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Beefier agreement

Beef producers have cautiously welcomed the free trade agreement with Japan while Australia’s largest beef exporter, JBS, says the deal — which cuts the 38.5 per cent tariff on frozen beef to 19.5 per cent and on fresh or chilled beef to 23.5 per cent over 15 years — gives Australia an advantage against the United States.

CATHY WALKER April 15, 2014 3:10am

Australian Beef Industry Japan FTA Taskforce chairman Lachie Hart said modelling was suggesting the agreement would benefit Australian cattle producers to the tune of $2.84billion over 20 years, while Japanese consumers would benefit by about $6.1billion.

‘‘For every $100 worth of Australian beef sold into the market, $38.50 is currently paid to the Japanese Government in tariffs,’’ Mr Hart told Beef Central earlier in the discussion phase. ‘‘That represents an annual tariff impost of around A$590million, the burden of which is borne by the Australian beef industry and Japanese consumers.’’

The new agreement also contains significant review clauses: Should another exporter country get a better deal on beef with Japan under another bilateral agreement, Australia will automatically ‘upgrade’ to that deal.

There are reviews scheduled for five years’ time, to potentially re-negotiate better outcomes under the agreement, should circumstances change.

The safeguard protections designed to protect Japan from one-off large surges in exports are also discretionary, meaning they do not have to be applied if circumstances do not require it.

Goomalibee Angus breeder Murray Chapman said the trade agreement made some progress for Australian farmers, however he said it was not truly free.

‘‘I think it is strange that we have completely removed the tariffs for imported cars, but only reduced them for agricultural commodities including beef,’’ Mr Chapman said.

‘‘It reminds me that there is no such thing as free trade.’’

He said it was important for all Australian farmers to be able to prove what they produced was clean and green, which is what consumers would continue to want into the future.

‘‘The best way to get premium prices is to ensure we’re on top.’’

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