Free trade negotiations must support Scottish agriculture’s high standards – NFU Scotland

NFU Scotland has joined other UK farming interests in calling for ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations to recognise and support farmers and crofters, and the high standards that they meet.

Momentum is building behind a trading agreement with Australia, with discussions also underway with New Zealand.

The UK Farming Roundtable is adamant that the government pledge to establish the statutory Trade and Agriculture Commission to scrutinise all future trade deals must be delivered on, and in place, prior to any agreement being reached.

The Roundtable has agreed five principles that are of crucial importance to UK food and farming in the negotiations:
  • Upholding high standards of production, and positioning the UK as a global leader in sustainable farming and in tackling climate change;
  • Recognising the specific sensitivities of some UK farming sectors, such as beef and sheep, in the current negotiations;
  • Balancing improved access and lower tariffs for agricultural imports with quotas and other safeguards to avoid irreversible damage to UK farming;
  • Ensuring any trade deal is genuinely reciprocal and that the benefits properly reflect how valuable UK market access is for foreign exporters;
  • Acknowledging that these deals will establish precedents that will be reflected in all our trade deals.

NFU Scotland has contacted leading Scottish politicians seeking their support in ensuring that any trade deal with Australia follows the correct process.

Concerns over Australia free trade agreement

Supporting the UK Farming Roundtable statement, NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy said: “We share the concerns expressed regarding the Australia FTA negotiations.

Scotland’s beef, dairy, sheep and grain sectors are particularly exposed should a deal be rushed through with Australia that fails to strike the right balance.

“While some additional market access and tariff liberalisation is expected in this post-Brexit era, all deals must be properly scrutinised and ratified to avoid any risks to the future viability of the farming sector.

“Rushing through a trade deal without the promised statutory Trade and Agriculture Commission in place prior to the deal being concluded also sets a damaging precedent for other trade deals,” he added.

“The public has shown unprecedented levels of support for the exceptionally high standards met by the nation’s farmers, and it is inherent on the government to meet its commitment of having a statutory body in place to independently assess and comment on proposed trade deals.

UK consumers already enjoy some of the most affordable food in the world produced to the highest standards.

“Employment, the prosperity of rural areas and our high standards should not be jeopardised for the sake a headline-grabbing deal,” he concluded.