NFU President Minette Batters has sounded a note of caution over a newly-signed Free Trade deal between the UK and Australia.
It’s the first deal to be struck under our new independent trade policy, and as such provided a chance to set the standard for future deals which incentivise trade in food produced to higher environmental and animal welfare standards, she said.
“However, it is clear from this report that the UK government has missed the opportunity to reach a genuinely innovative and world-class FTA with Australia.
“While it is reassuring that this deal will not result in a change in production standards here – for instance, imports of hormone-reared beef will still be banned – the report confirms that this FTA simply opens up UK agricultural markets for Australian produce, whether or not produced to the same standards that are legally required of UK farmers.
“This deal will pave the way for others to follow and I’m increasingly concerned about the cumulative impact of the government’s FTA programme, especially as its own impact assessments anticipate a negative economic impact on UK farmers.
“It’s vital that government provides a clear programme of policies and investment to help UK farming get ‘match ready’ for this new, tougher trading environment. We also need to see government working with farmers to develop a set of core environmental and animal welfare standards which it can seek to safeguard through forthcoming FTAs, as well as in its general import policy under its current WTO commitments.
“I would like to thank the Trade and Agriculture Commission for producing such a detailed report which will no doubt be useful to Parliamentary select committees as they themselves scrutinise this FTA.”
MEANWHILE, William Bain, Head of Trade Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “It is good news to hear that the free trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand will finally come into force at the end of the month.
“These deals will lower tariffs, simplify customs procedures, allow for greater freedom of movement for labour and provide stronger market access for the UK’s world-leading services sector – but the success of any free trade agreement comes down to whether businesses use it, so it’s vital the Government shouts from the rooftops about these new opportunities.
“A recent BCC survey also found almost a quarter of firms (23%) said finding a business partner or distributor overseas would encourage them to either start exporting or export more.
“We have strong Chambers in both Australia and New Zealand and will be working with them to get the most out of these trade deals for all our economies.”