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England, Scotland and Wales no longer follow EU rules on product standards, but Northern Ireland does — partly because it shares a land border with EU member the Republic of Ireland.
Meat Industry Association of New Zealand (MIA) strategy, trade policy and advocacy senior manager Esther Guy-Meakin said Northern Ireland was an important part of the supply chain for the NZ-UK imported meat trade.
"For us it is also a point of principle because this is part of the UK’s obligations and the unilateral decision to not allow New Zealand product to enter via Northern Ireland, from our perspective, is not consistent with those obligations," she said.
From the UK perspective, there was a risk meat could be onsold into the EU market and avoid Customs requirements.
Ms Guy-Meakin said Northern Ireland was an important landing port for New Zealand meat but the MIA was "just not getting any traction" with UK authorities.
Much of what lands in Northern Ireland is distributed to the UK.
The MIA said that since Brexit on January 1, New Zealand exporters had been unable to get their product into Northern Ireland because of an administrative decision by the UK not to allow New Zealand to use its World Trade Organisation tariff rate quota access.
Because of the rules and procedures laid down in the Northern Ireland Protocol, third-country product is considered to be "at risk" of entering the EU "through the back door" and accordingly UK authorities have said New Zealand cannot utilise quota access into Northern Ireland in order to manage this risk.
Under the circumstances, exporters were potentially liable up-front for the full and considerable cost of over-quota tariffs, even though this was in direct breach of the UK’s WTO obligations, the MIA said.
UK officials had, since the beginning of February, promised "imminent resolution" only to delay further once the deadline passed, Ms Guy-Meakin said.
New Zealand meat exports to the UK are worth about $500million a year, and the UK is New Zealand’s second-biggest market for sheepmeat, after China.
Trade minister Damien O’Connor said the Government had been active from the outset in pressing the UK Government to resolve the issue quickly.
"This has included active representations by the high commission in London; regular follow-up by officials in London, in Wellington, and in the relevant WTO committees in Geneva.
"I have steadily raised the issue with my UK ministerial counterparts ..." he said.
Mr O’Connor said the issue was an "important focus" when he met in London his International Trade and Agriculture counterparts, as well the UK Cabinet Office’s Lord Frost, who has prime responsibility in the UK for issues concerning the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The UK had assured New Zealand it was working to see the issue resolved as quickly as possible, while noting its complexity.
"Given this, we are not currently considering other options for resolution; but will be continuing to press hard to get this issue fixed in short order."