Government asked to reconsider trade agreements

Government asked to reconsider trade agreements

Following what is described as a “disappointing” response to the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee report on the impact of the Australian free trade agreement (FTA) on the UK food and agriculture sector, the Committee has asked government to re-consider its trade strategy.

Outlining its requests in a letter, the EFRA Committee wrote to the new secretaries of state for the Departments for International Trade, Kemi Badenoch MP, and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Ranil Jayawardena MP.

Within the letter, chair of the EFRA Committee Sir Robert Goodwill MP said that the previous government response had been to “restate that the Australia FTA would not lower the standards that UK producers have to meet.”

Goodwill said: “The previous government had not addressed the report’s central recommendation, that the government commit to core standards on issues such as food safety and animal welfare for produce entering the UK.”

He added that the previous government’s response “did not engage with the central concern of UK farmers and producers about food and drink entering the UK, which were made to lower standards and therefore disadvantage UK producers.”

“This was particularly concerning because a similar approach to future trade agreements with larger food exporting countries – such as Brazil and the USA – could have a much greater impact on the UK than the Australia FTA,” Goodwill continued.

Collaboration required

Goodwill asked the Secretaries of State to review and update the government’s response to the EFRA Committee report, “in order to reassure UK farmers and food producers that their concerns are being listened to.”

Specifically, Sir Robert asked the government to:

  • Commit as part of the Agriculture, Food and Drink Exports Council trade strategy to increase UK food and drinks exports by at least £278 million, which is the expected loss to the sector from the Australian FTA;
  • Expand the government’s agri-food Trade Advisory Group to provide it with more expertise on animal welfare, health and the environment; and
  • Provide additional resources to the Trade and Agriculture Commission to produce advice on trade agreements.

Goodwill “encouraged the two Secretaries of State to work closely together on future trade deals, with DEFRA alerting DIT at an early stage of differences in regulatory or farming practices that could be harmful to the UK’s competitiveness.”

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