14 trade groups press Truss over Australia deal – Daily Business

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James Withers

James Withers: cause for concern (pic: “Terry Murden)

Fourteen Scottish food and drink industry leaders have signed an open letter to the UK Trade Secretary Liz Truss raising concerns that a Free Trade Agreement with Australia could impact on standards and set a template for other deals.

The group say they recognise the UK Government’s desire to quickly create new opportunities with nations beyond the EU, but are concerned at the absence of some safeguards.

“Any trade deal which does not prioritise the maintenance of our standards of animal welfare and environmental protection would be detrimental to businesses, consumers and the UK’s reputation. 

“It would also run completely contrary to the recommendations of the Trade and Agriculture Commission,” they say.

“Clearly, an FTA with Australia has added significance because any agreement with Australia could establish a framework for other Free Trade Agreements, including those with other major farming and food producing nations such as New Zealand, Canada and the United States. 

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One signatory, James Withers, chief executive at Scotland Food & Drink, added: “As a food and farming industry we want to be ambitious for global trade. The future of our sector relies on it, and international sales of Scottish food and drink are already worth over £6 billion in a normal trading year.

“However, if we rush trade deals through, without any serious scrutiny and no engagement with industry and other experts we can harm businesses, communities, the environment and the UK’s international reputation. 

“Frankly, the process behind the Australian negotiations is cause for concern. 

“We want to work collaboratively with UK Government on trade but that is very difficult to do when everything happens behind closed doors.

“We need a UK trade policy that not only protects the high animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards here, but acts as a force for their development globally.”

A DIT spokesperson said: “We seek a wide range of views before, during and after negotiations to ensure all voices are heard, and consult widely across the country before we launch talks, including extensive engagement with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

“We will only sign deals that work for all parts of the United Kingdom, including any potential deal with Australia. Our Exports Minister was in Scotland last week to champion the benefits of the Australia FTA, highlighting how a tariff reduction would benefit iconic goods like Scotch whisky.

“Any deal we sign will include protections for the agriculture industry and will not undercut UK farmers or compromise our high standards.”

Signatories to letter:

James Withers, Chief Executive, Scotland Food & Drink

Scott Walker, Chief Executive, NFU Scotland

Alan Clarke, Chief Executive, Quality Meat Scotland

Jen Craig, Chair, National Sheep Association Scotland

Jimmy Buchan, Chief Executive, Scottish Seafood Association

Tim Bailey, Chief Executive, SAOS

Patrick Krause, Chief Executive, Scottish Crofting Federation

Alan McNaughton, President, Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers

Martin Reid, Director for Scotland, Road Haulage Association

Colin Smith, Chief Executive, Scottish Wholesalers Association

Neil Wilson, Executive Director, Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland

Andy McGowan, Managing Director, Scottish Pig Producers

Shelagh Hancock, Chief Executive, First Milk

Archie Gibson, Executive Director, Agrico UK