Issue 4: Market access
The Government has a critical role in removing or lowering technical barriers to trade and reducing tariffs through free trade agreements, improving bilateral trade relations with key export markets, and being active in the World Trade Organization to reform global agriculture trade rules and to reduce unfair subsidies provided to producers in other countries.
All countries have the right to implement systems and standards that protect their human, animal and plant health and food safety. However, countries are required to minimise trade distortions and must not breach international trade obligations. Some standards, such as excessive quarantine and food safety requirements, can also constitute unnecessary barriers to trade.
Technical requirements can make it difficult for producers to get their products ready for export. When requirements are overly complicated or standards are unnecessarily high, they can affect or even stop, agricultural trade. Technical negotiations between governments are often needed to reduce these barriers and to open or maintain access for specific commodities.
The costs and administration of multiple audits can be a key barrier to entry to markets. While there are premiums to justify the effort, much of that premium margin can be eroded through additional compliance.
WTO Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement: forms of market access
Countries agree on a common international standard, usually under the standard setting framework of the International Standardization Organization. WTO Members are encouraged to use existing international standards for their national regulations, or for parts of them, unless “their use would be ineffective or inappropriate” to fulfil a given policy objective (Article 2.4).
Given how long and difficult it is to obtain harmonisation, countries accept that technical regulations different from their own fulfil the same policy objectives, even if through different means (Article 2.7).
Countries agree to accept the results of one another's conformity assessment procedures, although these procedures might be different (Article 6.3)
Countries apply their own assessment of conformity with their technical requirements “in a manner no less favourable then that accorded to like products of national origin and to like products originating in any other country” (Article 5.1.1)
From 2012, the European Union and United States implemented an organic equivalence arrangement, whereby their respective countries’ certified organic products can be represented as such across the Atlantic. Among its aims are the reduced administrative burdens and new possibilities for trade on both sides. Previously, operations that wanted to trade products on both sides of the Atlantic had to obtain separate certifications to both standards, which meant a second set of fees, inspections, and paperwork. The European Union has also recognised eleven other third countries (including Australia) as having equivalent organic production rules and control systems.
Australian certifiers also have some reciprocal arrangements in place with certifiers in other countries, whereby the domestic certifier can offer certification to organic standards in the export country—for example, see Australian Certified Organic.
Beyond market access, it is industry’s responsibility to convert opportunities into business outcomes—including by marketing its own products. Industry branding has the potential to build on the strong reputation among overseas buyers of Australian agricultural commodities, and consumers of products such as Australian wine, red meat and dairy products. This would help link perceptions of Australian food to the unique strengths of Australia’s agricultural production and biosecurity systems, and clean environment.
The ability to increase agricultural exports depends on Australia’s favourable animal and plant health status, the integrity of our food safety systems and our ability to meet importing country requirements and certify products for export. Modernising existing traceability systems could enable quicker trace-back to the point of origin to identify the source of disease, residue, contamination or any other problem that becomes apparent; and therefore increase confidence in Australia’s organic exports.
- Is the Government doing enough to reduce trade barriers and improve market access for Australian organic exports? What role could a peak body play?
- Do current arrangements for standards facilitate efficient exports? Do they provide opportunities for overseas markets to exclude Australian organic exports?
- Do current arrangements for standards provide confidence for overseas consumers and businesses?
- Does the current system of standards (inspections, audits, certification and accreditation) meet the needs of producers, processors, operators and exporters? If not what needs to be improved?
- Does the industry have a brand that facilitates market access?
- What role can technology play in promoting Australian organic exports and improving market access?