New Zealand red meat sector hopes EU-NZ FTA will boost links and co-operation

The New Zealand-European Union Free Trade Agreement (FTA) offers limited benefits to the red meat sector but will smooth the flow of trade and boost co-operation between the two markets.

“The EU is among the New Zealand red meat sector’s most important markets, consistently ranking number three for the past three years,” says Sirma Karapeeva, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

“In the 2023 calendar year, the sector exported $1.3 billion of product to the EU, making up 12 per cent of the sector’s total exports.

“However, we’ve made no secret of the fact that the outcomes of the FTA fall far short of the red meat sector’s expectations of a meaningful and ambitious agreement that reflects the close relationship New Zealand has with the EU.

“The access granted for beef, for example, is not commercially meaningful and does not allow for growth in the market. The new beef quota accounts for less than two per cent of New Zealand’s annual beef exports and represents less than 0.2 percent of annual EU beef consumption.

“We now look to the implementation of the FTA and the opportunities that it presents to smooth the flow of trade between New Zealand and the EU, as well as providing a forum for co-operation on areas of mutual interest – such as improving sustainability while ensuring that trade is not unduly impacted.”

The red meat sector will look to future upgrades of the FTA to resolve the shortfalls, says Ms Karapeeva.

“We will be seeking an early review of the FTA as well as discussions of issues at regular intervals.”

A significant area of focus for the red meat sector in these discussions will be the removal of non-tariff barriers, which effectively act as unnecessary pre-border and post-border red tape that impedes the flow of goods and services between markets.

Sam McIvor, chief executive of Beef + Lamb New Zealand says the EUDR (EU Deforestation Regulation) is a good example of a non-tariff barrier to trade that the red meat sector will be looking to the FTA framework to address.

“This barrier must be removed – not only has this regulation been criticised globally by exporters into the EU, domestic importers don’t support it and it will be a barrier to EU farmers looking to export.

“The EUDR will not achieve the goal of stopping global deforestation and a more effective approach would be to work together on the issue rather than imposing a unilateral measure that will disrupt global supply chains and impose an unnecessary and significant compliance burden on producers like New Zealand whose farming systems are not linked to deforestation.”

Mr McIvor says while the FTA is a milestone in the historic and mature relationship between New Zealand and the EU, the agreement does not offer the significant boost the red meat sector was seeking.

“Unfortunately, EU consumers will now be faced with products that may not meet the high-quality food safety, animal welfare, and environmental standards of our farmers and exporters, which will potentially undermine the EU’s own sustainable sourcing objectives.

“Trade is fundamental to the future of the sector and the wider New Zealand economy. The sector’s exports make an important contribution to New Zealand overall and more specifically New Zealand’s regional economies by creating jobs, improving livelihoods, and encouraging innovation. “We rely on fair access to as many markets as possible, underpinned by strong longstanding commercial relationships, to respond to changing market dynamics, consumer demand, and to maximise the value of each animal.”