Australia-EU trade deal stalls over meat quotas

The trade talks between Australia, the EU and Canada were suspended on Tuesday when Australian Minister Don Farrell left Brussels before settling a dispute about meat quotas.

Farrell said EU he would consult his cabinet first before he made any further concessions on the ambitions to allow more Australian beef and lamb, sugar, and dairy into the EU’s market protected.

The negotiations will continue before Farrell meets with his EU counterparts. Farrell stated that “we will continue constructive discussion with the ultimate goal of reaching an accord”.

Both sides had hoped that a deal could be reached during this trip.

Canberra wants to diversify the economy and move away from being reliant on an antagonistic China, while Brussels is eager to gain better access to Australia’s vast mineral reserves that are vital for renewable energy industries as well as the green transformation.

Valdis Dombrovskis, the EU’s trade commissioner, has given priority to the Australia agreement. He had previously struggled to reach agreements with developing countries due to the EU’s high standards of environmental and labor.

Miriam Garcia Ferrer said that the European Commission regretted this breakdown. “We made some progress, but there is still work to be done on key issues.” We will continue to work with our respective teams on closing the remaining gaps.

The agreement between two partners “like-minded” is important, and will open up many opportunities for our business and farmers.

There are still questions about how much meat, including beef and lamb, from Australia’s vast ranches can enter the EU duty-free. The EU raised its initial offer to 24,000 tonnes of annual beef quota, but Farrell was not satisfied with the new numbers and quotas for sheep meat.

Farrell noted that, due to current restrictions, each European could only consume an Australian steak every 40 years. Australia currently has a guaranteed quota for the amount of beef it can export annually to Europe. Even this small amount is subject to a 20 percent tariff.

EU officials claim that the UK-Australia deal, which entered into force in may, has complicated things. The UK will remove all tariffs and quotas for Australian meat within the next 10 year. Irish and French farmers are worried about losing their market share in the UK and will not allow an increase in imports.

In an impromptu briefing to the press in a Brussels Park, Farrell stated: “We have made it clear from the beginning that we will not accept just any agreement. From the Australian perspective, this agreement must result in meaningful access for Australian agricultural products to European markets.

A dispute also remains over the use of EU protected names in Australia such as prosecco and feta, and about the price of raw materials and energy. Canberra must promise that EU customers will not be charged more than domestic buyers.

Australian ministers do not want to disappoint farmers and food producers before a sensitive referendum in this year, which will give its indigenous communities more say over the running of their country.

Garcia Ferrer said: “We are counting on our Australian partners working with us so that we can get this done soon. Our door remains open.”