Beef concerns addressed as leaders works toward urgent fix
CENTRAL Queensland politicians have discussed the implications of China's decision to suspend meat imports from four Australian abattoirs and the growing trade tensions between the nations.
Members of the LNP, Labor and One Nation parties are all concerned about the implications of China's decision to suspend trade for 30-days with the Kilcoy plant, Beef City in Toowoomba, the Dinmore meatworks in Brisbane and the Northern Co-operative Meat Company at Casino in NSW.
Employing thousands of Australian workers, these four businesses represent 35 per cent of Australia's total beef exports but thankfully the ban hadn't yet extended to include CQ beef processors.
In 2019, Capricornia MP Michelle Landry said Australia exported 328 million tonnes of beef and $2.7 billion exports to China, of which Queensland exported 164 million tonnes totalling $1.37 billion.
She said her government was notified late Monday evening trade had been suspended citing labelling and health certificate requirements.
"There are concerns that the suspensions appear to be based on highly technical issues, which in some cases date back more than a year," Ms Landry said.
"Trade Minister Simon Birmingham and Agricultural Minister David Littleproud have been speaking with industry leaders, colleagues and departments overnight to formulate a comprehensive response.
"We will work with industry and authorities in both Australia and China to seek to find a solution that allows these businesses to resume their normal operations as soon as possible."
She said it was in the best interests of Australian farmers and exporters for us to treat these issues on their merits and as completely unconnected to calls for an investigation into China's handling of the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Chinese officials have also reflected this sentiment, both publicly and privately, and are adamant that these are unconnected," she said.
Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd said the Chinese Government provided the trade suspension documents without any prior notifications.
He was concerned the trading suspension could have an adverse effect on CQ's cattle market if it wasn't lifted within 30 days.
"I think producers have due course to be worried. I can see a price in Gracemere coming down if this suspension continues for an extended period of time," Mr O'Dowd said.
"I've spoken to four big beef producers in CQ in the past few days. Like everyone else they are concerned and realise that it's a very delicate relationship between Australia and China with trade.
"This doesn't mean we need to bow down to trade partners but be aware that the negotiations should be conducted behind closed doors with either our trade minister or our Prime Minister."
While China's decision to suspend beef imports was incredibly disappointing, Queensland Senator Matt Canavan said it wasn't unprecedented and we should just "relax a little".
"We've had meatworks delisted for similar reasons, 10 were (delisted) only a few years ago," he said.
"So I don't think we should overreact either. Australian Beef is in a very strong position globally given its quality, given our proximity to markets and there's a diverse range of markets available now.
"While these four large exporting abattoirs have been delisted, there's another 40 odd meat works in Australia that continue to have accreditation to export to China so there may be some reshuffling of the market during this period."
He said it wouldn't make sense for China to delist a Chinese-owned meat processor if it was due to a foreign policy dispute with Australia.
Australia has benefited from strong market access thanks to free trade agreements signed with Japan, Korea and South East Asia and Senator Canavan believed we should be looking to diversify our trade relationships beyond China.
Queensland Government calls for speedy resolution
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk made it clear the state's beef trade was incredibly important.
"China is an incredibly important trading partner to Queensland. Most our trade goes to China," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"What trade means is jobs for Queenslanders and in relation to our beef industry, it's over 18,000 jobs.
"What I'm really concerned about is this potential for a trade war to erupt and to damage Queensland's exports, to damage Queensland's reputation and to damage Queensland's jobs and livelihoods.
She said a full-blown trade war like this could mean more than 3200 workers impacted.
"This is really serious. I really would like this issue resolved as quickly as possible," she said.
"I would urge the Federal Government to please sort these issues out as quickly as possible.
"I'll be writing to the Trade Minister today, and to the Prime Minister. Minister Furner has already written to his counterpart. Our beef industry is incredibly important and I say to everyone involved in that industry - we will stand by your side to ensure that we don't see any negative impacts of our beef in Queensland."
Minister for Agriculture Mark Furner said both he and the Premier in her position as Trade Minister, had built a healthy and respectful relationship with China and its counterparts over a number of years.
"It was only round about this time last year I was in Hong Kong and Chongqing with a trade delegation delivering the beautiful beef that Queensland has and is able to provide.
"So up in that territory of Chongqing there is an insatiable appetite for our beef so that's why this issue is so important to Queensland.
Mr Furner wrote to his Federal counterpart, Agricultural Minister Littleproud on Tuesday "expressing some information about where this matter is heading".
"We don't need another beef with China over this issue. So I call on the Federal Government to resolve this as soon as possible because it is such an important trade matter for Queensland and for our Queensland farmer's as well," he said.
One Nation warns China against damaging their brand
Mirani MP Stephen Andrew thinks China's "bully boy" trade tactics after Australia called for a independent inquiry into COVID-19, could backfire by making the "made in China" label toxic for average Aussies.
Mr Andrew said China was emboldened by its superior market position but that position was being put at risk.
"China thinks we need them more than they need us and, when you look at the trade figures, you can forgive them for thinking that," Mr Andrew said.
"But the Chinese people need food more than they need the Communist Party and there will be a lot of pressure to import food from a world that is increasingly suspicious of China's motives and market power.
"Our farmers, growing beef, barley and many other products, produce some of the highest quality food in the world and that is an attractive product for an increasingly middle class Chinese population."
He said bullying Australia into backing off on an inquiry would be incredibly damaging to the Made-in-China brand among ordinary Australians.
"Australia is a free and democratic country and our government doesn't need to resort to such tactics (although we may). The market will put its own ban on Chinese imports - one family at a time," he said.
"One of the big lessons coming from COVID-19 is about the reliance on China and the resurgent desire to buy Australian Made and to encourage manufacturing back to Australia is a result of that lesson."
Mr Andrew said an escalating trade war with China would not be confined to Australia as other countries around the world also were pushing for an independent inquiry into COVID-19.
"China can't afford to block trade with everyone or risk having the world gradually close its doors to Chinese exports," he said.
"But that is exactly what will happen if they continue to ride roughshod over their trading partners.
"There has already been a worldwide shift in mood about China, including its market power and its motives, and there are many companies around the world looking for alternatives to manufacturing in the Communist country."