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Cattle Council urges the federal government to maintain consistency on trade reform

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14 September 1998

Cattle Council Urges the Federal Government to Maintain Consistency on Trade Reform

Cattle Council o f Australia calls on the Federal Government to remain ‘rock solid’ in its push for further global trade reform. The Howard Government must ensure that continued calls for industry protection from within Australian agriculture do not succeed in hijacking the debate on trade reform during the election months.

President of the Cattle Council o f Australia, Mr Peter Milne, says that international trade access issues are becoming increasingly important in the wider agricultural community.

“The Federal Government must not back down on its commitment to ongoing trade liberalisation in the lead up to our last, and most important, Federal Election o f this millenium,” said M r Milne.

“Unnecessary tariff protection offered to any Australian agricultural industry has the potential to ‘wind the clock back’ on the tremendous progress this country has made in opening up new and emerging export markets. Further, industry protection has the very

real potential to risk access to export markets for other agricultural industries, particularly the beef cattle industry. Market access for much o f Australia’s beef exports has been forged through hard work and a commitment to free and fair trade; this cannot be put in jeopardy by anybody.

“Unfavourable seasonal conditions, extended periods o f low prices and global market instability have all contributed to rising dissent. The real benefits to producers from globalisation and trade liberalisation policies are in danger o f being overlooked. The Australian beef cattle industry is the recipient o f direct benefits that result from a commitment to free trade.

“In a global sense, the Australian beef industry is a small player accounting for only 2% o f cattle numbers; however, we supply 22% o f the world’s beef trade. Therefore, Australian cattle producers are extremely reliant on export markets for sustained profitability. Creating an environment conducive to free trade is logically o f direct benefit to Australian producers.

“The Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations, completed in 1994, represented an important step forward for the Australian beef industry. Particular benefits include: replacement of the US Meat Import Law with a quota/tariff arrangement, the lowering of the applied tariff rate on beef imports into Japan, expansion o f the global quota for imports into South Korea

and formalisation o f the EU assurance that export subsidies would not apply to beef exported into key Asian markets,” Mr Milne added.

“The Japanese and Korean beef markets have been substantially liberalised as a result o f US and Australian bilateral pressure, combined with GATT Uruguay Round processes. Reforms already implemented are estimated to have already increased the value o f

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Australian beef production by 10% ($242 million) in 1996 and are expected to be worth around $4.4 billion over the next 15 years according to the Centre for International Economics.

“Liberalising agricultural trade worldwide has the potential to confer global benefits o f around $U S115 billion.

“Let me also stress that benefits are not confined to increased production and export sales: marketing Australian product offshore assists domestic price levels by easing domestic oversupply. Further, competition and innovation levels are heightened, leading to increased levels o f productivity. Closer trade links allow increased investment levels and greater

integration in the marketing chain.

“It is for this reason that Cattle Council o f Australia will remain proactive in both multilateral (through the National Farmers’ Federation and the Caims Group) and bilateral trade negotiation, particularly towards the next World Trade Organisation Round in 1999.

“The Australian beef industry has evolved into the biggest exporter of beef in the world through its own efforts in developing diverse markets and focusing on export markets as the route to prosperity. The Government has been rock-solid on this critical issue; the beef industry is in full support,” Mr Milne concluded.

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For further information:

Mr Peter Milne President Ph. 0419 491 853

Mr Justin Toohey Executive Director Ph. 02/6273 3688 o r 019 447 972