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Farming organisations have welcomed agreement that the UK has struck a deal to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
The CPTPP is a free trade agreement bringing together 11 nations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Under the deal, more than 99% of UK goods exports to CPTPP countries will now be eligible for zero tariffs, including pork.
The trade bloc is populated by around half a billion people with a joint gross domestic product (GDP) of £9 trillion in 2021. The combined GDP of the 11 CPTPP members and the UK was worth around £11 trillion in 2021.
Last year, UK exports to these 11 nations was worth more than £60 billion and there will be significant opportunities to grow UK pigmeat export markets in countries such as Chile, Japan, Mexico and Vietnam, all of which ship in significant quantities of pork every year, according to NPA senior policy adviser Charlie Dewhirst.
“Of the CPTPP members, Canada is the only major pork exporter and the annual tariff rate quota under the deal is equivalent to around 7% of total UK imports. It remains to be seen if the Canadians view the UK market as a long term opportunity and this will become clearer once negotiations between the two nations on a bi-lateral trade deal resume in the coming months,” he said.
Negotiations to join the CPTPP, which began in June 2021, concluded after an intensive round of talks in Vietnam earlier this month, with representatives from all member countries agreeing to the UK’s accession.
The Government said the agreement protects the UK’s vital industries and entities, including agriculture, and upholds the UK’s high animal welfare and food safety standards. The deal will not permit, for example, imports of hormone-treated beef or ractopamine-treated pork. The position on welfare standards under the deal is less clear.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Joining the CPTPP trade bloc puts the UK at the centre of a dynamic and growing group of Pacific economies, as the first new nation and first European country to join. British businesses will now enjoy unparalleled access to markets from Europe to the south Pacific.”
Mr Dewhirst summarised the key points relating to pigmeat under the deal:
- Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, and Peru: Parties will share a single duty-free tariff rate quota (TRQ) whose volume will increase incrementally over 10 years, capped at a permanent quota of 55,000 tonnes from year 10.
- Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariffs of up to 20% will be eliminated on UK exports of pork to Mexico immediately upon the UK’s accession.
- Singapore and Vietnam: Parties will share the same TRQ as above, before duties are eliminated from years 3 and 5 respectively, consistent with the bilateral FTAs. Tariffs will be eliminated sooner on some UK pork products exported to Vietnam.
- Japan and New Zealand: Duties will be eliminated at entry, consistent with the bilateral FTAs.
- Australia: Pork will remain subject to Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariff rates, as agreed under our bilateral FTA.
NPA chief executive Lizzie Wilson said: “The UK’s accession to the CPTPP provides a fantastic opportunity to export more UK pork, a market currently worth over £500m and vital for carcase balance.
“The deal offers huge potential to expand our trade with big pigmeat importers, such as Chile, Japan, Vietnam and Mexico.”
“Canada’s ability to export huge volumes of pigmeat remains a potential threat to the UK market in the long term. The NPA will continue to monitor negotiations on a bi-lateral trade deal very closely to protect our farmers and consumers from pork produced to standards that wouldn’t be permitted in this country.”
NFU President Minette Batters welcomed the approach taken to UK food standards, compared with that take under the Australia and New Zealand deals.
“Joining the CPTPP could provide some good opportunities to get more fantastic British food on plates overseas,” she said.
“Compared to the deals struck with Australia and New Zealand, I am pleased to see that the Prime Minister has stuck to his word and the government has negotiated a far more considered and balanced outcome, particularly with respect to managing market access in our most vulnerable sectors.
“I am pleased that our government continues to maintain its commitment to our food safety standards. It is an absolute red line for us that food produced using practices that are illegal here – for instance, the use of hormones in beef and pork production and chemical washes for carcases – should not be allowed on our market.”
AHDB’s initial analysis predicted that the CPTPP deal would not cause dramatic changes to trade, particularly in the short-term, with potential for modest increases in UK exports of beef, dairy and pork in the medium to long-term.
“There are permanent inward tariff rate quotas (TRQs) for pork and beef but our analysis shows that currently trade between the UK and CPTPP for these products is is low and the volumes are unlikely to be utilised unless there are dramatic changes to trading patterns,” it said.
However, RSPCA head of public affairs David Bowles said joining this Trans-Pacific trade bloc was ‘another potential nail in the coffin for animal welfare standards back home’ and ‘another catastrophic own goal for animal welfare’.
“Many of CPTPP countries use methods of production which are illegal here, such as sow stalls and battery cages for laying hens. Worryingly, we now fear there will be nothing to stop those products being imported into the UK,” he said.
“The UK Government had said it was committed to maintaining welfare standards in international trade deals – but has negotiated a deal that will allow 55,000 tonnes of pig meat produced under standards illegal in the UK to be imported; and, worryingly an endless amount of egg products produced in battery hens cages, a system that has been illegal in the UK since 2012.
“Unless iron-clad safeguards on standards are produced, this deal is a huge concern. Animal welfare standards are not addressed in this Trans-Pacific trade bloc agreement nor seemingly in what the UK has negotiated.”