Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid has hosted a roundtable with farmers and NFUS representatives from the northeast to hear from International Trade Minister, Greg Hands address concerns from the Scottish farming sector about the Australian and future free trade deals.
Minister Hands outlined the UK Government’s expectations from a free trade deal with Australia. He reiterated that currently, Australia does not export large amounts of agricultural products such and beef and lamb into the UK and do not expect that to rise.
The Minister also pointed out that it is more profitable and efficient for Australia to export into the Asian markets than to the UK. These same Asian markets are predicted to be among the fastest-growing economies in coming years, with a growing middle class and rapidly increasing demand for precisely the kind of high quality, high standard food and drink produced in Scotland.
The UK Government has also started negotiations with the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – a free trade area of 11 Asia-Pacific nations with a combined GDP of £9 trillion.
Local farmers and NFUS representatives expressed concerns over Australian agriculture and food standards and the potential for undercutting the UK industry. They also called for scrutiny and assurances of this and future trade deals.
Minister Hands pointed out that there was a lot of detail in the agreement in principle with Australia and that there will be the opportunity for Parliament to fully scrutinise this and future deals.
On food and production standards, Minister Hands assured the meeting that our high standards would remain and products such as chlorinated chicken and hormone fed beef are illegal in the UK and would remain illegal with any said products from Australia barred from export to the UK.
Scottish Conservative MP for Banff and Buchan David Duguid said
I am very grateful to Minister Hands for meeting with northeast farming representatives and myself to address their concerns over the impact of free trade deals on Scottish farming.
It was a very informative session with the Minister answering lots of questions from local farmers and I trust it helped alleviate fears that had been stoked by the SNP and others.
What is clear is that this and future trade deals will be subject to full scrutiny by Parliament and that the UK Government will work to protect our industry while providing new opportunities for our farming sector to export our high quality products across the world.
Of course, myself and UK Government Ministers will continue to engage with the industry to ensure concerns are heard and addressed.