A leading Japanese newspaper has quoted a senior politician as saying Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce told him Australia could simply send more beef to China if Japan didn’t want to relax tariffs as part of a potential free-trade deal.
Joyce reportedly told Koya Nishikawa, who sits on the governing Liberal Democratic Party’s Trans-Pacific Partnership committee: “There is plenty of demand for Australian beef from China,” adding: “So if necessary, Australia does not need to go to the trouble of selling it to Japan.”
According to the The Nikkei Business Daily report, the 38.5 per cent tariff is the last stumbling block in a potential free trade deal with Japan which could save Australian farmers a lot of money. Each year, Japan buys $1.5 billion of beef from Australia, and the tariff costs producers around $590 million.
Nishikawa was “thrown by Mr Joyce’s response”, according to the newspaper — which also described Joyce’s face as “red with fervor”.
Japan’s agricultural lobbies have prevented total liberalisation of imports before, and domestic media in Japan considers it unlikely this will be the case — speculating that the tariff could go below 30 per cent.
A separate Nikkei report quoted Trade Minister Andrew Robb as saying Australia could relax tariffs on car imports but only if Japan was “prepared to make significant movement” on the beef charges.
Japan and Australia have been negotiating an economic partnership deal since 2007. Both countries are also involved in the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership project. According to the Nikkei report, Australia could be hoping to “get a jump” for local beef producers over competitors in the US.
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