FREER access for Australian chilled beef into China will be one of the issues likely to be raised during an export trade seminar being held in Toowoomba next week.
The North Asia Free Trade Agreements seminar takes place on Tuesday at Toowoomba’s new Wellcamp airport, which is rapidly emerging as a regional hub for international air freight trade in chilled beef into Asian markets.
Australia’s FTAs with Korea, Japan and China are giving Australian products an important competitive edge and creating export sales opportunities for Australian businesses, but technical trade access issues continue to hamper growth, and frustrate some potential trade participants.
Speakers at next week’s seminar will include Federal assistant trade minister Keith Pitt; Michael Growder, assistant secretary with DAFF’s free trade agreement division; and Austrade’s assistant general manager for tourism, investment & education, Chris Rees Others taking part in the forum will be Food Leaders Australia chief executive Dr Ben Lyons, and Pat Gleeson, general manager of Oakey Beef Exports.
Minister Pitt attended the Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise Access China conference in Shanghai in October last year. When pressed on the matter during a conference media briefing, he was somewhat evasive at the time about trade reform priorities for Australian agricultural products into China.
Mr Pitt, who was tasked last October with the role of addressing non-tariff trade barriers to Australian agricultural exports, refused at the time to acknowledge that beef issues like chilled access or live feeder cattle to China were a priority for the government.
“I’m well aware of a number of challenges we’ve had in importing countries for agricultural products,” he told the briefing.
“We continue to work on those, and certainly there is support within Federal government to work back through Austrade and other channels to get better market access… but I don’t want to pick favourites,” he said.
“A number of commodity groups have come through with their list of the most challenging and difficult non-tariff barriers. Certainly, it has been frustrating for our exporters, but there are ways and means to address those challenges.”
Currently just 12 Australian beef exporters have access for chilled beef trade into the China market. Reforms are happening at glacial pace, with just one new plant added last year. To make matters worse, the kill profile in some of the eligible plants is not closely aligned with the sort of product that would normally find its way into a chilled meat carton for export.
Meat & Livestock Australia says the number of eligible beef facilities needs to rise to “well above 40”, to match the total number of plants accredited for overall beef supply to China.
Elders China chief executive Craig Aldous told last year’s Shanghai trade forum that despite the signing of the China Australia Free Trade Agreement a year ago, there was still a long list of Australian agricultural products that were still unable to enter the China market, or were considerably restricted.
“Much more needs to be done to solve these access issues,” he said.
Attendees at next Tuesday’s Toowoomba seminar will have the opportunity to press minister Pitt for an update on technical barriers to trade in red meat and other commodities.
FTAs in focus
The Wellcamp gathering is part of a series of similar information seminars are being held across Australia, aimed at building awareness and use of the Free Trade Agreements among the Australian business community.
The program will also highlight many of the positives seen in trade access, including reductions seen in tariffs on Australian red meat since the arrival of FTAs:
- KAFTA has cut Korea’s 40pc tariff on Australian beef to 29.3pc
- Under JAEPA, Australia is the only major beef producer with preferential access into Japan; and
- Beef being exported into China from Australia has had three tariff cuts since ChAFTA came into force in 2015.
CEO of event partner Food Leaders Australia, Dr Ben Lyons said the Exporters Club trade events were just one way FLA was assisting businesses to reach their exporting and economic potential.
“With the Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport now sending weekly freight direct to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific we have the capacity to get products direct from the region’s producer onto plates in Asia,” Dr Lyons said.
“The Toowoomba region is poised for an agricultural boom, and FLA is working to build trade partnerships with the help of Liu Wen who we have based in Shanghai.”
“Wen’s workload since the historic AccessChina’16 trip in October last year as grown significantly as producers look to build their networks and opportunities with countries which have FTAs,” he said.
- What: North Asia Free Trade Agreements seminar
- Where: Wellcamp airport, Toowoomba
- When: Tuesday 24 January. Registration 5pm for seminar 6- 8pm.
- Cost: Free, but registration required
- Registration: http://www.austrade.gov.au/ftaseminars