Scotland’s meat industry calls for more scrutiny on FTAs

Scotland’s meat industry calls for more scrutiny on FTAs

The chief executives of NFU Scotland, Quality Meat Scotland and the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers are among the signatories of a letter to the government, urging more industry consultation over Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).

Scott Walker, chief executive of NFU Scotland, was among the signatories of the letter.

A letter signed by the heads of 14 Scottish farming, food and drink organisations has been sent to the secretary of state for international trade, Liz Truss MP, asking her to progress a number of issues – as a matter of urgency – regarding the current FTA negotiations between the UK and Australia.

Stating that the signatories welcomed an ambitious trade policy, the letter noted: ‘We recognise the UK government’s desire to move quickly to create new opportunities with nations beyond the EU. However, we are concerned that the pace of these negotiations, particularly the Free Trade Agreement with Australia, is too quick and denying the opportunity for appropriate scrutiny and consultation.  

‘Trade deals are complex, and markets are sensitive; the impact of the Brexit deal has demonstrated this.

‘The risks here are enormous for the whole food and drink supply chain and, in the absence of any formal impact assessment to suggest the contrary, we remain hugely concerned at the impact on sensitive sectors of our industry.’

The letter laid out three issues that the signatories believe must be addressed as a matter of urgency:

  • ‘We ask that you establish a more rigorous and meaningful process of engagement and consultation with industry around all Free Trade Agreements, starting immediately in respect of Australia. Currently, we feel extremely disconnected to the process and are concerned that agreements are reached without full knowledge of the implications, both positive and negative, for the agriculture and wider food sector.’ 
  • ‘We urge you to publish your response to the Trade and Agriculture Commission’s report and move quickly to implement the recommendations, particularly in relation to putting it on a statutory footing. The Commission should have a critical role in scrutinising all potential Free Trade Agreements and, in doing so, at a point in the process that is meaningful and prior to FTAs being signed and ratified.  This will help ensure that any agreement upholds and protects our environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards.’
  • ‘We ask that you urgently undertake a rigorous assessment of the cumulative impact of all the Free Trade Agreements that you are seeking to negotiate, with a particular focus on Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. All agreements will have different implications for different sectors across the food and drink industry and it is therefore vital that we are able to understand the full implications rather than looking at individual agreements in isolation.’

‘Irreparable intended and unintended consequences’

After referring to the challenges facing the Scottish food industry posed by Covid-19 and Brexit, the letter continued: ‘In addition, our producers who supply the UK market are already operating in one of the most competitive retail and foodservice markets anywhere in the world, with margins under considerable and constant pressure. 

‘What we must therefore avoid is compounding these challenges further by creating irreparable intended and unintended consequences for our industry as a result of trade deals.’  

Among the signatories were the heads of NFU Scotland, Quality Meat Scotland, Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, Scottish Pig Producers, Scotland Food and Drink, National Sheep Association Scotland, SAOS and Agrico UK.

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