Rebuilding beef trade relationships

Pasture Pickings: Why Indonesian trade deals signal major milestones

Opinion
Cattle Council's chief executive officer Travis Tobin says a good relationship can be the difference between exporting thousands of tonnes to exporting nothing.

Cattle Council's chief executive officer Travis Tobin says a good relationship can be the difference between exporting thousands of tonnes to exporting nothing.

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Cattle Council Australia CEO writes this week's Pasture Pickings column

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On Sunday, the Indonesian-Australian Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement comes into force.

Indonesia has been a growing market for Australian goods and services with total two-way trade worth A$17.8 billion last financial year.

For our industry, this latest free trade deal with Australia's 13th largest trading partner will slash tariffs and substantially increase exports of live cattle and boxed beef to more than 250-million potential customers across the Timor Sea.

As one of the fastest growing economies in the Indo-Pacific - by some estimates, Indonesia will be the world's fifth-largest economy by 2030 - the deal obviously has important economic implications for beef producers and Australia more broadly.

But equally important, it is a milestone in continuing to rebuild our relationship with Indonesia following the government's sudden decision to stop the export of live cattle in 2011.

Getting to this point has taken years of work and Cattle Council is committed to continuing to strengthen that relationship, back this market, and foster a secure and prosperous region.

Australia's cattle industry is supporting our partners abroad. The world-leading and one-of-a-kind Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System makes Australia the only country in the world that assures the welfare of Australian cattle going to overseas markets.

Through the Indonesia-Australia Cattle and Red Meat Partnership, the Australian beef industry has invested heavily in the Indonesian supply chain which will let us build a reputation for being a reliable supplier of protein in this growing market.

This means surety of supply for Indonesia and surety of market for us. Right now, we are facing tough competition in overseas markets, and a good relationship can be the difference between exporting thousands of tonnes or exporting nothing.

It is also important to recognise, the free trade agreement with Indonesia is the first to come into effect during an international crisis.

We've been negotiating the Australian-European Union Free Trade Agreement for two years. An agreement will give us access to a trading bloc of 27 countries, including some of the highest-value beef markets in the world.

Last month Trade Minister Simon Birmingham launched negotiations for a free trade deal with the UK, which is another high-value market with great potential.

Before the UK entered the European Union, it imported more than 100,000 tonnes of Australian beef every year. Last year less than 5000 tonnes went to Britain.

But free trade is a two-way street and we need to remember a good deal for Australian cattle producers will be achieved if we can build trust.

The reality is Australia has entered 14 free trade deals since the UK joined the EU and we'll likely want very different access to what we had in 1973.

Fundamentally, we need to encourage negotiators to think beyond quota and tariff constructs and embrace the merits of liberalised trade.

Trade and international partnerships are key to our industry's future success. We continue to export about 75 per cent of what we produce to up to 100 countries, which last year was valued at over A$12.4b ($10.8b in beef and $1.6b in live exports).

If we are to continue embracing a global economy, we will need to be genuine, we will need to be solid and we will need to respect our customers, wherever they may be in the world.

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