As Brexit’s 31 October D-Day looms, the Australian government is making moves to ensure its industries will be safe from any changes that could follow a UK departure from the European Union.
But while Trade Minister Simon Birmingham vowed to drive ‘a hard bargain’ with the EU, it seems the EU is driving a hard bargain with Aussie food and drink brands.
The EU is asking for protections for food and drink brands in its region, under a proposed free trade deal with Australia.
Which brands are first on the chopping block? Feta and scotch.
Aussie feta-makers will need to re-brand to ‘Australian feta’, and local spirit distillers will need to ditch the term ‘Scotch Whiskey’.
Packaging might also need to be changed for some Australian products like mozzarella cheese, so it doesn’t look too similar to European brands.
But Birmingham has said the deal isn’t set in stone.
“Ultimately, we will only do this deal if overall it is in Australia’s interests to do so,” he told The Australian.
“We want to hear directly from Australian farmers and businesses so that we can fully represent them in our continuing negotiations with the EU.”
Why does Australia need to strike a trade deal with the EU?
Up until Brexit, the UK was a major aid in facilitating Australia’s relationship with the EU, which means now, Australia still needs to focus on building a relationship with the EU.
Earlier this year, Birmingham told ABC Television that many Aussie agricultural producers, particularly in meat categories, face small quotas and tight restrictions from the EU.
"We want to bust these open," Birmingham said.
"We will consult with industry, we will hear their arguments and we certainly won't be trading anything away until we see the market access terms that the EU is offering us.”
But it’s full-steam ahead with the UK, as the Trade Minister announced Australia and the UK had signed an agreement to allow trade agreements already in place between the countries in regards to wine and other exports to apply.
Birmingham also said the government was committed to securing a free trade agreement with the UK ‘as soon as they are in a position to do so’.
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