K consumers are overwhelmingly in favour of protecting current food standards in future trade deals, according to a new Which? report.
Studying whether the UK’s trade deals reflect consumer priorities, it found 91 per cent in favour of all food imports meeting UK standards.
87 per cent said the same regarding animal welfare, and 84 per cent seek the same levels of environmental protection.
3,200 UK consumers were polled in the study.
The UK government has said it will not compromise on standards, but the report says it’s too early to see “the extent to which this will be delivered through ongoing trade talks.”
“TAC does not have consumer interest expertise”
One survey respondent had said, “It’s all very well in theory, but I am sceptical about the practicalities of it. We are already seeing a backtrack on climate and green credentials with the Australian deal.”
The report says that the new Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) appointed to assess the environmental and welfare implications of trade deals, does not have consumer interest expertise.
“The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) need to play a more central role in ensuring that consumer interests are taken into account and upheld in relation to food standards. And the Trade and Agriculture Commission, given its important role assessing trade deals against UK standards, must have stronger consumer interest representation.”
The report points to National Food Strategy proposals that set out core environmental and animal welfare standards which should underpin its approach to trade negotiations,.
The report adds that concern for protecting environmental protection had risen, prompted by extreme weather events.
“The environmental impact of trade deals is a moral issue”
The trade deal with Japan includes co-operation on environmental protection and tackling climate change.
Environmental impact was viewed as a moral responsibility, especially when trading with partners a significant distance away from the UK such as Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
In its net zero strategy published ahead of COP26, the UK government said “Where there is evidence that liberalisation could lead to significant carbon leakage, the case for maintaining tariffs or pursuing conditional market access, through clauses on standards or eco/carbon intensity, should be carefully considered.”
The report says the government must conduct a full environmental impact assessment to understand the implications of any trade deals on its net zero commitments, as well as other environmental impacts before deals are finalised.