Australian dairy backs decision to abandon EU trade deal

Australian producers can keep using terms such as feta after trade talks with the EU failed. Photo by Candice Bell

Australia’s dairy industry has backed Federal Trade Minister Don Farrell in walking away from a trade deal with the European Union that would have hurt the Australian dairy industry.

Australian Dairy Industry Council chair Rick Gladigau and deputy chair John Williams are in Osaka, Japan, representing dairy’s interests during the talks.

Mr Gladigau said the industry had consistently reinforced that a free trade agreement with the EU was never going to deliver a positive outcome for dairy.

“Australian dairy welcomes the minister’s decision not to conclude a deal and walk away,” he said.

“Despite the best efforts of the Australian Government, the EU has continued to make unreasonable demands by insisting Australia adopt an anti-competitive geographical indicators regime while at the same time resisting to provide equitable market access into the EU dairy market.”

Geographical indicators would stop Australian producers being able to use terms such as feta and prosecco.

The ADIC said already, 70,000 tonnes of European dairy products are imported to Australia each year, compared to just 500 tonnes of Australian exports to the EU.

Mr Williams said an FTA with the EU offered no gains for Aussie dairy, just costs and burdens. For dairy, no deal was better than an inequitable deal.

“We thank Minister Farrell for not blinking at the 11th hour and having the fortitude to walk away in the face of the EU maintaining its unreasonable position,” he said.

“This is especially important as the industry battles increasing cost of production, a flood of cheap imports and the lowest milk pool in 30 years.”

Mr Gladigau said the ADIC “truly recognises” the efforts made by the minister and the negotiation teams at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry over the five years of negotiations.

“The complexities being faced by dairy in these negotiations have been well recognised as an enormous challenge and ADIC has appreciated the government’s regular communication and consultation on the critical issues associated with the A-EUFTA,” he said.

The National Farmers’ Federation also welcomed the trade minister’s decision to walk away from the deal that would have left the agriculture sector worse off.

“(The) decision was a hard one, but ultimately it was the right one,” NFF president David Jochinke said.

“What was on offer would have hard-wired protectionism into our trading relationship with Europe for another generation.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said it was unlikely a trade deal could be negotiated before the end of the current term of federal parliament, due to expire in 2025.

“It may be that we can resume negotiations, but I think that will be some time away,” Senator Watt told ABC Radio on October 30.

“The EU elections will be next year, I can’t see them being in a position to resume negotiations before that.”