Thank you for contacting me about the free trade agreement with Australia.
Australia is one of the UK’s closest allies. We share a head of state, the same language and the same values. Our people also enjoy deep and historic links of kinship and friendship, arguably unlike any other two nations. A trade deal with Australia has been reached and is an enormous opportunity for the UK. It is the first major trade deal negotiated from scratch since the UK left the EU. We are Australia’s second largest trading partner outside the Asia-Pacific and trade between our two countries was worth £18.8 billion in 2019. The deal will eliminate tariffs on all UK goods and will support jobs and businesses across the country. People under the age of 35 will also be able to travel and work in Australia more freely. Further details on the deal will be released shortly.
I appreciate that you have concerns about the impact of the trade deal with Australia and its effect on food standards in particular. Australia shares our beliefs in high standards in areas such as animal welfare and the environment. This will deal will uphold these high standards.
British farmers will also be protected by a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years through the use of tariff rate quotas and further safeguards. Agricultural producers are also being supported to increase their exports overseas, including to new markets in the Indo-Pacific. The Trade and Agriculture Commission will provide independent scrutiny of animal welfare in the deal ahead of its ratification.
Every part of the UK is set to benefit from the agreement. Scotland, for instance, exported £126 million worth of beverages to Australia in 2020 and the deal will help distillers by removing tariffs of up to 5 per cent on Scotch Whisky. Machinery and manufacturing goods account for 90 per cent of exports from Northern Ireland to Australia and the deal will remove tariffs and simplify customs procedures. The more than 450 businesses in Wales that exported to Australia last year will also benefit from the deal. The deal will also eliminate tariffs on Australian favourites like Jacob’s Creek and Hardys wines, swimwear and confectionery, boosting choice for British consumers and saving households up to £34 million a year.
The deal’s commitments on market access for services professionals, cutting-edge digital provisions and reduced barriers to investment will benefit the UK’s service sector. The UK exported £5.4 billion worth of services, including £1.4bn of insurance and pension services and £780m of financial services, to Australia in 2020. Red tape and bureaucracy will be torn down for more than 13,000 small and medium sized businesses across the UK who already export goods to Australia, with quicker export times.
Further provisions on digital, investment and market access for service professionals will benefit the UK's services sector.
Additional details on the deal will be released shortly and Parliament will scrutinise the deal in the usual way alongside an impact assessment and explanatory memorandum. Parliamentary scrutiny of the trade deal will take place in the usual way and earlier today, there was a statement on this from Liz Truss, which I took part in - Free Trade Agreement Negotiations: Australia - Thursday 17 June 2021 - Hansard - UK Parliament
In addition, last summer, in response to concerns about Parliamentary oversight of trade deals, I asked the following question in the House and received assurances about Parliament’s role in scrutinising trade deals: New Clause 5 - Disclosure of information by other authorities: 20 Jul 2020: House of Commons debates - TheyWorkForYou
More generally in relation to animal welfare standards, the Government has been clear that it will uphold environmental standards and there are a number of arrangements in place to ensure this. The Government has made a clear and absolute commitment to uphold the UK’s high animal welfare, environmental, food safety and food import standards in any future free trade agreement. Neither Ministers nor I intend to compromise the UK’s domestic welfare production standards either and I welcome the creation of the Trade and Agriculture Commission to advise the Secretary of State on protecting these standards while capitalising on trading opportunities.
I am glad that the Government amended the Trade Bill to put the Trade and Agriculture Commission on a statutory footing and confirmed that the body will produce a report, to be laid in Parliament at the start of each 21-day scrutiny period, on the impact on animal welfare and agriculture arising from each new free trade deal.
Without exception, all animal products imported into the UK under existing or future free trade agreements from all trading partners, including the EU and others, will have to meet our stringent food safety standards, as they do now. The UK’s independent food regulators will continue making sure that all food imports into the UK comply with those high standards.
Since first being elected, I have met regularly with local farmers to listen to their concerns and to take forward issues to DEFRA on their behalf, particularly with regard to the Agriculture Bill. Shortly after being elected, I convened a Farmers' Forum which has met a number of times now and I have liaised with the local and national NFU during the pandemic about specific issues which have affected the farming sector during the pandemic and, of course, food standards have been a very important issue as part of those discussions.
The manifesto I stood on was clear that in all trade negotiations, our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards will not be compromised. The Government will stand firm in trade negotiations to ensure any deals live up to the values of our farmers and consumers. All food coming into this country will be required to meet existing import requirements.
I welcome the announcement that a Trade and Agriculture Commission has also been established – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/trade-and-agriculture-commission-tac. This is something which local farmers have been calling for and is supported by the NFU. The Government has listened to their concerns. During the passage of the Agriculture Bill, I called for its oversight to be strengthened. The Commission will focus on ensuring that farmers do not face unfair competition and that their high animal welfare and production standards are not undermined. I continued to press the Government with regard to the remit of the Trade and Agriculture Commission and I was pleased when the Government agreed that is was extending the Commission, and placing it on a full statutory footing in the Trade Bill, giving farmers a stronger voice in UK trade policy. Further details on this on my website - https://www.richardfuller.co.uk/news/farmers-given-stronger-voice-trade-policy
Our high animal welfare, food safety and environmental standards will continue to be met in a number of ways: by the existing manifesto commitment, the transfer of all EU food safety standards in the EU Withdrawal Act which will convert all EU standards into domestic law, the ability of Parliament to scrutinise future trade deals and the strengthened Trade and Agriculture Commission.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.