IMPORT TARIFFS on beef should not be swept away until the standard of foreign products can be assured, Meat and Livestock Commission has said.

The World Trade Organisation talks should consider not just trade liberalisation, but the standards demanded by consumers, director general Kevin Roberts told the MLC‘s annual Outlook conference.

“Trade liberalisation is not simply about transferring trading advantage to the world‘s lowest cost suppliers,” he said.

“We should not simply allow food to be exported to us regardless of the environmental, animal welfare and social conditions in which it is produced.

“Free trade should also mean fair trade. Imported beef should meet our society‘s aspirations.

“We must not allow tariffs to be swept away until we have firm agreement on the proper standards of trade for our market.”

Talks on opening up the world trade in agricultural products are still going through highly technical discussions at the WTO.

These are due to last until the summer, when it is hoped that another ministerial meeting will convert talks into progress, after the spectacular failure to agree 17 months ago in Cancun, Mexico.