CANBERRA, Australia — Australian meat could soon be granted tariff-free entry to the United Kingdom under a major free-trade deal.
Trade Minister Dan Tehan is confident he can finalize the agreement in the next six weeks as both nations sprint to the finish line.
However, the deal has caused consternation within Boris Johnson‘s government and British farmers have accused Australia of not playing by the rules.
They claim Australian meat imports do not meet United Kingdom standards and warn the deal will create an uneven playing field.
Tehan said Australia wanted to offer British consumers the option of high-quality Australian goods over other imports.
“I had two days sitting down with (United Kingdom trade secretary) Liz Truss on my recent visit to the United Kingdom and we are now meeting every week in a sprint to have an in-principle agreement by the end of June,” he told the media on May 20.
“Australian food is of the highest quality. We are world leaders when it comes to food safety, traceability, animal welfare standards, land management, and environmental management.
“We have a robust regulatory framework for the use of agriculture and veterinary chemicals and strong compliance among producers.”
The tariffs of 20 percent that Australia spends on all beef shipments to the UK will be reduced to zero within the next 15 years under the proposals currently being discussed.
Tehan said Australia’s red meat industry had set ambitious carbon targets, meeting Britain’s demand for climate-friendly products.
Australian beef and sheep meat producers face inhibitive tariffs and caps on exports to the United Kingdom.
National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson said the United Kingdom was a small market a very long way away for Australian farmers.
Simson said she did not want to get into a tit-for-tat battle with the National Farmers’ Union in Britain.
She said the United Kingdom would be a niche market for Australian farmers, but stressed the importance of exporting to a diverse range of countries.
As per the media release by Australia’s National Farmers’ Federation, the free trade between the two countries aims to provide options to both sides and Australia will only export to the United Kingdom if and when the United Kingdom needs it.
In the year 2020, the United Kingdom imported approximately 314,000 tonnes of beef, of which only 1567 tonnes came from Australia, making it 0.15 percent of all Australian beef exports. However, in the same timeline, the United Kingdom imported massive tonnes of sheep meat, approximately 67,500 tonnes, of which about 14 percent came from Australia.
(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Nikita Nikhil. Map by Urvashi Makwana.)
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