$590m tariff burden at stake in Australia-Japan Free Trade Agreement

Beef Central, 12/03/2014


Lingering concern over the level of tariff cuts for beef agreed to in any Free Trade Agreement with Japan has been telegraphed in a statement issued on the topic today by the Australian Beef Industry Japan FTA Taskforce.  

“The Australian beef industry acknowledges the commitment of the Australian government to advancing the future of the beef industry, by continuing to seek relief from the current high beef tariffs imposed by Japan,” Taskforce chairman Lachie Hart said in a statement.

“The beef tariff regime is a key point of discussion in the current bilateral FTA negotiations between Australia and Japan. For every $100 worth of Australian beef sold into the market, $38.50 is paid to the Japanese Government in tariffs,” Mr Hart said.

“That represents an annual tariff impost of around A$590m, the burden of which is borne by the Australian beef industry and Japanese consumers,” he said.

“The government must now secure a framework for the elimination of the tariffs applicable to Australian beef.”

Recent Japanese media reports have indicated that Japan is continuing its stance of retaining high tariffs on imports of Australian beef as part of any Australia-Japan FTA outcome.

“This is a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to conclude a strong, preferential FTA with Japan, that will not only establish the trading platform between the two countries for years to come, but importantly, set a precedent for other current and future FTA negotiations,” Mr Hart said.

In particular, any unwillingness by Japan to agree to tariff liberalisation for Australian beef in an AJFTA context would be in direct conflict with the trade reforms being pursued by Australia and the other member countries under the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations.

“An FTA with Japan has the potential to help underpin ongoing industry viability as well as acknowledging the considerable effort and resources industry has expended in responding to the demand from Japanese consumers for Australian beef over the past 50 years,” Mr Hart said.

“We trust that the Australian government will be steadfast in seeking an AJFTA outcome that delivers for beef,” he said.

Australia’s red meat industry employs about 200,000 people in the livestock production, processing and retail sectors and contributes $17 billion to the Australian economy each year. Japan is Australia's largest beef export customer in volume and value terms, taking 26pc (289,000t) of all beef exported in 2013 worth $1.4 billion in export returns.


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