Over recent months, the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has raised concerns regarding how the UK - Australia free trade agreement, which aims to liberalise the trading of agricultural goods, will set the precedent for trade deals with other major international countries.
UK - New Zealand free trade agreement negotiations are now ongoing and it is said to increase trade between the two nations beyond the total £2.3 billion in 2020.
It was originally mooted by the UK Government that the plan was to have an agreement in principle in place by the end of September, however, visas for workers, access to agricultural markets and financial services continue to be the key sticking points.
New Zealand has confirmed that they aim to achieve similar market access as the UK offered to Australia by providing access to the UK meat and dairy markets in exchange for New Zealand’s financial services.
It is positive however to note that the noise the agricultural industry made in response to the UK - Australia free trade deal has been recognised and has muddied the waters in negotiations with New Zealand.
The issue with such trade deals is the volatility they add to UK markets for all sectors. Current demand in China for meat and dairy products from Australia and New Zealand is high and the loss of such markets would expose the UK to potentially very cheap imports with no way of controlling their volume or price.
Reciprocal trade will be restricted to very niche and specialist goods, and with a population on the other side of the world that’s lower than that of Scotland, opportunities in New Zealand will be extremely limited.
Whilst the exact details of the free trade agreement with New Zealand have not yet been published, the FUW is urging the UK Government to take note of the comments made by the industry in regard to the free trade agreement with Australia and that concerns about lamb imports alongside dairy products must be recognised.
Members of Parliament need to ensure that when it comes to such trade deals, the long term interests of the UK are protected.
The value of developing existing and seeking new markets for all UK products, including food, is of course recognised, but this must not be done at the cost of the long term viability of Wales’ food and farming industries, the environment and animal health and welfare standards.