Australia’s trade minister, Dan Tehan, is due in the UK within days to speed up post-Brexit trade talks, according to a report in The Times. But farming groups have warned against the region’s lower food standards, that would be illegal in the UK.
The UK has formally asked to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a group of 11 countries including Canada, New Zealand and Australia that accounts for 13 per cent of world gross domestic product (GDP), and is worth a total of US$10.6 trillion. It’s the third largest free trade area in the world by GDP.
But UK farm leaders have warned that existing group members do not have the same high rules on standards and welfare as those in force in the UK.
The National Farmers Union has submitted a response to the House of Lords inquiry into the UK’s access to the partnership.
The NFU said, “Our farmers should not be undermined by imports produced to standards that would be illegal here.”
The submission says, “There is legislation in these countries that allows practices which are not legal in the UK, such as the use of growth hormones and production of genetically modified crops.
“We remain concerned about the import of products which undermine our approach to protecting and enhancing the environment”
“At the very least, the UK should look to agree side letters between certain members to ensure that the UK standards are upheld.”
It adds that, “UK farmers play a role in managing the environment for over 70 per cent of the UK’s land area, in tackling climate change and meeting the government’s climate targets…
“We remain concerned about the import of products which undermine our approach to protecting and enhancing the environment.”
The submission adds, “The CPTPP has no provisions on animal welfare which is concerning for UK farmers… … The British Veterinary Association expressed concerns that group member Japan failed to meet UK standards in animal welfare, noting that the Animal Protection Index gave Japan an E rating for animal welfare in comparison to a rating of B for the UK.”
The NFU points out that the CPTPP is not a single market – unlike the EU – so doesn’t have uniform regulations or closely entwined economic policy across the member states.
Its focus is on improving market access by removing trade barriers with the aim of removing 95 per cent of all tariffs between members.
The UK either already holds bilateral trade deals or is in live negotiation with nine of the eleven CPTPP members, Brunei and Malaysia being the two outstanding. This raises the questions as to why the UK should engage at the CPTPP level.
The submission says, “We have not yet seen any impact assessment or economic modelling from government which attempts to quantify what the additional benefit to agriculture would be from joining CPTPP.”
It adds that only nine per cent of the UK’s agricultural exports are to the CPTPP members, so there is opportunity to grow exports of high-quality UK produce, especially in the beef, sheep meat and dairy sectors.
“Food safety is a key consumer concern for many CPTPP members, especially the South-East Asian economies. In the UK, we can demonstrate safe, traceable, and audited food-supply chains, meaning Brand Britain should have great potential.
“We are confident that if UK farmers are allowed to compete on fair terms, we can lead the way when it comes to sustainable, high-welfare and climate-friendly farming.”