The organisation which represents Scotland’s farming sector has reacted with anger as details emerge about the UK Government’s latest trade deal – this time with New Zealand.
NFU Scotland President Martin Kennedy said:
“Our fears that the process adopted by the UK Government in agreeing the Australia deal would set a dangerous precedent going forward have just been realised. Having now put in place a similar deal to grant unfettered access to New Zealand, another major food exporting nation, the cumulative impact of all such deals on farmers and crofters will be substantial.”
And he continued:
“This latest deal offers virtually nothing to Scottish farmers and crofters in return but risks undermining our valuable lamb, dairy and horticultural sectors by granting access to large volumes of imported goods that could be produced in farming systems not currently permitted here.
“As with the Australian deal, there is to be a cap on tariff-free imports from New Zealand for 15 years. That is merely a slow journey to allow New Zealand, a major exporter of food and drink, unfettered access to food and drink UK markets.
“Once again, this is a deal that 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.
“The Department for International Trade has repeated its claim that there will be safeguards for UK producers within such deals without ever identifying what those safeguards would be.
“That is why parliamentarians must be given the opportunity to examine the Australian and New Zealand deals, and any future deals with the likes of the USA, Canada and Mexico, with Government also carrying out a detailed impact assessment on what all such deals may mean for the agriculture and food sectors.
“We are ambitious to identify and grasp opportunities to build our industry and wider economy and our reputation for world class produce. Trade deals could be an enabler of this, but it is going to require investment and collaboration between UK Government and the industry; collaboration which does not exist at present.
“The reality is that as the Government drives a new open trading environment, it is increasingly imposing rules on us that make the industry less competitive. The current failure to meaningfully address the critical shortage of labour across the whole food supply chain is a good case in point.”
Commenting on the New Zealand Trade deal which will give unfettered access to the UK and offers virtually nothing to Scottish farmers, growers and crofters in return, Orkney Constituency MSP Liam McArthur, LibDem said:
“Earlier this year, farming representatives warned that the free-trade deal with Australia was likely to be a blueprint for other deals. Those predictions are now being borne out.
“Striking trade deals is, of course, essential in light of our exit from the EU but the lack of any consultation or transparency is a cause for concern. If the UK Government is genuinely confident about the benefits of these deals, it should have no difficulty opening them up to proper scrutiny.
“Farmers in Orkney and across the UK have warned about the potential implications, not least in relation to welfare and environmental standards from lower cost imports. These are concerns that need to be taken seriously, rather than dismissed by UK Conservative Ministers who think they know best.”