Trade considerations “vital” to CoOL labelling proposal
The Australian Trade Minister the Hon. Andrew Robb has a “fundamental role to play”, along with the Ministers for Industry, Agriculture and Small Business in the Ministerial Taskforce established for reforming Country of Origin labelling, according to the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC).
Australian Food News reported earlier this week that the Australian Government had set up a working group of Ministers representing sectors including industry, agriculture, small business, health and trade to develop the Government’s position on improvements that would not “impose excessive costs on industry”.
International trade obligations ‘need to be considered’
AFGC CEO Mr Gary Dawson said that Trade Minister Mr Robb’s input was “essential” in order to ensure that changes to labelling rules did not result in breaching Australia’s existing international trade obligations, and to ensure that Australia’s agri-food exports are not jeopardised.
“Much has been made of the opportunities for Australian agri-food exporters which will benefit Australia’s largest manufacturing sector in food and grocery,” Mr Dawson said.
“This sector will implement these Country of Origin reforms, which should assist the positive promotion of Aussie food in export markets,” Mr Dawson said. “There must also be equivalent treatment for the labelling of food imports to ensure an across the board improvement in consumer information,” he said.
Consultative process a “real opportunity”
Mr Dawson said the Government’s consultative approach provided “real opportunity to drive sound Country of Origin reform that will provide clarity for consumers and certainty for producers”.
“To maximise Australia’s comparative advantage in agri-food to meet the ‘dining boom’ it stands to reason that trade obligations and implications need to be considered in framing Australian food policy,” Mr Dawson said. “In a highly competitive export market, Australia producers and suppliers cannot afford retaliatory action as a result of outcomes which do not account for our international obligations,” he said.