The Farmers’ Union of Wales has stressed the importance of scrutiny to any trade deals the UK makes when it gave evidence to the Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill committee on Wednesday October 12.
Speaking after the evidence session, FUW Senior Policy and Communications Officer Gareth Parry said: “We welcomed the opportunity to give evidence at the committee stage. Whilst this Bill refers specifically to the procurement sections of the trade deals and, if passed, will be the final piece of the jigsaw for the UK Government to ratify the deals, it nonetheless gave us the opportunity to voice our concerns regarding potential impacts and the current scrutiny process.
“If New Zealand and Australian producers can apply for procurement contracts in the UK, it acts as a further incentive to flood our domestic markets. In the grand scheme of things, it’s unlikely that UK producers would be able to compete for procurement contracts in their countries due to differences in scale and production methods, but this simply emphasises the importance of directing procurement policies in the UK towards Welsh and British produce.”
Essential for any trade deal, Mr Parry stressed, was the need for a better scrutiny process of the deals.
“Members of Parliament need to ensure that the scrutiny of any future trade deals is effective so that their powers are not undermined as politicians. The fact that the government did not have the opportunity to hold a debate under the CRaG process, and that this Trade Bill must be passed in order to change domestic Law to be in line with what has been agreed, and to ratify the deals shows how rushed and ill-thought through the scrutiny process has been.”
“There will always be winners and losers when it comes to negotiating liberalised free trade agreements, and it is clear from the UK Government’s impact assessments that UK agriculture will be one of the losers if these deals are ratified; impacts of which will be more acute in Wales due to our greater reliance on farmers and food producers.
“Members of Parliament have previously expressed disappointment that food imports from Australia and New Zealand won’t be required to meet core UK food production standards. This is why we have been calling for safeguards to create a level playing field between producers, which is what quotas and tariffs were designed for,” he said.
The FUW continues to stress that Members of Parliament should table amendments to the Trade Bill which–in any way, shape or form–create safeguards for UK producers and the world-leading standards they adhere to, and at the very least, ensure that the process of scrutinising any future trade deals is effective.