MIA Matters: There’s a lot at stake for NZ sheepmeat in the Brexit process

Sirma Karapeeva, MIA
Sirma Karapeeva, MIA trade and economic manager.

At a critical time for the New Zealand’s meat trade with the United Kingdom, our fifth largest red meat market, the Meat Industry Association (MIA) and Beef + Lamb NZ Ltd (B+LNZ) are pushing to maintain current access arrangements. MIA trade and economic manager Sirma Karapeeva updates us on what’s new about trade access for the New Zealand’s meat exporters to the region.

At the time of writing, the focus for UK and EU is on the Northern Ireland border, as the troubling ‘no deal’ scenario comes into clearer focus. The timing of the proposed leaving date, 29 March 2019, falls at the absolutely critical time for our sheepmeat and high-value chilled lamb trade for both the UK and Continental Europe – Easter.

As a trade association, we are focused on ensuring smooth trade access for exporters to the region and also looking to the future trade relationship.

The signing of the UK-NZ Veterinary Agreement in January together with UK advice about the acceptability of EU Health Certificates after 29 March, alleviates some of our members’ immediate concerns as it ensures existing veterinary regulatory requirements will remain the same.

UK and NZ sheepmeat production compared (2014-2018)The UK is our second most valuable market for sheepmeat, after China, earning nearly $500 million in the year-to-end December 2018, and the most important for our high-value chilled lamb. Our trading relationship is underwritten by the UK and NZ’s long, shared history of shared values, seasonal complementarity of food production and trading ethos, ensuring British consumers have access to safe, quality lamb all year round.

This week, in a joint submission with B+LNZ to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFAT), we reiterated our strong support for an ambitious, high-quality and comprehensive a UK-NZ Free Trade Agreement (FTA) post-Brexit what builds on existing World Trade Organisation (WTO) rights.

Such an FTA presents a great opportunity to modernise the current trade and economic relationship and address tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade. New Zealand brings its internationally-recognised, robust, risk-based food safety regulatory framework and experience in navigating overseas market access requirements to the table. Both sides will benefit from greater access to each other’s markets, providing consumers with a wider array of competitively-priced products and manufacturers with access to high-quality, competitively priced inputs and also certainty in planning future investments. An ambitious, high-quality and comprehensive bilateral FTA, strengthening the architecture of international trade rules, is really important to trading nations like ours, especially in the current climate of growing protectionism.

Our strong opposition to the tariff-rate quota split proposed by the EU and UK has already been well documented.  It would erode our legally binding WTO rights and would leave our sector worse off. Consultations under Article 28 of the WTO are now underway and we are confident that the New Zealand government is fully committed to leaving no stone un-turned in the protection of our trade interests.

We continue to work closely with New Zealand officials, B+LNZ and the New Zealand Meat Board, as well as with our red meat sector representative in London, Jeff Grant, to keep abreast of the constantly evolving Brexit situation and to progress the sector’s Brexit-preparedness.

There’s certainly a lot at stake for New Zealand, and other third countries, in the Brexit process.

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