Australia, USA, the FTA & Mad Cow Disease
AUSTRALIA: Who’s there?
AMERICA: AMERICA. We want to sell some beef.
AUSTRALIA: But we’re Australia. We don’t have BSE – Mad Cow disease -- and we don’t buy beef from Mad Cow-affected countries.
AMERICA: But you signed the Australia - US FTA.
AMERICA: Well there’s a side-letter in the FTA that commits you to following OIE guidelines on trade with Mad Cow-affected countries. They say it’s OK to import our beef.
AUSTRALIA: But they’re only guidelines – not law. You reject OIE guidelines when they don’t suit you. America doesn’t import beef from Brazil even though the OIE says it’s OK.
AMERICA: Yes, but you signed the FTA. It’s a legally binding document. It commits you to following OIE guidelines. It also says you’ll respect American quarantine rules and regulations. So you have to import our beef.
AUSTRALIA: But why should we respect your Mad Cow quarantine standards? Your standards are so unsound!
AMERICA: Go easy! We’ve only had two reported cases of Mad Cow in America It’s hardly an epidemic.
AUSTRALIA: Well you’ve only found two cases of Mad Cow – but your testing regime is seriously flawed. You only test 0.1% of slaughtered cattle for Mad Cow. Europe tests 25%, France 50% and Japan 100% of all eligible cattle destined for human consumption. If you only test 0.1%, how do we know Mad Cow isn’t more widespread than you claim?
AMERICA: Well we do good science. We only test those most likely to have Mad Cow – dead and downer cattle – cattle too sick to walk – and some cattle over 30 months. That’s what makes our testing regime so sound.
AUSTRALIA: Your argument is as flawed as your testing regime! Your testing regime is voluntary and takes place at the slaughter house. American farmers are naturally scared that one of their downer cattle might be diagnosed with Mad Cow because it would mean having to destroy their entire herd. So instead of taking their downers to slaughter for testing, US farmers have an incentive to shoot shovel and shut up.
AMERICA: Well we still sample test cattle older than 30 months.
AUSTRALIA: But again your approach is not grounded in the most recent science. It says cattle as young as 22 months can carry Mad Cow. So you may still be feeding cattle with Mad Cow to humans.
AMERICA: Well your agricultural minister accepts our view and our science that says you have far less to fear from Mad Cow than you used to. He’s your Minister. Why don’t you have faith in him?
AUSTRALIA: Faith is what we have in our beef industry -- because of our own rigorous standards. And the science we trust is not sponsored by the US government or its industry. It’s true we have less to fear from Mad Cow in Australia – but only while we continue to ban imports from Mad Cow countries. But why does America care about access to our small beef market anyway? Why are you targeting us?
AMERICA: Well to be honest, it’s not really about you. It’s about Japan and Korea. They’re big markets, but like you they ban our beef. If Australia accepts our testing system, it will set a precedent – a clean green country lowering its standards to accept beef from a Mad Cow-infected country. If you import from us, they will have to do likewise.
AUSTRALIA: So you want to help erode our unique clean and green status and steal our international market share?
Read on at Perspective
School of Economics and Political Science
University of Sydney
School of Politics and International Relations
University of New South Wales
How to Kill a Country: Australia's Devastating Trade Deal With the United States
Author: Linda Weiss, Elizabeth Thurbon and John Mathews
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Tagged: bse, mad+cow+disease, usa, fta, australia, trade, neo-colonialism