Australia is not going to be able to replace British beef amid trade deal

19 May 2021, 14:10

By Tim Dodd

The Chair of the Australia-EU Red Meat Market Access Taskforce Andrew McDonald has said Australia will 'only be a gap filler' for UK red meat in an upcoming trade deal.

It comes as the PM is set to approve a trade deal with lower tariffs on agricultural imports which British farmers worry could damage their business.

The National Farmers' Union has warned that farmers will struggle to compete if a zero-tariff trade on lamb and beef goes ahead.

Tom Swarbrick began by asking Mr McDonald: "What would you say to people like the National Farmers' Union who say we're not going to be able to function, we're not going to be able to get our costs down enough to make it viable?"

Mr McDonald replied: "Firstly I'd say that Australia is amongst the highest cost supplier globally in terms of protein. We're not trying to be bottom of the barrel, we're trying to be high-end products.

"If you look the prices and average levels we're sending to the UK currently, we're not dumping on the market by any means, if anything we're probably holding some of those prices up.

"Australia is not going to be able to replace British beef in the local economy by any means. We're a substitute and we can be a gap-filler where there's shortages in supply domestically."

Tom then asked about Australian food standards, following previous concerns over the potential lowering of UK standards through a US trade deal.

Mr McDonald said: "We've been shipping product into the UK for the last four decades at least under the current rules. There's never been any concerns about quality or how it's been raised or even how it's been looked after - it's part of this sensationalist commentary which starts up when everyone starts talking about an open free trade agreement."

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"What would it say about the UK as a global trading nation if the Prime Minister was to decide to keep tariffs at 20% or not reduce them to zero?", Tom asked.

"I think from our point of view that would be a deal-killer," Mr McDonald said.

"If you can't get a free trade agreement done with Australia or New Zealand as you're both intending to do, who can you get one done with? And what's this whole talk of 'Global Britain' all about really? I don't think you'll find a more like-minded country to work with.

"So we can't get a deal done between ourselves because of a perception that we're a threat, or not wanting to work together for common benefits, I think that's a fair sign as to where the UK is at in terms of their approach global trade."