The European Union must adhere to Word Trade Organisation rules to keep its grainfed beef import quota non-discriminatory and open to all countries that qualify, Cattle Producers Australia chair and Central Queensland cattle producer Paul Wright believes.
As reported by Beef Central last week the European Commission is considering granting a share of its 45,000t tariff-free 481 EU grainfed beef quota, which is currently open to several qualifying countries, to the US as a “country-specific” quota.
A decision on whether the US is granted its own share of the quota at the expense of other qualifying suppliers, which include Australia, Argentina, Uruguay and New Zealand, could occur as early as this week’s European Council Meeting in Brussels.
The EU is Australia’s highest value beef market. Since 2010 Australia has supplied up to 17,000 tonnes per year of premium grainfed beef to the EU under the tariff-free quota, with exports last year valued at over $200 million.
Dr Wright said that under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules the EU cannot open a new quota for one country unless it’s part of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which this was not.
“The legal requirement is that it must be open to all countries who qualify, and the Australian Government needs to hold firm on this point,” Dr Wright said.
“Furthermore, any amendments to the quota require the EU to talk to Australia and Australia be given the opportunity to agree to it, or otherwise.
“Both the EU and the US gave assurances to the WTO that this quota would remain non-discriminatory on a country of origin basis.”
Dr Wright said he found it astounding that Australia currently accepted, tariff free, an annual intake of 80,000 tonnes of EU subsidised pork, equating to three kg per person per year in Australia, which came “at a huge cost to our domestic protein market”.
Dr Wright called on the Australian industry and Government to stand firm and “to press resolutely for the retention of the present quota arrangement as a minimal position”, and to ensure WTO rules are adhered to.
“Many Australian businesses, including our EU customers have invested heavily in the development of this market on the basis that the quota would be applied in a non-discriminatory and origin-neutral manner.”