Letter to minister

14 trade groups press Truss over Australia deal

James Withers

James Withers: cause for concern (pic: “Terry Murden)

Fourteen Scottish food and drink industry leaders have signed an open letter to the UK Trade Secretary Liz Truss raising concerns that a Free Trade Agreement with Australia could impact on standards and set a template for other deals.

The group say they recognise the UK Government’s desire to quickly create new opportunities with nations beyond the EU, but are concerned at the absence of some safeguards.

“Any trade deal which does not prioritise the maintenance of our standards of animal welfare and environmental protection would be detrimental to businesses, consumers and the UK’s reputation. 

“It would also run completely contrary to the recommendations of the Trade and Agriculture Commission,” they say.

“Clearly, an FTA with Australia has added significance because any agreement with Australia could establish a framework for other Free Trade Agreements, including those with other major farming and food producing nations such as New Zealand, Canada and the United States. 

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One signatory, James Withers, chief executive at Scotland Food & Drink, added: “As a food and farming industry we want to be ambitious for global trade. The future of our sector relies on it, and international sales of Scottish food and drink are already worth over £6 billion in a normal trading year.

“However, if we rush trade deals through, without any serious scrutiny and no engagement with industry and other experts we can harm businesses, communities, the environment and the UK’s international reputation. 

“Frankly, the process behind the Australian negotiations is cause for concern. 

“We want to work collaboratively with UK Government on trade but that is very difficult to do when everything happens behind closed doors.

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