UK - Australia trade deal agreed in principle sparks major alarm

The UK and Australia signed a trade agreement in principle on 15th June just days after the G7 Summit in Cornwall where global leaders met to discuss the recovery from the pandemic.

This was despite the FUW raising grave concerns during numerous meetings with Conservative MPs including differences in scales of economy and production, animal welfare standards, and the likelihood of surges in food imports from Australia given the volatility of commodity markets.

If the deal is signed as it currently stands, Australia will gain immediate access on the UK market to a duty-free quota of 35,000 tonnes for beef, rising in equal instalments to 110,000 tonnes in year ten. There will also be immediate access to a duty-free quota of 25,000 tonnes for lamb, rising in equal instalments to 75,000 tonnes in year ten.

In terms of dairy products, tariffs will be eliminated over the first five years. There will be immediate access to a duty-free quota of 24,000 tonnes for cheese, rising in equal instalments to 48,000 tonnes in year five. For butter, it will be 5,500 tonnes rising to 11,500 tonnes and non-cheese dairy will be 20,000 tonnes from day one.

While Section 1.6 (Sanitary and phytosanitary measures) outlines that “imports will still have to meet the same respective UK and Australian food safety and biosecurity standards”, Section 1.7 (Animal welfare and antimicrobial resistance) states that Australia and the UK will have the right to “establish its own policies and priorities for the protection of animal welfare”, suggesting a direction away from what is already a very unlevel playing field.

Provisions will be put in place for cooperation on combating antimicrobial resistance and positive remarks are made in regard to ongoing cooperation and initiatives for animal welfare, but only “in areas of mutual interest.”

Similarly, Section 4.2 (Environment) gives the right ”of each country to establish its own levels of domestic environmental protection and its own priorities relating to the environment.”

Whatever claims are made, there can be little doubt that this deal, which fully liberalises tariffs and quotas, will now set the precedent for trade deals with other major international countries. New Zealand Trade Minister Damien O’Connor has said that they will be expecting comprehensive tariff elimination, including on agricultural goods, and Chief Executive of the New Zealand Meat Industry Association, Sirma Karapeeva, says that they will be looking for an even better outcome in a future deal.

While there seems to be a great deal of confusion amongst MPs in regard to the avenues of scrutiny that will be available through the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) and various Parliamentary Committees before and after the deal is finalised, the FUW has written to the PM and Welsh Affairs Committee asking them to to reject anything that compromises family farms, animal welfare, food security and standards and our global environment.