EU/New Zealand free trade agreement must meet meat sector concerns, say experts

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Global Meat News | 8 May 2018

EU/New Zealand free trade agreement must meet meat sector concerns, say experts

By Liz Newmark, in Brussels

With a new European Union (EU)/New Zealand (NZ) customs agreement coming into force last week (1 May), EU farm body Copa-Cogeca secretary-general Pekka Pesonen has warned that anticipated follow-up trade talks should not boost NZ access to EU meat markets.

“The EU has a big export market with up to 500 million consumers and we do not see that we can benefit or have a balanced trade deal from an agreement with New Zealand which has up to five million consumers,” Pesonen told GlobalMeatNews. “In particular, we have major concerns about our meat and dairy sectors and oppose any concessions to be made in this area.”

That said, he was keen that comprehensive trade talks between the EU and New Zealand, designed to build on this new customs deal, should “solve issues on geographical origins [GIs] and sanitary and phytosanitary [SPS] issues”.

The EU is New Zealand’s second-largest trading partner for agricultural products, after Australia. In 2016, the value of EU agricultural imports from New Zealand reached €2.3 billion, with sheep and goat meat representing 35.9% of agri-food imports into the EU from New Zealand that year.

A European Commission spokesperson told GlobalMeatNews the Commission was currently awaiting a negotiating mandate from EU member states to start broad trade talks with New Zealand, and that this was expected later this month. The aim was to complete negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) by the end of 2019.
As for the EU-New Zealand’s customs cooperation agreement, “this will enable both partners to work together to prevent, investigate and combat breaches of customs rules,” said the spokesperson. The follow-up talks will aim “to reduce existing barriers to trade (including customs duties) and investment, taking into account the EU’s agricultural sensitivities”, she said.

New Zealand also hopes the customs agreement will pave the way for success in future trade talks. “Customs agreement is good for trade and has potential for more cooperation ahead,” tweeted New Zealand’s customs minister Meka Whaitiri on 2 May.

A Brussels-based New Zealand official told GlobalMeatNews that the customs deal would “facilitate trade at the border and thus reduce costs to traders on a reciprocal basis”. And while she did not think the customs deal alone “will have significant impact on volumes of trade”, it would “enhance the ease of doing business and profitability of existing trade”.

The Commission agreed. A note stated the agreement “will benefit legitimate trade between the two parties by creating a more secure and trade-friendly environment, as their customs authorities will exchange more information to ensure the proper application of customs legislation...”.

Last month, New Zealand meat bodies named Jeff Grant as their Brexit representative.