Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment



Interview on 5AA, Breakfast, with David Penberthy and Will Goodings.

Topics: EU Trade Deal and negotiations; Brexit;




Will Goodings: South Australian Senator Simon Birmingham is responsible for matters trade for the Federal Government. He joins us this morning in the wake of the European Union asking for some 400 items to be protected – a bit like what happened with wines where suddenly you couldn’t call things a Rhein riesling, or a champagne – unless they were from the Rhein area in Germany or unless they were from the Champagne region in France. Except this extends to things that are well much broader you’d imagine in scope – feta for example, kalamata are things that are now protected or would be. Australia has a period of time to object to some of these changes and that will be the responsibility of the Minister.


He’s on the line now. Simon Birmingham, good morning to you.


Simon Birmingham:    Good morning guys, great to be with you.


David Penberthy:         So Minister, have you got much clarity yet around exactly what this would look like? So, say you- I don’t know- coriole, and you’ve got your jars of kalamata olives – some of them get exported. Could you call them Australian kalamata olives?


Simon Birmingham:    Yeah. So, what we’ve done today, or doing today, is publishing at list of around 400 terms that the EU has asked to protect. Now, they’re asking for that protection as part of our free trade agreement negotiation. But we’re doing this because we want Australian farmers and businesses to have better terms to sell their goods into the EU, but in return the EU is asking for protection of some of these names. So kalamata for example, what I’m told is that in terms of the actual olive – and the EU is not seeking to prohibit the growth of varieties of olives – it’s the sale of those varieties as kalamata olives. So if it’s Coriole selling jars as kalamata olives – they should be fine. But what they don’t want is for it to be presented in a way where olive oil looks like it comes from the Kalamata region.


Will Goodings: Right. Okay.


Simon Birmingham:    So, and there are some little things through this process. The 400 terms they’re seeking, the vast number are really quite precise geographical terms that go to Europe. So-


Will Goodings: [Interrupts] So we can sell Australian feta in the same way that you can buy Bulgarian feta at the shops or the markets?


Simon Birmingham:    That’s probably going to be one for negotiation. So they have put feta just as feta on the list and we’re going to have to work through that with the Australian cheese industry and then argue their position back to the EU in terms of what we think is reasonable there and I think that’s our one possible solution to the feta dilemma is, do you just have to make it clear that it’s Australian feta? Are there possible grandfathering options? Or-


David Penberthy:         [Interrupts] Because there’s Danish feta – you see them in the shops all the time, there’s all sorts of other countries that label it as theirs.


Will Goodings: So just to be clear on a point-


Simon Birmingham:    [Interrupts] A number of which are other European countries. So I think that [indistinct] just the point that I make with the EU.


Will Goodings: So just to be clear on the point of this, and David posed it a little bit in the question a moment ago, would these name changes only take effect for instances where we’re trying to export to the European Union or other places? Or would it be, would it cover domestic sales in Australia as well.


Simon Birmingham:    So it does cover domestic sales as well when it’s done. Just as you guys indicated, we did this with the wine industry a number of years ago and so what used to be Rhine riesling is now very much Clare Valley riesling. And you know, that’s in the end been a good thing for the Australian wine industry, that they’ve actually developed their own brand, their own geographical indications that have put more strength behind the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra et cetera – and so there are opportunities for Australian food producers in this.


But we’re in the trade negotiations to get the best possible deal for Australian farmers and Australian businesses, so that we can sell more goods to the 500 million plus consumers of Europe.


David Penberthy:         That’s- the big upside is regardless of what we call this, these products, these are markets that a lot of South Australian producers did not have access to before aren’t they?


Simon Birmingham:    Absolutely. And you look at- take sheep meat for example. New Zealand can sell many times the volume of sheep meat into the European market than Australia can. So our current Act is really limited, we’ve had a poor deal historically. And that is a huge upside that we can try to secure – not just in agricultural products, but as well in the services sector and we really want to make sure that we get a good deal here. We’ll only do a deal if it’s a good deal for Australians and obviously for those who are producing European style goods. In the cheese sector, in the small goods sector we’re going to spend a lot of time over the next few months talking to them, coming to understand what matters to them so that I can argue the case at the negotiating table with the EU.


David Penberthy:         Got a handle Minister yet on what a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK might look like? Or what we actually have to amend to deal with that changing situation?


Simon Birmingham:    So again, we, Australia lost a lot of its access to UK market when they entered the EU decades ago. Boris Johnson’s appointed a new Trade Secretary and I spoke with her just over a week or so ago now. And I’m hopeful that there’s trust the new Trade Secretary will come out to Australia in the next month or so, and she’s really committed to doing a trade deal with us. And what we’re going to aspire for there is as close as we can get to full elimination of all tariffs, all quotas because we can really back I think Australian producers to do really well in the UK market. Our wine industry already accounts for one in five bottles of wine sold into the UK and of course plenty of that’s coming out of great South Australian wineries.


David Penberthy:         Before we let you go Birmo, if you’re chatting to any of those Western Australian Defence Ministers, be sure to tell them we’re doing a pretty good job maintaining the subs aye?


Simon Birmingham:    You bet mate. Our naval shipbuilding industry down there is going to boom in years to come. They’re building new submarines, new ships and I think we need to be pretty clear that the only reason this issue has even been brought to bear is because of questions about whether there is the capacity to keep doing all of the sustainment work in addition to the other work down there. As long as the land is available, the facilities are available, and the human resources are available, then the work ought to continue in those shipyards.


David Penberthy:         Good stuff. Senator Simon Birmingham Trade Minister and Senator for South Australia, always great to catch up with you. Thank you.


Simon Birmingham:    Thanks guys. Cheers.



Authorised by Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, South Australia.