The Australian red meat industry has welcomed the launch of the Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement negotiations, under unique circumstances.
Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Simon Birmingham, and UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss, launched the negotiations via video conference, a phenomenon we are growing accustomed to in the era of COVID-19.
It was also unique in that the UK, as a consequence of Brexit, is now on the path to securing trade relationships independently of the European Union for the first time in 48 years.
"Prior to the UK joining the EU (or European Economic Community, as it was then known), the UK was one of Australia's principle red meat export markets," said Andrew McDonald, Chair of the Australia-UK Red Meat Market Access Taskforce.
"A lot has changed since then, including the development of markets closer to home, but longstanding commercial relationships have prevailed and we strongly endorse the launch of bilateral negotiations in support of enhancing the current trade.
"Whilst an enduring partner, Australia's beef and sheepmeat access has been limited by virtue of the UK being a member of the EU."
Compared with many other countries supplying the EU, Australia has disproportionately low volume quota access coupled with trade prohibitive above quota tariffs.
This import regime has stifled Australia's ability to respond to growing UK consumer demand for high quality beef, sheepmeat and goatmeat.
"Our industry will therefore be encouraging negotiators from both sides to think beyond the quota and tariff construct the UK has become accustomed to, and embrace the merits of liberalised trade - a regime which is conferring significant benefits to both the Australian red meat supply chain and our international consumer base via the suite of FTAs Australia has secured to date.
"Our connection with the UK is already based on shared values, with our sector providing UK importers, distributers and consumers with a trusted source of high quality product, including the provision of supplies on a counter-seasonal basis as required. Now we have the opportunity to take this mutually beneficial trading relationship to the next level."
Mr McDonald said the Taskforce was encouraged by both the Australian and UK Governments commitment that they would seek an ambitious and comprehensive FTA, with the Australian Government prioritising enhanced market access for goods - including red meat.