UK trade minister says anxieties over Australia and New Zealand deals ‘misplaced’
Britain’s minister for international trade has said farmers’ anxiety that free trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand would mean the UK market will be flooded with cheap meat are “misplaced”.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, secretary of state for international trade, told the Financial Times in an interview during a trip to Australia that the deals would help curb inflation in Britain by “stripping away” tariffs on imported goods.
She said the UK had built safeguards into the free trade agreements in the form of quotas over a period of 15 years to act as a “sliding scale” to rebalance Britain’s agricultural economy after Brexit. New Zealand, for example, already has a large quota for lamb exports to the UK that it does not use because most of its meat is sold in Asia.
“Some of the anxiety was misplaced,” she said of the fears expressed by UK farmers.
“I don’t think we need to be concerned but because there were anxieties, and we understand why, both governments were very happy to work up a transitional protection, which, you know, tapers away eventually,” she added.
The National Farmers Union has said that the cost of the free trade agreements to the UK industry would be £150mn and has warned that the deals could exacerbate precarious trading conditions for the industry.
That led to accusations that farmers were trying to take a trade deal designed to improve migration flows and benefit a range of industries “hostage”.
The UK government expects the New Zealand trade deal to boost trade by 60 percent and add £800mn to the British economy. The Australian deal is estimated to boost trade by £10.4bn and add £2.3bn to the UK economy.
Trevelyan is the first British cabinet minister to visit Australia since the election of Anthony Albanese as prime minister in May. She said the enabling legislation for the trade deals would be introduced within the coming few weeks and expects the deal to be fully ratified by early 2023.
Trevelyan was also confident that negotiations over Britain’s entry to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTTP, regional trading bloc would be concluded by the end of the year.
“It’s a really important trading block for us, because it stands up for its values of free and fair trade. So that’s why we’re keen to be a part of it,” she said.
Asked whether the UK would support China’s entry into the bloc, Trevelyan said that any prospective member would need to be tested on whether its legislation withstands “gold standard” tests for entry.