Negotiators must protect high UK standards in Canada and Mexico trade talks

The NFU has warned the Government to be mindful of the impact of free trade agreements with global agricultural powerhouses on UK farmers, as it seeks views ahead of trade talks with Canada and Mexico.

NFU chief EU exit and international trade adviser Gail Soutar said that both markets offer opportunities for UK farmers to export their high-quality produce, with Canada already an important market for UK dairy producers.

“Canada and Mexico are also among the 10 largest agricultural exporters in the world, sitting alongside the likes of Brazil, the USA and Australia,” Ms Soutar pointed commented .

“The government must therefore be particularly mindful of the cumulative impact negotiating free trade agreements with these global agricultural powerhouses will have on our farmers here in the UK. This is particularly relevant given reports that Australian exporters will be offered tariff-free, quota-free access to the UK market, putting severe pressure on domestic producers.”

Canada and Mexico both represent important markets for UK agri-food goods.

In 2019 the UK exported c1,800t of cheese to Canada worth £14.1m, primarily high-value premium or specialist cheeses, making this an important market for the UK dairy sector.

Growing wealth in Mexico, as well as an increased focus on healthy and niche products, means there is strong potential for further growth for UK agri-food products, including dairy, fresh fruits and poultry products.

The NFU said it is vital that negotiators ensure the UK’s high domestic production standards are protected in any future FTA with Canada or Mexico, and that these deals ‘will not allow the import of goods produced to standards that are not legal here’. This includes maintaining the ban on beef produced using hormone growth promotants.

It urged the Government to be conscious of the cumulative impacts of trade deals on British agriculture, particularly with the expectation that deals with Australia and New Zealand could be agreed in mid-2021.

“With the UK’s ambition to join the CPTPP also a factor here, negotiators must ensure that these separate negotiations do not allow duplicate access for Canada and Mexico, or back door access for countries we have not secured an FTA with, such as America (should it wish to rejoin CPTPP, or via USMCA),” the NFU added.

The NFU would like to hear opinions from members on trade deals with Canada and Mexico, more info here.

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