Trade bodies in Scotland express concern over Australian trade deal

Scotland’s main meals producers have warned Liz Truss the proposed Australian trade deal presents “enormous” dangers to their industries and expressed concern it is going to be a template for agreements with different international locations.

In an open letter that has been signed by 14 companies and trade bodies, the group accused the UK Government of avoiding scrutiny and session with the sector, which is value greater than £6 billion a year in Scotland. 

Ms Truss, the International Trade Secretary, has insisted British farmers don’t have anything to concern and an “awful lot to gain” from a free trade deal with Australia, whereas suggesting a 5 per cent whisky tariff could also be scrapped in the primary settlement drawn up from scratch because the UK left the EU.

But critics of the proposed settlement concern the zero tariffs and zero quotas deal that the federal government in Canberra is demanding would see British farmers and companies undercut by Australian rivals, with considerations that low-cost imports of beef and lamb might see demand for home-grown produce dwindle. 

Ian Blackford MP, the SNP’s Westminster chief, has warned Scotland’s farmers and crofters could be disproportionately affected, with the nation’s beef, dairy, sheep and grain sectors significantly in danger.

The letter, with signatories together with the chief executives of the National Farmers’ Union Scotland, the Scottish Seafood Association, and Scotland Food & Drink, stated that whereas they “recognise the UK Government’s desire to move quickly to create new opportunities with nations beyond the EU”, they’re involved the negotiations are “too quick and denying the opportunity for appropriate scrutiny and consultation”.

It added: “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.”

Elaborating on the concerns brought on by the potential trade deal, Scotland Food & Drink chief government James Withers warned the UK’s worldwide popularity might be broken if a deal is rushed by.

“We need a UK trade policy that not only protects the high animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards here, but acts as a force for their development globally,” he stated. “The importance of the UK-Australian deal goes beyond the relative value to both nations; it could set the framework for all future trade deals.” He added the “price of failure is too high”.

The SNP stated the intervention should function an “urgent wake-up call” for the UK Government and demanded it “push the brakes on its damaging trade deal plans”. 

Meanwhile, Scottish Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael added: “Buyer’s regret already seems to be settling in with ministers across the rushed and heedless deal they made with the EU.

“You might think they would have learned to slow things down for negotiations with Australia and others so that they do not make the same mistake twice. Based on today’s letter, the lesson appears to have passed them by.”

A spokesperson for the Department of International Trade stated: “We search a variety of views earlier than, throughout and after negotiations to make sure all voices are heard, and seek the advice of extensively throughout the nation earlier than we launch talks, together with in depth engagement with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“We will solely signal offers that work for all elements of the United Kingdom, together with any potential deal with Australia. Our Exports Minister was in Scotland final week to champion the advantages of the Australia [free trade agreement], highlighting how a tariff discount would profit iconic items like Scotch whisky.

“Any deal we sign will include protections for the agriculture industry and will not undercut UK farmers or compromise our high standards.”

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