EUROPEAN parliamentarians have told Australian beef exporters in no uncertain terms either they make way for an European Union-United States deal on the grainfed no-hormone quota or they risk having it entirely cancelled.
Romanian European Parliamentarian and special rapporteur for free trade agreement negotiations with Australia Sorin Moisa said Australia had “a good legal point about access to this quota but not a good moral or political point because it was about the EU and the US first and foremost.”
For Australia, the solution was in FTA negotiations “rather than excessively insisting on something that was originally offered to the Americans,” he said.
Australian producers are extremely anxious about the risk the US is about to secure the lion’s share of the quota, known as 481, which allows up to 45,000 tonnes into Europe tariff free and is typically filled by the US, Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay and Argentina, with Australia’s contribution peaking at 17,000t.
In the past financial year, the 481 quota accounted for three quarters of Australia’s EU beef exports, worth $250m.
International media has been reporting the EU may give the US as much as 35,000t of the quota under a country-specific arrangement in a bid to defuse wider-spanning trade tensions.
Mr Moisa was part of a delegation for relations with Australia and New Zealand which made a three-day visit to Australia last week.
“We are negotiating with the US and likely to reach an agreement,” he said in relation to the 481 quota.
“We hope it will be one Australia, Uruguay and other countries that have an interest in this quota will be able to accept.
“Quite simply, if there is no agreement with the US we will cancel the quota altogether and everybody loses out, including Australia.”
Australian beef producers are pinning their hopes on the fact any change to the quota, in order to be compliant with the World Trade Organisation requirements, has to occur in consultation with Australia.
However, Mr Moisa explained the quota was “essentially a bilateral agreement between us and the US but it did create a legal entitlement for others to join the quota.”
In the past few years, the US “realised a significant portion of this quota which had been dedicated to the US, or adopted in the context of a settlement with the US, was being used more and more by others,” he said.
“They did not like that, obviously.”