Spring EU trade deal with Aussies could hit Welsh lamb market warns specialist
A possible spring trade deal between the European Union and Australia could have repercussions for Welsh Lamb exports. This was the warning from one of the UK’s leading authorities on international trade policy warned delegates to Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales’ (HCC) annual conference.
“The EU has stable trade with New Zealand despite a new deal but the one to watch out for is Australia,” David Henig, the director of the UK Trade Policy Project at the think-tank European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE), told industry representatives at the Royal Welsh Showground, Llanelwedd. “They do not have a great amount of access at the moment to the EU for lamb but it is expected that the Australia trade deal could be signed next year.
“That’s potentially a big issue for our farmers and work needs to start with the UK government now because what if the EU says “OK- we’ll give Australia extra lamb quota and what’s the worst that could happen? It will just displace UK lamb.” That’s clearly a worrying factor and a concern for all of us,” said Henig.
His warnings come after former UK Environment Minister George Eustice admitted to MPs that, overall, the UKs southern hemisphere trade dealings “gave away far too much for far too little in return”, including giving Australia or New Zealand full access to the UK market to sell beef and sheep, while Australia still bans the import of British beef.
Henig nevertheless advised that Welsh Lamb can still play a key role in the UK’s future export strategy- but the brand will need suitable Government support and appropriate resources to deliver.
“Wales has become a successful exporter of lamb but do we have sufficient resources in place, the government support needed and the working together with industry intensively to maintain and grow? I’m not sure we do.”
There was now an opportunity to say that Welsh Lamb was part of the answer but “we must not do that “British thing” of saying let’s provide a little bit of support and hope that we get the same result. I’m afraid it doesn’t work in trade; I’ve seen it fail too often. We need to go all in on this and do it soon. We need to make sure that our entire government apparatus is set up for export.”
He warned the alternative could be the “undermining” of domestic production. “We’ve seen in other countries that certain industries have been allowed to just dwindle away because governments have not been interested in supporting them.”
Henig said he expected a stabilising of relations with Europe, if not during the time of this current UK government, then maybe during a successor government- and on key issues like access to labour, immigration policy and veterinary agreement.
“The world of trade is complex and difficult and getting more complex and more difficult and the UK debate has been a bit simplistic; we need to move into a more sophisticated place and Welsh Lamb is going to be at the heart of that movement,” he said.
He predicted that for the first time since 1945, trade was not going to be easier with rules becoming “more fragmented and nationalistic.”
Henig said the US has a lot of rules, as do Europe, which imports have to meet. “That’s where the notion of quality and net zero credentials will be important in driving exports.”
He said we were entering recession but that “economists are hoping that it won’t be a long and deep recession- and let’s all hope that’s the case. And I do think you have a good basis for building Welsh Lamb exports further.
“But don’t be fooled: it’s a pretty tough world out there and it’s getting harder.”