UK Farmers Union and Labor are ready to reconnect with government over UK agriculture as UK prepares to cut all tariffs on New Zealand meat in upcoming trade deal .
A senior source from the Department of International Trade said City AM that the UK-New Zealand trade deal is still in the process of being concluded next month and there are plans to reduce all tariffs on New Zealand agricultural products.
This will mean greater access for New Zealand producers to sell dairy, beef, lamb and wine in UK markets in a repeat of Australia’s recently concluded trade deal.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) fought with the government over the trade deal with Canberra earlier this year, arguing that UK farmers would face unfair competition due to more lenient property practices -being animal in Australia.
Gail Soutar, the NFU’s chief adviser on EU exit and international trade, said the union would maintain the same position on any trade deal with New Zealand.
Emily Thornberry, Labor’s shadow international trade secretary, said City AM that she would oppose a zero-tariff trade deal with New Zealand, despite a poll showing the British public is in favor of increased trade with the Commonwealth nation.
“The NFU and its members are understandably concerned about the potential impact of trade agreements that completely eliminate all tariffs on imports from the world’s largest agricultural exporters, including New Zealand,” Soutar said.
“It is essential that the UK government approach all its negotiations with countries like Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and Mexico – all major agricultural producers and exporters – on their own terms and ensure that future agreements balance access to UK agricultural markets with at least the same level of opportunity for UK agri-food exports.
It is understood that the terms will be similar to the Australian agreement where all current tariffs and quotas on agricultural exports will be phased out over a period of 15 years.
Still, Labor and the NFU argue that opening up UK markets to New Zealand producers will lead other major economies like Brazil and America to demand similar terms.
Thornberry said if that happens, “the cumulative impact on British farming communities will be devastating”.
“According to the government’s own scoping document in June 2020, offering New Zealand the same terms as Australia will directly reduce growth and jobs in the UK agricultural sector,” she said.
Tourism and agricultural exports are the backbone of New Zealand’s economy, with the country trading primarily with Australia and throughout Asia.
New Zealand Trade Minister Damien O’Connor told the Financial Times that a UK trade deal would not flood his country’s goods into the UK market and that Asia would remain the priority for exporters.
New Zealand is also considered to have the highest animal welfare standards in the world by World Animal Protection, a UK-based NGO.
A poll by the Adam Smith Institute, a free market think tank, found the majority of Britons were in favor of doing more trade with New Zealand.
The poll found that support was consistent among voters in Leave and Remain.
A source close to International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said the NFU would shoot itself in the foot by opposing the trade deal due to the high popularity of a potential deal.
“The NFU will ridiculously fire its ammunition against New Zealand – a country where apes have legal human rights. There is no country more bland about animals and I include Buddhists in that, ”they said.
“The idea that British farmers will be undermined will seem so absurd, especially since British lamb is counter-seasonal to New Zealand lamb.”
Matthew Lesh, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute, said: “A zero tariff agreement would mean that UK consumers would have better access to New Zealand products and UK producers would have more export opportunities for the country. British Scottish cheese, cars and whiskey.
“We have to believe in the ability of UK farmers to compete globally.”
A possible UK-New Zealand trade deal is also expected to include provisions for better access to long-term visas for Britons traveling to New Zealand and an extended data-sharing agreement.
It will also likely lead to lower tariffs on UK-made cars and further improve the UK’s chances of being admitted into the 11-country Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
A DIT spokesperson said: “We have always been clear that any agreement will include protections for our agricultural sectors. Trade deals, like the one we are striving for with New Zealand, will provide opportunities for UK farmers to access regional trading blocs like the CPTPP for their quality products.