UK food exporters to benefit from US trade deal

By Michael Stones contact

- Last updated on GMT

A successful trade deal would boost jobs and growth, enthusiasts claim. But some argue it could risk food safety and animal welfare
A successful trade deal would boost jobs and growth, enthusiasts claim. But some argue it could risk food safety and animal welfare

Related tags: Law firm dwf, International trade

UK food and drink exporters could benefit from a multi-million pound boost to US exports, following a successful outcome to the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade talks – but don’t expect extra sales anytime soon.

That was the assessment of leading analyst Clive Black, director and head of research at Shore Capital. But the UK was well-placed eventually to benefit from access to the vast US market with its 300M consumers, he told a TTIP seminar organised by law firm DWF, at its London office on Wednesday (February 4). 

“The UK is a small country in terms of its productive capability – and irrelevant compared with the States – so you are looking at value added opportunities,” ​said Black.

‘A real opportunity’

“Products like Scotch beef, Irish beef and Welsh lamb all have cachet with US consumers . It all about branded, it’s going to be products with a story, a designation. They do have a real opportunity.”

Many food and drink firms failed to understand how to exploit the US market, he added. A good start for small or medium-sized enterprises would be to work with a wholesaler and distributor and to have proper insurance. “There are trail blazers out there, who are selling significant amounts of UK foodstuffs into the states but they are few and far between.”

UK producers also had the advantage of sharing the same language with US customers.

The talks aim to remove barriers to trade by standardising regulations and lowering customs duties.

But Black cautioned against any short term benefits arising from the trade talks. “There could be a lot of people six feet under before this ​[TTIP] impacts their business.”

Moreover,  an EU/US trade agreement could bring threats as well as opportunities. “US producers have much lower input costs and they could flood your market, as America has got a huge productive capacity,”​ he said.

“And, from a reputational perspective, if you did have challenges to the provenance of food … such as GMOs​ [genetically modified organisms] and hormones in meat …” ​that could damage trust in all food supplies he said. But he acknowledged GMOs and hormones in meat were specifically excluded from the TTIP talks.

‘Challenges to the provenance of food’

A government insider told the meeting that it would be four years, at the very earliest, before the effects of any agreement came into place. “An optimistic view would be that a high-level agreement would be reached by the end of this year. That would leave the next 18 to 24 months, or longer, to put all the details in place. So, it would be 2019 before it came into force.”​  

No time soon

“There could be a lot of people six feet under before this ​[TTIP] impacts their business.”

Clive Black, Shore Capital

Speaking at a TTIP stakeholder event in Brussels, EuroCommerce director of policy Ralph Kamphöner said a successful outcome to the talks could provide a massive boost to European jobs and growth.

But pressure group Friends of the Earth warned the current proposals could threaten food safety and animal welfare.

The Food and Drink Federation told this website last month that TTIP was a ‘win-win situation​’ for UK food and drink manufacturers.

FoodManufacture.co.uk’s  sister publication FoodNavigator.com revealed this week that the European Commission  (EC) is facing allegations of maladministration​ for the way it handled requests to access documents related to EU-US trade talks.

Five non-governmental organisations have complained to the EU ombudsman Emily O’Reilly that the EC failed to grant access to several documents related to the TTIP talks.

Meanwhile, don’t miss our video interview with DWF’s head of food group Dominic Watkins on the impact of TTIP, filmed at the Food Manufacture Group’s Business Leaders’ Forum​ last month.

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