The TAC (Trade and Agriculture Commission) has published its report into the UK-Australia FTA (Free Trade Agreement).
The independent report contains advice to the Secretary of State for International Trade on measures in the FTA. The NFU is part of the TAC and has contributed to this report.
The trade deal was the first one to be struck from scratch after Brexit. In December 2021, the NFU responded to the deal by saying that it did little for farmers.
There was hope that this first deal would lead the way in new innovative trade deals, but the TAC's report highlights that it is a missed opportunity.
A chance to set the standard
In response to the report, NFU President Minette Batters said: "As the first deal to be struck under our new independent trade policy, this FTA provided a chance to set the standard for future deals which incentivise trade in food produced to higher environmental and animal welfare standards."
"The report confirms that this FTA simply opens up UK agricultural markets for Australian produce, whether or not produced to the same standards that are legally required of UK farmers."
NFU President Minette Batters
No change in production standards here
"However, it is clear from this report that the UK government has missed the opportunity to reach a genuinely innovative and world-class FTA with Australia," Mrs Batters continued.
"While it is reassuring that this deal will not result in a change in production standards here – for instance, imports of hormone-reared beef will still be banned – the report confirms that this FTA simply opens up UK agricultural markets for Australian produce, whether or not produced to the same standards that are legally required of UK farmers."
Mrs Batters went on to say: "This deal will pave the way for others to follow and I’m increasingly concerned about the cumulative impact of the government’s FTA programme, especially as its own impact assessments anticipate a negative economic impact on UK farmers.
"It’s vital that government provides a clear programme of policies and investment to help UK farming get ‘match ready’ for this new, tougher trading environment."
Government needs to work with farmers
"We also need to see government working with farmers to develop a set of core environmental and animal welfare standards which it can seek to safeguard through forthcoming FTAs, as well as in its general import policy under its current WTO commitments," Mrs Batters said.
"I would like to thank the Trade and Agriculture Commission for producing such a detailed report which will no doubt be useful to parliamentary select committees as they themselves scrutinise this FTA."
Scrutinising trade deals
The NFU worked hard to get the TAC set up to scrutinise trade deals to help ensure they do not undermine UK farmers by allowing food imports which fail to meet our own high animal welfare and environmental standards.
We will continue to push for better for our farmers and growers as we navigate this new period of trade deals.