Red meat roundtable looks to the future of Australia-EU trade

05 July 2019

The Australian red meat industry, under the leadership of the EU / UK Red Meat Market Access Taskforce (Taskforce), met with the Ministers for Trade and Agriculture in Canberra yesterday to discuss ambitions for trade reform in both the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK).

The Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Senator Simon Birmingham, and Minister for Agriculture, Senator Bridget McKenzie, discussed market access priorities across the region, including the Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement (A-EU FTA) negotiations, a future Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement (A-UK FTA) and the status of current market access arrangements while those FTAs are explored.

Incoming Taskforce chair Andrew McDonald said while recent events such as the US securing a majority country specific share of the High Quality – Grainfed quota (HQB-GF), were disappointing, the Taskforce and the Australian Government remain united in their commitment to secure long-term access for industry’s future trade with Europe.

“The HQB-GF outcome is a prime example of this partnership; with the Taskforce working alongside Government and successfully advocating an extended phase-in period for changes to the HQB-GF quota1,” Mr McDonald said.

Mr McDonald also commented that the Australian negotiating team was in Brussels this week, engaged in the fourth round of A-EU FTA negotiations.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Australian Government to secure a comprehensive and ambitious FTA outcome with the European Union, and when the UK is ready, in pursuit of liberalised access to the UK, post Brexit,” Mr McDonald said.

“Europe is an attractive market for Australian red meat producers, with a large pool of consumers who are pushing stronger demand for high-quality imported beef and sheepmeat.

“Australia has a long history of trading with Europe; with Australian producers responding to our European customer demand by developing dedicated supply chains, focussed on meeting market-specific requirements.

“Australian red meat exports to Europe complement European production, both in terms of seasonality and the market segment that Australian product fills.

“However, despite this consumer focus, Australian red meat exports are constrained by disproportionately low volume import quotas and high above-quota tariffs. 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 (zero per cent in quota tariff).

“The FTA negotiations present a real opportunity to modernise our access conditions in the region and address the uneven playing field we currently face, especially in comparison to the preferential access other global red meat exporters have secured with the EU,” Mr McDonald said.

[1] Grainfed quota: The Australian industry successfully advocated the retention of global shared access to the grainfed quota for an extended period; the changes will be phased in over a 7 year period, with a starting volume of 18,500 tonnes – rather than the US securing 35,000 tonnes of access from day one.

Note re Taskforce Chair: The Board of RMAC has endorsed Andrew McDonald, NH Foods, as Chair of the EU / UK Taskforce. Andrew has commercial experience in the EU and UK and a strong understanding of the EU import construct. Andrew takes on the role following Jason Strong’s (outgoing Chair) appointment as MLA Managing Director.

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