Farming groups have been spooked by reports that the Government is considering joining a Pacific trade group which could see the UK ‘flooded’ with agri-food imports.
The proposal to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), whose members include Canada, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Japan and Mexico, is being fleshed out by officials at the Department for International Trade.
The idea behind the TPP is to slash tariffs and foster trade between participating nations.
Trade Minister Greg Hands suggested geography would not prevent the UK from joining TPP, but it would be the only member which does not border the Pacific Ocean or South China Sea if it were to go down this route.
NFU Brexit advisor Lucia Zitti told Farmers Guardian many TPP countries already enjoy preferential trade relationships with the EU or are very close to finalising them, and the union would prefer the Government to adopt those arrangements post-Brexit.
“This approach offers greater protection to UK farmers and consumers since the agreements signed by the EU are based on the standards UK farmers currently have to comply with”, she said.
“Moreover, amongst the TPP countries there are some key global agricultural players, such as New Zealand and Australia, with great offensive interests in terms of market access for food and agri products.
“New Zealand and Australia currently have preferential access to the EU and the UK markets in the form of Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs) for certain key commodities.
“We want assurances from the UK Government that future plans involving preferential trade agreements with those countries will not result in a flood of imports of agri product.”