Hailed as ‘A New Dawn’ by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the free trade deal with Australia has been signed.
Boris Johnson said:
“Today marks a new dawn in the UK’s relationship with Australia, underpinned by our shared history and common values.
“Our new free-trade agreement opens fantastic opportunities for British businesses and consumers, as well as young people wanting the chance to work and live on the other side of the world.
“This is global Britain at its best – looking outwards and striking deals that deepen our alliances and help ensure every part of the country builds back better from the pandemic.”
The UK is now able to negotiate free trade deals having left the world’s largest free trade market – the EU.
The Australia deal eliminates tariffs on the likes of Scotch whisky and according to the UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss: “will create unheralded opportunities for our farmers”.
The National Farmer’s Union of Scotland remains concerned for our farmers and crofters. The NFUS state that:
“It will ultimately provide Australia with unfettered access to UK food and drink markets through a deal that has yet to have any proper parliamentary scrutiny.
“The process in agreeing the deal sets a dangerous precedent for future trade deals, with the potential that the cumulative impact of all such deals on Scottish farmers and crofters will be substantial.
“NFU Scotland understands that, under the deal, British farmers will be protected by a cap on tariff-free imports from Australia for 15 years, using tariff rate quotas and other safeguards. That suggests that free access being granted to one of the biggest agricultural exporters in the world will simply be delayed.”
Alister Jack, UK Secretary of State for Scotland has described the Australia Trade Deal as a ‘huge opportunity’ and has assured the farming sector that there will be no hormone-induced beef allowed into this country.
Despite that assurance from Jack the farmers union in Scotland is extremely worried because of the total lack of parliamentary scrutiny and that no safeguards have been put in place prior to the signing of the deal.
The NFUS state:
“Equally worrying for the Scottish industry is the potential that the UK government goes on to approach other trade negotiations with countries like New Zealand, USA, Canada and Mexico on the same basis.
“The cumulative impact of these deals will have a major impact on UK farming, and, if handled badly. it may become impossible for some of our family farming businesses to continue to compete.
“The Union believes parliamentary scrutiny of the deal is vital but, in the absence of the promised Statutory Trade and Agriculture Commission, the route to effective scrutiny has yet to be defined.
NFU Scotland President Martin Kennedy said:
“As detail on the proposed terms of agreement around an Australian trade deal emerge, deep concerns will remain about its impact on Scotland’s farmers, crofters and our wider food and drink sector.
“Under the proposed deal, there is to be a cap on tariff-free imports from Australia for 15 years. That is merely a slow journey to the Australians getting unfettered access to UK markets and with no guarantees that the promises of other safeguards will address the fact that very different production systems are permitted in Australia compared to here in the UK.
“The deal has not been afforded the appropriate level of scrutiny and consultation and has been agreed in advance of the promised statutory Trade and Agriculture Commission being established to scrutinise such deals. Parliamentarians must be given the opportunity to examine this deal, and any future deals, with Government carrying out a detailed impact assessment on what it may mean for the agriculture and food sectors.
“An FTA with Australia, and the way it has been agreed without proper industry consultation or scrutiny, sets a dangerous precedent for other Free Trade Agreements, including those with other major farming and food producing nations such as New Zealand, Canada, Mexico and the United States.
“The cumulative impact of all such trade deals on extremely vulnerable sectors such as farming, food and drink could be hugely destructive.”
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Reporter: Fiona Grahame