New Zealand trade deal threatens welfare and competitiveness

By Gwen Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

The UK's free-trade agreement with New Zealand has been met with concerns from the food and drink industry
The UK's free-trade agreement with New Zealand has been met with concerns from the food and drink industry

Related tags: Export, Meat & Seafood

The UK’s agreement of free-trade deal with New Zealand will provide significant future growth of exporters, but concerns surrounding animal welfare and competitiveness for UK business were prevalent among producers.

International trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan has signed the UK-New Zealand free trade deal with New Zealand minister Damien O’Connor in London. The deal was expected to boost trade by 60%. 

Trevelyan said: “This deal will slash red tape, remove all tariffs and make it easier for our services companies to set up and prosper in New Zealand.” 

Dominic Goudie, head of international trade at the Food and Drink Federation, said a trade deal with New Zealand was a welcome one for the UK’s food and drink manufacturers.  

‘Significant future growth’ 

“Already exports of chocolate, coffee, biscuits and soft drinks are worth around £10m a year and removing tariffs on these products will drive significant further growth as UK production becomes more competitive in a global market,”​ he added.  

“Industry and Government should now work in close partnership via the Food and Drink Export Council to ensure manufacturers can take full advantage of the new opportunities that the deal will deliver.” 

However, the announcement of the trade deal has been met with disappointment by some members of the food and drink industry. 

National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) said the deal would give unfettered access to the UK, threatening sensitive areas like dairy, beef, lamb and horticulture and offers virtually nothing to Scottish farmers, growers and crofters in return. 

Opening the borders  

The union shared concerns that the UK was opening its borders to huge volumes of imported foods, further exacerbated by the previously penned free-trade agreement with Australia in June 2021. 

NFUS president Martin Kennedy said: “Our fears that the process adopted by the UK Government in agreeing the Australia deal would set a dangerous precedent going forward have just been realised. 

“Having now signed off on a similar deal to grant unfettered access to New Zealand, another major food exporting nation, the cumulative impact of all such deals on farmers and crofters will be substantial.” 

Kennedy identified trade deals as a platform to help UK producers to build the industry and reputation for world class produce, but noted it would require investment and collaboration between UK Government and the industry – collaboration that does not exist at present.  

High standards  

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) raised fears that New Zealand trade deal signaled a willingness of the UK Government to sign away its higher welfare standards.  

Without a built-in conditional tariff system giving preference to imports produced to high welfare standards, this latest deal could set precedent for any future agreements agreed by the UK. 

RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “While the trade deal with New Zealand is an improvement to the one agreed with Australia, we are very concerned to see that the Government has once again failed to build in a mechanism to ensure that any food imports are of an equivalent or higher welfare standard than our own.  

“Failing to draw this line in the sand sends a message to other countries that we are willing to accept cheaper, lower standard imports for the sake of a deal.”  

Sherwood also repeated calls for greater transparency around negotiations of international trade deals.  
 

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