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High hopes for Aussie farmers as minister steps up for five-day trade mission

Australia’s agriculture minister is touching down in the UK for a five-day trade mission to help Aussie farmers get the best deal.

Jan 17, 2023, updated Jan 17, 2023
Murray Watt, Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. (AAP Image/Jono Searle)

Murray Watt, Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. (AAP Image/Jono Searle)

It’s part of a joint industry-government push to maintain momentum around the Australia-UK free trade agreements, which prime ministers from both countries agreed should be operational by the first quarter of this year.

“I’m confident that we’re going to achieve that but I’m wanting to make sure that there’s no slippage,” Mr Watt said of the legislation which has already passed Britain’s House of Commons.

The deal between Canberra and London will scrap almost all taxes on Australian products entering Britain, including meat, dairy, sugar and wine.

But there has been opposition from some British farmers which has resulted in resistance politically.

“My message is that this is a good deal for both countries and for producers in both countries,” Watt told AAP.

Producers of beef, sheep products and sugar are expected to see big gains from the arrangement which would see farmers face fewer taxes on their goods.

The Albanese government also wants Australian producers to be allowed to import more into the UK market.

Trade with the UK is worth more than $21 billion for the Australian market across all sectors.

Watt is being joined on the trip by National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson.

The pair will also visit Germany to promote the Australia-EU free trade agreement, with hopes a deal will be ratified over the next 12 months.

Australia is yet to negotiate the terms of the agreement with the European Union, with the minister keen to secure a good deal for Australian farmers.

Watt and Simson will meet with the EU trade commissioner, the EU agriculture minister, and a number of European agriculture ministers.

“I’m there just to keep pushing for the best possible deal for Australian producers,” Watt said.

“There’s got to be meaningful improvements in the quantity and the value of Australian product that can be exported to the EU.”

Trade with the EU is worth an estimated $83 billion, with both free trade agreements expected to give agriculture a huge boost.

The trip follows a visit made by Trade Minister Don Farrell late last year.

Tim Harcourt, chief economist at University of Technology Sydney and formerly of the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, said the visit is an important one.

“It’s always good to have things in principle but you’ve got to have the presence of a minister to get it going,” Professor Harcourt told AAP.

“Agriculture has been a real thorn in our side for many years with European protectionism, perhaps we can see the finish line and Australian farmers can get a fair go.”

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