China meat deal a boost but FTA falters

Australian meat exporters to benefit from cold store accreditation across China but a 'broad' free trade agreement off the table

China meat deal a boost but FTA falters
China deal a boost but FTA falters

April 19, 2013

Australian meat exporters will benefit from
the accreditation of 28 cold store facilities and four red meat plants across China
but a broader free trade agreement (FTA) is off the table.

The approval for the meat storage facilities is the first step in a system-wide approach in China allowing exporters to save money by consolidating large loads of meat for shipping.

The new deal, arising from Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s recent trip to China, means processors will be able to store their product and export it when commercially viable in response to demand.

China will recognise Australia's own certification systems for cold stores and allow for facilities to be added to the already-approved 28 facilities without special consent.

But meanwhile,
the ABC reports Australia’s government has been forced to reconsider a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with China, which it has been trying to negotiate for close to nine years.

The ABC says Trade Minister Craig Emerson told a food forum in Melbourne yesterday China wanted its state-owned enterprises to be allowed to invest up to $1 billion in Australia without seeking approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).

Currently FIRB must review and approve all proposed investment from foreign state-owned companies.

Dr Emerson says Australia will not agree to such terms.

He says the Australian Government is now focused on securing a narrow, agriculture-based free trade arrangement with China, and will push for agreements with China on a regional and industry level.

Last week’s meat industry deal for example will help clear the way for continued dramatic growth in Australian meat exports to China.

Dr Emerson says the approval and listing of the red meat establishments and 28 cold stores represents a large increase on the number of registered plants able to export to China.

The listings will be formalised shortly by China, after sourcing arrangements and expected export volumes have been recorded.

Chinese imports of Australian beef last year surged nearly 250 per cent on 2011, to 27,300 tonnes. The imports were worth $130 million, up 160 per cent. Imports of Australian sheep and goat meat were also up sharply on 2011 shipments.

"China is a rapidly growing market for Australian beef producers," Dr Emerson says.

"This agreement creates game-changing efficiencies for beef processors around the country."

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