Trade war threatens Australian dairy exports
Trade Minister Simon Crean must step in immediately to protect Australia’s interests with the threat of a full-blown trade war between the European Union and the United States over dairy exports, the leader of The Nationals and Shadow Trade Minister Warren Truss said.
“The likely subsidy war over dairy could devastate Australian exports and begin an outbreak of widespread trade protectionism in response to global economic turmoil,” Mr Truss said. “The G20 nations, which met last, year made clear that the erection of new trade barriers will only worsen the world’s financial plight, as we saw during the Great Depression.
“Rudd Labor is always talking up its contacts in Europe and in the new Obama administration. Now is the time to use them.
“Only a couple of months ago Mr Crean was telling everyone that a breakthrough Doha free trade deal was assured. It is now obvious that the Europeans were only ever giving lip service to fair trade – they are recalcitrant subsidisers.”
With prices for dairy products slumping after the highs seen in 2007-08, the EU is now offering subsidies of up to 50 percent on its milk powder, butter and cheese exports.
“The EU’s move will kill off any hopes of a recovery in world dairy prices, locking in unsustainably low prices for its own farmers and everyone else.
“In Australia, our dairy farmers have had the rungs pulled out from beneath them. They cannot hope to compete at what effectively will be a capped price far lower than today’s market price.
“The damage to our exports will be profound, at a time when we can hardly afford to lose more markets.
“The Australian Government is only now waking up to the dangers of the EU’s actions and the likely US response. Agriculture Minister Tony Burke looked like a rabbit in the headlights when told media this week that was ‘disappointed’ by the EU, and then made a bizarre comment linking this trade issue to domestic drought funding. Labor is also buying out water entitlements, threatening future drought assistance and is proposing emission trading scheme taxes on diary processors.
“Australia is sending its largest ever ministerial contingent to Davos for the World Economic Forum this week. In between the expected photo-ops with celebrities, it is critical that Mr Crean and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard get the EU to see sense and stop the US from taking retaliatory action. If the subsidies become entrenched Australia should seek relief and compensation for our loss of exports through the WTO disputes process.
“The importance of this issue cannot be over-estimated. We will all be worse off if EU dairy subsidies are allowed to snowball into a full-on trade war,” Mr Truss said.