Australian and international farm policy news

Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations speed up

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed multinational trade agreement involving 12 countries throughout the Asia Pacific region and collectively represents 40% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP). The pact is aimed at deepening economic ties between the nations and focuses on facilitating trade by tackling issues like intellectual property, environment and labour. One of the more contentious negotiations includes reducing protection in agriculture. More generally, there is concern that the proliferation of free trade agreements (FTAs) may result in overlapping trade rules, which may raise transaction costs for businesses and result in the fragmentation of trade. Australia has also been pushing for negotiations to re-open with the United States (US) regarding market access for sugar, which was left out of the Australia-US FTA, however this has yielded disappointing attention so far. The US Senate recently approved the trade promotion authority to speed up negotiations for the TPP.

Drought support boosted for western United States

The Obama Administration is boosting support for western US states still coping with the record drought, promising nearly $150 million in aid over two years. Most of this will support tree-thinning, watershed restoration, streambed improvements, and other work. An additional $13.6 million will aid farmers and $6 million will provide grants to rural communities. This new support follows the US Government’s 12th of July delivery of more than $110 million in grants and other forms of assistance for farmworkers and rural communities. It is estimated that 35% of the western US states are facing ‘severe’ drought, California being the worst hit with almost half the state in ‘exceptional’ drought.

ABARES warns of strengthening El Niño

Good autumn rains across much of the eastern states in recent weeks may have improved the seasonal outlook despite continuing talks of a developing El Niño. Many producers are experiencing a wetter than usual season, but forecasters warn the El Niño will in time reduce rainfall and is likely to bring dry spring conditions to central NSW. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) warned the El Niño weather pattern was beginning to strengthen and its impact on winter crops would be mixed.

Russia extends ban on Western food imports

The Russian Government extended retaliatory bans by one year against Western food imports, including those from Australia. The decision followed European Union (EU) ministers approving a six-month extension of sanctions that were ‘introduced in response to Russia’s destabilising role in eastern Ukraine.’ Currently, the ban includes beef, pork, fish, cheese, milk and dairy products from the EU, US, Canada, Norway and Australia. However Russia’s agriculture minister, Alexander Tkachev, suggested the ban may expand to include confectionary, flowers and canned fish.

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