By Boyd Champness

WITH less than a week before US President Bill Clinton decides on trade sanctions against Australian lamb, many producers already fear they have lost the battle to keep their A$100 million (£40m) export market open.

Hundreds of lamb producers rallied outside the US embassy in Canberra last week waving free-trade placards and shouting “Fair go for Aussie lamb” and “You Yanks eat shanks”.

The farmers were protesting against a recommendation by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to introduce quotas and tariffs on imports of Australian and New Zealand lamb.

The ITC found the imports posed a threat to the US lamb industry. President Clinton will decide on any action by 4 June (Friday).

However, early indications from the USA are that, while Australias arguments have been recognised at an official level, the White House appears reluctant to oppose domestic lamb producers in their call to curb imports, reports The Weekly Times.

Sheepmeat Council of Australia executive director Peter Klein told the newspaper it was a tough fight.

“We are winning the intellectual battle, but losing the political war,” he said. “There is significant pressure on President Clinton.”

Australian Trade Minister Tim Fischer met US trade representatives last week and formally warned the USA that Australia would mount World Trade Organisation action if the USA introduced its proposed tariff/quota system on lamb imports.