josie Angus took to social media to urge Australia to make plenty of noise about the unlevel playing field red meat exporters face in the 27-country economic powerhouse.

"Australia has a $30b deficit with the EU - that's actually larger per person than Trump's supposed 'world's largest trade deficit with China - and it includes a staggering $1b agricultural deficit," she said.

"We have swung open our doors to a relative tsunami of European pork and cheese while our producers beg and scrape for meagre access to Europe.

"If we sent the same amount of Australian beef back to Europe per person, as European pork coming here, it would be 1.6m tonnes. That is way more beef than we export to the entire globe. Our current access is 0.4pc of that."

Mrs Angus said it was time to take a stand on the use of the word free in trade agreements.

"Having so-called free trade agreements where our farmers run second class to the other countries, is simply wrong and it has to stop," she said.

"Take our Chinese FTA - our beef plants either jump extraordinary hurdles or simply can't even get an audit to be accredited to supply, yet stage one of the USA agreement, just struck, automatically accredits any USA plant."

Mr McDonald said part of what the industry had been doing was demonstrating to producers in EU countries Australia did not have the ability to dump thousands of tonnes of low-priced beef onto their markets.

Australian producers had hosted a number of groups on farms and in processing facilities with the aim of fostering a greater understanding of our systems and production capabilities, he said.

EU markets offer significant potential to Australian beef, with most exporters saying Australian product is able to command very high average prices.

"That also reflects the type of product we send there," Mr McDonald explained.

"It's prime cuts - a premium niche product to offer their consumers choice. Australia is not aiming to undercut prices to drive market share," he said.

EU negotiators are expected to provide an update on their position on Thursday.

Eyes on the UK

For future trade arrangements with the UK, the red meat industry remains equally ambitious.

With the divorce deal now signed, an eleven-month transition period has started during which the UK will remain aligned to EU regulatory frameworks and standards whilst negotiations for a future trading relationship between the UK and EU will take place.

While there will be no immediate changes to Australia's existing trading regime here, red meat exporters are keeping a close eye on EU-UK bilateral negotiations as these will have implications for the red meat trade across Europe.

Meanwhile, they are also encouraging the Australian government to commence trade negotiations with the UK at the earliest possible opportunity.

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