Meat and Livestock Australia managing director, David Palmer, has accompanied Federal Minister for Agriculture, Tony Burke, in Korea to lend support for the commencement of free trade agreement negotiations between Australia and Korea.
All beef imported into Korea, including that from Australia, currently faces a 40 per cent tariff. The issue of a FTA between Australia and Korea has gained significant importance since the formalisation last year of a FTA between Korea and the US. Although the Korea/US FTA was signed last April, it is yet to be ratified by either government. Under the proposed Korea/US FTA the tariff on US beef into Korea will be reduced from 40 per cent to zero over 15 years.
Prior to the discovery of BSE in the US herd four years ago, the US was the largest exporter of beef to Korea, a position since taken by Australia.
Mr Palmer said an FTA with Korea was an imperative for the Australian beef industry, especially in light of the FTA Korea negotiated with the US, which will make Australian beef comparatively less price competitive when it is implemented.
A feasibility study, carried out on behalf of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) by an independent research agency, has been instigated and is the first step in the FTA process with Korea.
The study examines the pros and cons of a FTA for all sectors in the Australian economy, including agriculture.
Assuming inter-government negotiations begin, it could take up to three years to bring any FTA with Korea to fruition.
In co-operation with the Australian Embassy in Seoul and DFAT in Canberra, MLA’s office in Korea has embarked upon an FTA advocacy program to position Australian beef for at least parity of access given the outcome from the Korea/US FTA.
Source: MLA (Meat & Livestock Australia)