SYDNEY – Japan’s plan to increase the tariff for imported beef from 38.5 percent to 50 percent will cost Australian farmers A$80 million (6.11 billion yen), the New South Wales Farmers Association said Friday.
“That’s money that won’t be going into farmers’ pockets, or flowing on to regional communities,” said Nick Keatinge, chairman of the association’s cattle committee.
The tariff hike comes at a time when New South Wales farmers are struggling to survive the worst drought since European settlement, he said in a statement.
Japan has indicated it will raise the tariff Aug. 1 under a World Trade Organization rule dating back to 1993. The rule allows an automatic increase if there is a year-on-year increase of more than 17 percent in beef imports on a cumulative quarterly basis.
Beef imports to Japan surged in the April-June quarter, having plummeted in the same period last year following the detection of mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, in Japan in September 2001.
The WTO “snap-back” provisions are designed to curb a flood of imports, Keatinge said.
“Instead, they’re being used to push Australia out of the Japanese market as it recovers from a massive slump in demand caused by BSE scares over recent years,” he said. “This decision will cost beef producers A$17 million in NSW alone, and A$80 million nationally.”
Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who was in Japan this week, told reporters Wednesday that the tariff increase violates the spirit of the WTO safeguard.
“Our concern on this issue is that the spirit of the WTO rule was designed to cover unexpected surges in imports. There hasn’t been an unexpected surge, there has just been a return to normalcy following the downturn induced by BSE,” Howard said.