Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment




Doorstop Interview.
Topics: Australian dairy industry; EU trade deal;




Simon Birmingham:    Today I’m out listening to Australia’s dairy industry, critically as we take the next step in negotiations of our free trade agreement with the European Union. What we’re doing with the EU is trying to get better market access for Australian farmers and businesses, to be able to sell more goods and products into the European Union, but of course, they have some demands as well, and they’ve asked for a whole range of different product names to be protected, for exclusive use by European industry. And some of those are dairy products, particularly in the cheeses. Whilst the vast majority of them are really European names like Camembert de Normandie, which obviously relates exclusively to the Normandy region, some of them are more generic, like feta. So I wanted to get out and talk to Australia’s dairy industry, to cheese makers, but also to those who are right on the ground in the dairy sector, hear their views, so that we can go back to the EU and argue the strongest possible case to get the best possible outcome for Australian farmers and businesses.


Question:        And so they’ve released a list with all the names on there; is that a new sort of a list? Or is there anything new added to that?


Simon Birmingham:    So this is the list of the EU’s demands. It’s very similar to a list that they put to New Zealand, which was publicly released late last year, and a number of other similar lists they’ve pursued around the world. There’s not really any surprises in it. In some ways there are some things that we are pleased to see, that many of these requests are so specific in the geography that they’re seeking to define. But there’s still a few that I’ve got no doubt industry will have concerns about. We’re going to listen to industry so that we can stand up for Australian industry and get the best possible outcome. And we have such fantastic dairy producers, like this farm here, who’ve worked hard to modernise, to get the best possible herd in place, to use modern technologies. And they’re backed now by an industry that is being more innovative in pursuing more dairy products that are value added. We want to make sure they can keep doing that into the future, marketing high quality Australian dairy products in Australia and for export overseas.


Question:        And am I right in saying the dairy industry will be less affected if this sort of agreement does go on?


Simon Birmingham:    The greatest concerns probably exist in the dairy sector. Although I hope that now the list is published, we can really narrow those concerns down and work to resolve them. In the end, we want to make sure that Australia’s dairy sector is strong and vibrant into the future, and is also export oriented, and is able to sell Australia’s branded, Australian recognised dairy products into export markets, just as the EU seeks to claim in relation to their products.


Question:        And if it’s not in the industry’s best interests, it won’t go ahead? Is that right?


Simon Birmingham:    If this deal isn’t a good one for Australia overall, then there’ll be no deal. Of course what we’re negotiating is something that is going to encompass every possible area of Australian agriculture, Australian products, Australian services. So it’s a complex deal, it’s a big deal, but we’re going to stand up for Australian industry to make sure it’s a good deal too.  


Question:        And what’s the trade relationship like between the EU and Australia? What’s it worth?


Simon Birmingham:    And so the EU is already Australia’s third largest export market. It’s a market with more than 500 million consumers, and our businesses have done incredibly well given they face very high barriers in terms of getting into the EU. And there are small quotas for a number of products; there are high tariffs on others. And we want to say those tariffs, those quotas, abolished as much as possible to give our farmers and businesses as much access to grow that big market in the future.


Question:        And people within the industry have three months from now to raise concerns?


Simon Birmingham:    There’s a three-month period for industry to make submissions, raise objections, and I’ll be getting out there talking to cheese makers and dairy farmers and others during that time to hear those concerns directly. And then we take that information, evidence, back in to argue the [indistinct] some of the EU, which we’ll do right throughout next year, until we get to the point of hopefully striking a deal that is in Australia’s interest.


Question:        Okay. So a decision won’t be made in three months? It’ll just be- that’s the period of time?


Simon Birmingham:    This is the period of time for formal submissions to be made. And that then arms us to be able to go into battle, if need be, to defend the interests of Australian farmers and to get the best possible deal for Australia overall.

Simon Birmingham:    That’s cool. Thank you.


Authorised by Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, South Australia.