Thursday, August 18, 2022

Dairy sours on ‘false’ defence of EU deal

DCANZ claims O’Connor ignored Brexit cuts, using out of date figures to talk up a deal that won’t come close to the vaunted $600m a year.
DCANZ executive director Kimberly Crewther says it was disappointing to see Trade Minister Damien O’Connor repeat the obvious falsehoods peddled by EU farming lobbyists.

Dairy exporters are keeping up their barrage of criticism against what they say is the Government’s failure to own up to poor dairy market access from the recent trade deal with the European Union.

The Dairy Companies Association has already rubbished the Government’s claims of $600 million in annual gains for the industry from last month’s agreement, saying gains won’t even come close to that figure.

It also accused Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of gifting an advantage to EU negotiators by letting slip a weakening in New Zealand’s negotiating bottom lines for meat and dairy in the final few weeks of the talks.

Now DCANZ has unleashed its ire on Trade Minister Damien O’Connor for what it says is his repetition of false claims by European farming unions about NZ’s dairy market access.

Writing in a recent Farmers Weekly Pulpit column, O’Connor quoted EU farming union Copa and Cogeca, which said NZ dairy exporters already had access to quotas for 75,000 tonnes of annual butter exports to the EU and 11,000t for cheese.

The free trade agreement would add 25,000t of butter and 15,000t of cheese to those totals.

“They have said the deal has painful compromises for [EU] farmers,” O’Connor wrote.

Read: Devil in the details of EU deal

However, DCANZ chair Malcolm Bailey said the pre-FTA quotas quoted by Copa and Cogeca and referenced by O’Connor were dated, and overstated the actual access NZ exporters had to the European dairy market before the FTA .  

The pre-FTA quotas, he said, were 47,000t of butter and 6000t of cheese.

Both quotas had been slashed as a result of Britain’s exit from the EU two years ago, and have not been restored by the EU despite objections by NZ to the World Trade Organisation.

DCANZ executive director Kimberly Crewther said it was disappointing to see O’Connor repeating such obvious falsehoods from European agricultural protectionists.

“The EU industry is using incorrect numbers, possibly because it is politically convenient to do so,” she said.

“They are as aware of the post-Brexit cuts to quota volumes as we are.”

DCANZ’s Bailey said O’Connor repeating Copa and Cogeca’s false figures made the FTA with the EU look better than it actually was.

“There certainly seems to have been an element of spin when explaining the outcome of the deal to the wider public of NZ and that is disappointing.

“Dealing in fact is far better than going as far as what appears to be spinning the numbers to make them look more than what they are.”

Also read: Walking away from EU deal not worth the risk

In a short statement O’Connor responded by saying the article’s purpose was to point out how farming groups in the EU viewed the deal.

“There are different views as to the impacts of the trade deal,” O’Connor said.

“My view is we focus on these new opportunities.

“The trade deal offers improved conditions to a market that’s effectively been blocked for our dairy exporters in particular.”

Bailey said he did not accept O’Connor’s defence for publishing the Copa and Cogeca figures.

“I don’t buy into that argument at all. The deal is a lousy deal absolutely for dairy.

“The highly protectionist attitude of a few people in Europe doesn’t cover up what is a lousy deal.”

DCANZ has rubbished the Government’s claims the new quota will lead to an eventual $600m annual gain for the NZ dairy industry.

It says high in-quota tariffs mean they will not be viable for exporters to use most of the time.

“The new butter quota doesn’t even get us back to what we had 20 years ago when the EU butter market was 20% smaller,” Crewther said.

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