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London G6: Australia Being Offered 'Chicken Feed'

9 March 2006

EUROPEAN Commissioner for Agriculture Mariann Fischer Boel’s recent visit to Canberra ahead of this week’s G6 Ministerial meeting in London (involving Australia, Brazil, India, the United States and the European Union), underscores the ‘make or break’ need for an agreement on agricultural access for Australia and many other World Trade Organisation (WTO) member countries.

On the table for Australia is a paltry offer by the European Union (EU) to extend agricultural access into the EU, which, on chicken meat for example, would see just 10,000 extra tonnes into that market.

“That amounts to one extra chicken nugget per person, per year into the EU,” Peter Corish, President of the NFF, said. “Across the board, for agriculture, it’s a similar deal.

“Any attempt to portray this as a new trading opportunity is an insult. Australian commodities, particularly our major rural exports, are being hung out in an EU trade freeze.

“We urge Trade Minister Mark Vaile, who will attend the G6 London meeting, to remain focussed on the simple goal of achieving significant improvements in agricultural market access. In other words, significant quota increases and major tariff reductions.

“In London this weekend the Minister must make progress on the core issue of agricultural market access. If we don’t, there is no chance we will achieve a satisfactory market access outcome by the WTO deadline of 30 April 2006.

“Australian producers cannot afford this opportunity to fall through. Australia’s farmers, who are actively engaging in bolstering our exports, depend on gaining new and improved access to consumer markets in Europe, north Asia and North America to ensure the viability and sustainability of our farms.

“The Australian Government has invested a lot of time leading up to this point. Likewise, the NFF has championed the cause of free trade over the past 20 years. Now with the EU lifting its ban on British beef, and the WTO’s deadline looming large, it’s time to deliver for Australian farmers.

“We know the Europeans face a hard sell for further reform, but they simply must work harder at gaining political support in Europe for agricultural reform.”

[ENDS]

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.

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