Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who last week signed the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA), has written to the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) seeking its advice on the application of some measures.

The letter, addressed to Professor Lorand Bartels – chair of the TAC - has been published on Gov.uk. In it, Trevelyan said:

"I am writing to request the TAC’s advice on the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA), in line with the provisions of section 42 of the Agriculture Act 2020 (“S.42”).

"I am writing to request your advice on whether, or to what extent, the measures in the UK-Australia FTA....that are applicable to trade in agricultural products are consistent with the maintenance of UK levels of statutory protection in relation to:

  1. Animal or plant life or health;
  2. Animal welfare; and
  3. Environmental protections.”

Trevlyan requests that this advice be published in a chapter-by-chapter format and be submitted electronically by March 31, 2022. It is anticipated the advice will be laid out before Parliament.

In producing the report, Trevelyan said she envisages the TAC would:

  • Conduct an initial assessment of which chapters it considers to be in / out of scope (i.e. which contain measures relating to trade in agricultural products);
  • Consider all relevant measures within in-scope chapters;
  • With regard to relevant measures within in-scope chapters, provide responses to the following questions:
    • Does the UK-Australia FTA require a change to UK domestic statutory protections in relation to animal or plant life or health; animal welfare; and, the environment?
    • Does the UK-Australia FTA affect the UK government’s ability to set statutory protections in these specified areas?
    • Does the UK-Australia FTA underline any existing UK domestic statutory protections – or in some instances go beyond them – in relation to: animal or plant life or health; animal welfare; and the environment?

The TAC should also, she said:

  • Consider the landscape of statutory protections across the UK, reflecting on all parts of the UK;
  • Consult those it considers may assist in the preparation of this advice and note in the advice – where relevant – those whom the TAC consulted;
  • Given the government’s trade agenda is of interest to many, consider how to make its advice accessible and readable to a non-technical audience.