TFA: New Trade Standards Commission must not become the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has warned the Government that its newly formed International Trade Standards Commission must be allowed to create real impact.

The argument over standards in trade has been long-running. The consistent refusal of Government to legislate to enshrine a mechanism to protect standards in statute, has led to inevitable criticism that its public assurances to protect standards are hollow.

The body includes LEAF, the National Farmers’ Union, British Retail Consortium, former chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens, among others.

TFA chief executive, George Dunn, said it was not enough for the commission’s recommendations to be “advisory only”.

“I hope that this is not an ‘Emperors new clothes’ situation,” Dunn said.

“There has been understandable joy that the Government has, at last, decided it should address concerns that it is not committed to undermining British farmers, by allowing food imports produced to standards that would be illegal here. However, this group needs to have a bigger function than simply providing advice.

The Government must commit to act on the commission’s recommendations, rather than following the classic Whitehall tradition of allowing reports from such bodies to gather dust on Ministerial shelves.

Dunn said he was also concerned that the work of the Commission is to be time-limited. The commission is to report to Government in six months after which it has no ongoing function.

“Whilst there is no desire to see yet another Government quango, we must understand how the recommendations of the Commission will be taken forward,” he said.

“Trade deals will take a long time to agree. There is a risk that the conclusions of the commission will be forgotten, or even ignored as trade diplomats seek to seal complex and high stakes agreements.

The recommendations of the Commission must be embedded in the mandates of UK trade negotiators.

“We are entering uncharted waters as we pull away from our long-running ties to the European Union. The political desire to be seen to be doing things differently must not trump the need for sensible, level-headed and sustainable actions.”