The UK is a high quality and competitive producer of agricultural and agri-food products. The UK’s new trade agreements, including with the US, will bring new opportunities for the UK farming sector.
Analysis shows that all agricultural sectors and all parts of the United Kingdom will benefit from a US deal, including beef, lamb, pork and poultry. For example, an agreement with the US could remove tariffs of up to 26% on British beef, a market only recently opened and worth £66m to UK farmers. It could do the same for lamb. It’s not well understood that the US are the second largest importers of lamb in the world and even a 3% market share could boost annual UK exports by £18m. That’s why, the CEO of the National Sheep Association says a USFTA “would benefit sheep farmers in all parts of Great Britain.”
Trade also improves farming resilience. So, our trade is vital for carcass balancing, the ability to sell cuts not wanted in the UK – and to deal with demand shocks and seasonal availability. Trade agreements will help and enhance UK farmers’ access to new markets, boost productivity and generate valuable new opportunities. As we emerge from the Covid crisis we will provide extra support including export finance and stronger support to UK producers in marketing their products domestically currently not permitted by the EU.
However, the UK Government will always ensure that UK FTAs are fair and reciprocal. British farmers will not face unbalanced competition. The UK Government will involve representative organisations like our NFUs across the UK and the AHDB in our negotiations through the Strategic Advisory Group to ensure the views of the industry are represented.
The UK Government will maintain our import standards, which include the ban on chlorine washed chicken and hormone injected beef. No UK import standards will be diminished as part of an FTA. The Government will also not undermine our high domestic environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards by ensuring in any agreement British farmers are always able to compete.
Therefore, it is important to note that no current trade agreements include forcing partners to operate by another country’s the domestic regulations and standards. If we insisted on this, we would not be able to roll over the CETA deal with Canada and other parties like South Africa and Japan. It would also call into question our refusal to accept a level playing field with the EU if we are demanding it elsewhere. Trying to force all trading partners to produce to the exact same standards as the UK will only result in less export opportunities for the farming sector and cut it off from world markets.
Instead the Government will examine options around labelling and better consumer information, including voluntary animal welfare assurance schemes and Government backed labelling. They will also work across the globe to enhance welfare standards through bilateral promotion with trade partners and advocacy of animal welfare and environmental issues in the WTO and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
Any agreement negotiated will include safeguards for agriculture. Liberalisation for any product deemed sensitive will be staged over several years. For example, the US negotiated tariff liberalisation over 15 years for cheese with Japan and 16 years with Korea for beef.
Moreover, the Government will ensure appropriate mechanisms to ensure that we can act should any sector face a sudden surge of imports, while ensuring that UK standards are not undermined. However, we do not expect this - US beef is currently 6% more expensive than EU beef, not including transport and export costs. We already import 30% of our beef, primarily from the EU. It is likely that any US beef imports would substitute for that.
The Government is determined to negotiate positive agreements for all farmers, wherever they are in the UK.