By Boyd Champness

AUSTRALIAN Trade Minister Tim Fischer will visit the USA in May to counter that countrys move to place restrictions on Australian lamb imports.

US lamb producers claim Australian imports are eroding their share of the domestic market, and are lobbying for a 30-50% tariff-quota on imports.

US producers have already gained the support of the International Trade Commission, and, while there is a widely held belief that a tariff will be introduced, the level is unknown at this stage.

Following the shock of the initial ITC ruling, Australian leaders are not prepared to predict the commissions final ruling, which will be handed down this week after digesting the US producers claims.

“We are going to fight this through all the way,” Mr Fischer told The Weekly Times. “Australia has established a A$108 million (£42m) trade with the US and we have fine-tuned that production to make it attractive to consumers in the US.”

One of the key points Mr Fischer will make in negotiations is the huge benefits the US already has in a bilateral trade surplus of A$13.15 billion (£5.13) with Australia.

He said US lamb producers would not be so vulnerable to the impact of Australian and New Zealand imports if they had improved the quality and marketing of their produce.