LOSS to the Australian beef industry will be substantial if an Australian-Korean Free Trade Agreement is not negotiated soon.And although the recent Korean presidential elections have been put down to the slow progress, the new Korean president is not inaugurated until February 25 further slowing the process.
From January 1, Australia's biggest competitor in the market, the US, has had a 5.3 per cent tariff advantage - a preferential tariff of 34.67 per cent compared to 40 per cent for Australian beef - under the Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement.
This tariff differential widens by a further 2.66 per cent each year - until it reduces to zero over 15 years - and means if an AKFTA does not enter into force the loss to the Australian beef industry will be about $182 million per annum.
The Cattle Council of Australia, Australian Lot Feeders Association and the Australian Meat Industry Council, in a joint letter sent to the Prime Minister yesterday are calling on the Federal Government to end the impasse on incoporating an Investor State Dispute Settlement.
In the letter $1.4 billion is stated as the cumulative loss to the beef industry over the 15 years the tariff on US beef is phased out.
"These costs, plus the fact that without an FTA we will lose the majority share of our third largest beef export market, cannot be ignored. The impact will reverberate across regional Australia.''
So unless Australia moves quickly to put an FTA in place with Korea, the gap in the tariff will widen to 7.9 per cent next year putting Australia at further disadvantage.