Beef exporters are set to gain an additional $400 million a year as a result of a new trade agreement with China which makes Australia the first and only country to have full market access for chilled beef into the Asian megamarket.The agreement was one of a number signed by Australia and China during the visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang this week.
The two countries have also agreed to accelerate a review of the services and investment chapters of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The nature of the investment review is not entirely clear, only that the review of the existing investment facilitation arrangement will be done with an eye “to expanding both sides’ commitments” .
There are currently 47 integrated (meat processing) establishments and 23 cold stores which can export meat to China, but only 11 are permitted to export chilled meat.
The Joint Statement will expedite approval of an additional 15 Australian frozen meat establishments (11 integrated, 4 cold stores), and progress approvals for chilled meat export for all establishments that meet the chilled meat standard as verified by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
At a press conference in Canberra after talks in the Cabinet room, and the signing of various trade and business agreements, Premier Li and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull talked down any conflicts between the two countries over the South China Sea or any suggestion that Australia had to choose between the United States and China in its foreign policy.
China’s second most powerful leader played down his country’s military build-up in the South China Sea around important trade shipping routes.
Mr Li says China’s facilities on Chinese islands and reefs are primarily for civilian purposes and where there is a certain amount of defence equipment of facilities, it’s for maintaining the freedom of navigation and overflight.
Mr Turnbull said the visit underscored Australia’s and China’s “shared commitment to promoting greater prosperity and security in our region, including through deeper regional and bilateral trade and investment liberalisation”.
Among other agreements, the two countries signed an agreement on quarantine inspection and cooperation, which Australian ministers said would significantly improve two-way agricultural trade between Australia and China, particularly for Australia’s meat exports, and promotes food security and safety.
Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, said the deal would expand and improve Australia’s meat market access by allowing more meat and live animal exporters access to China and progressing new trade opportunities.
“The Coalition is committed to building on our record prices and record volume of trade with China. We won’t ever rest on our laurels in pursuit of expanding Australia’s trading partnerships,” Minister Joyce said.
The Joint Statement will unlock a number of trade restrictions currently in place to support Australian meat and livestock exports including advancing Australia’s access for tripe exports to China and initiating trade in donkey meat and edible skins to China.
It would also establish a protocol for the export of Australian slaughter sheep and goats.
“China is already Australia’s largest sheep meat market, worth $240 million in 2016, and is our fourth largest beef market worth $670 million in the same year,” Mr Joyce said.
A Salmon Statement of Intent (SOI) was also signed between the ministers to progress negotiations on trade in salmon sourced from approved countries, processed in China, and exported to Australia.