FUW raises Australia deal concerns with trade minister

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has highlighted an array of grave concerns regarding the impacts of a disadvantageous trade deal with Australia in a meeting with UK Minister for Trade Policy Greg Hands.

Speaking after the meeting on Wednesday (19 May), FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “Both the minister and I agreed wholeheartedly that it is important that we seek new trade opportunities for UK agriculture and other industries.  However, we made our concerns regarding the adverse impacts of a liberal deal with Australia very clear.”

Mr Roberts said that a host of issues were discussed during the meeting, including the potential benefits for Welsh agriculture of the UK’s membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which the UK is currently seeking.

“The reality is that a deal that liberalises access to the UK market for Australian beef and lamb in particular will equate to a lowering of standards and have adverse consequences for UK farmers. 

“While this may not be an immediate concern given current exports to the UK, we have to look at what might happen in the future - after all, if Australia didn’t believe they would increase food exports to the UK significantly at some point, they wouldn’t be fighting so hard to ensure it is in a trade agreement.”

Mr Roberts said that the union had also highlighted the gulf between the standards required of farmers in Wales and the UK, and the far lower standards required in Australia.

“The Queen’s speech has just reiterated UK Government plans to tighten up animal movement rules, and Wales looks set to follow suit. 

“Our current maximum animal journey time is already eight hours, but in Australia it is forty-eight hours - six times higher. Other concerns include the significant differences between animal traceability requirements, given that what is allowed in Australia would be completely illegal here.”

Mr Roberts said these were just some among an array of differences and concerns that he hoped the minister and UK Government took on board.

“The political pressure on the Government to announce a trade deal should not override the UK government’s duty to negotiate a deal that upholds its own promises and our values by preventing food produced to lower standards from being sold in the UK - however long that negotiation takes, or even if it means walking away from negotiations,” he added.