The collapse of the European Union free trade deal talks came down to the low volumes of beef, sheepmeat, dairy and sugar the Europeans were prepared to take and - particularly in beef's case - the conditions they sought to attach, Agriculture Minister Murray Watt has revealed.
He has also spoken candidly about European agriculture ministers laughing during negotiations at the deal they signed with countries like New Zealand and Canada.
Mr Watt said when EU representatives were asked why they won't offer Australia anywhere near the same deal as they signed with those countries on meat, they responded by pointing out they are not actually accepting those volumes of meat imports.
"They said Canada may have a good figure in terms of what they are entitled to sell but because of the conditions attached it's not getting in," Mr Watt told hundreds of Australian red meat exporters at the Australian Meat Industry Council-hosted 2023 conference, held on the Gold Coast this week.
"They laughed about that.
"So we realised that whatever figure we negotiated there was a chance they won't deliver on it anyway.
"It's not really a good faith negotiation. Hopefully there will be change down the track in the way they negotiate."
It now appears an FTA between Australia and the EU could be off the table for at least three years, after Trade Minister Don Farrell walked away from talks with EU counterparts at the sidelines of the G7 Trade Ministers' meeting in Japan.
Mr Watt said the strong advice from numerous industry groups in agriculture was to not accept a substandard deal, and his government took that advice.
"The EU was simply not prepared to offer anything remotely like a decent deal for Australia, particularly in agriculture," he said.
On the geographical indicators issue, where European producers sought protected use of terms like prosecco and fetta, Mr Watt revealed Australian negotiators "felt there was a way to come to agreement there that wouldn't have sold out our industries."
"That bit was ok, but the bit we could not get movement from the EU on was the volumes, and also the conditions they wanted to attach to it - so whether it would be grainfed, grassfed, frozen, chilled.
"Those things matter because of the value - carcase weight versus shipped weight."
He said the deal the EU was offering Australia "was nothing like what they agreed to with NZ or Canada when it comes to beef".
Even so, it appears the much-lauded Kiwi deal hasn't delivered for livestock producers.
Chief executive officer of the NZ Meat Industry Association Sirma Karapeeva also spoke on a panel at the conference and was asked about her country's deal with the EU.
"The politically-correct response is that it benefits NZ as a whole," she said.
"But our industry is still experiencing post traumatic stress - it could've been a lot better for the sheep, beef and dairy industries.
"When the previous NZ government stood up and said this is great deal, you have to question it when the two largest export sectors have essentially been excluded from a lucrative trade partner, from a lot of consumers willing to pay a premium for environmentally-friendly products."
She said when the carcase weight equivalent was applied, the volumes "were minimal".
"When you think about what the EU consumes, it's a very small amount at only 0.02 per cent of domestic consumption," Ms Karapeeva said.
"We now don't think it's a likely reality our government will be able to get back to the table to renegotiate any time soon.
"So good on Australia for walking away, for fighting the good fight."
Mr Watt said with the EU going into its election cycle next year, it was unlikely they'd sign a trade deal with Australia beforehand.
"We don't think there will be another chance in this term of office so I think we are talking at least a couple of years," he said.
"And that's a shame because there would have been advantages to both Australia and the EU.
"They've now lost the right to protect fetta and prosecco.
"If you're an Australian prosecco producer go your hardest.
"And they've lost preferential access to our critical minerals, something really important to them."
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