23 Oct 2023
As negotiations are being finalised around the ambitious Australia-European Union Free Trade Agreement (A-EU FTA) Australia’s sheep industry is crying out for a level playing field on the EU bloc, insisting the Australian Government must hold fast in securing significant increases in market access for Australian red meat imports.
Negotiations around the A-EU FTA have been ongoing since mid-2018 and hopes have been high Australia’s Government would secure fair market access to the EU bloc for the red meat sector, including sheepmeat, beef and goatmeat.
But the EU, which is Australia’s third-largest two-way trading partner, has continued to hold firm on its highly restrictive and unfair quota position for Australian imports of red meat.
Sheep Producers Australia (SPA) - which heads up Australia’s sheepmeat industry– said the EU bloc was a hugely important high-income market for its industry, if it could just gain more access, with more than 450 million people and a GDP of some USD16.64 trillion.
“The EU represents the last remaining global sheepmeat market with a huge potential value to us,” said SPA's chief executive officer Bonnie Skinner. “Security and expansion of current markets creates ongoing certainty for the industry.
“Right now, we have incredibly low volume access to the EU compared to our regional competitors and we face very high tariffs – and this has been the case for about five decades,” Ms Skinner said.
“Negotiations towards solid trade reforms and a level playing field are vital for the future prosperity of our industry - so the government simply must maintain its stated objective of securing us significant increases in market access.”
Ms Skinner said she agreed that an EU deal should not be made just for the sake of making a deal this year.
“We have time for further negotiations – we don’t have to get this done now. EU parliamentary elections are not until mid-next year, so it’s simply not true that we have a limited window to get this deal done,” she said.
SPA’s Ms Skinner said Australia’s sheepmeat industry was focused on meeting EU customer demand for high quality products and she hoped the Australian Government would hold firm the face of negotiation tactics from the EU and ensure the current competitive disadvantage for Australia’s sheepmeat sector was resolved.
“We are grateful for the efforts the Australian Government has made so far in continuing to push for better outcomes for the entire agriculture sector – but we agree this is a once in a generation opportunity for the red meat industry to improve our market access - and we’re all looking to Minister Farrell and his government to maintain their resolve and level the playing field.”
Sheep Producers Australia works daily to ensure a productive, profitable and sustainable industry. This is achieved through Sheep Producers Australia’s Policy Council and Board, working with members, service providers, government and many other partners. Sheep Producers Australia is the voice on issues that affect sheep production businesses.
For interviews with Bonnie Skinner, please call Sarah Porter +61 (0) 432 250 532.