Australia trade deal that could hammer Welsh farmers set to be signed ‘in weeks’
The UK Government is set to sign a trade deal with Australia that could hammer Welsh farmers, in the next few weeks, it has been reported.
Under the terms of the proposed deal, Australian farmers would be granted zero-tariff and zero-quote access to the UK market.
It is feared that imports of Australian lamb and beef will land hardest in rural areas such as Welsh hill farms, and impact Welsh speaking heartlands.
First Minister Mark Drakeford has previously met with Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove to relay his “concerns”.
According to The Times, a tentative agreement has been pencilled in for the week after the G7 summit in Cornwall from June 11 to 13.
Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, and is expected to stay on for bilateral talks after joining the gathering of western leaders, and both sides hope that an agreement can be announced at that time.
Most elements of the new trade agreement are understood to have been agreed.
But with the last sticking point is the length of any transition period before tariff-free access is granted to Australian farmers.
The UK Government is understood to want a period of ten to 15 years before full tariff-free access is granted, in order to give farmers time to prepare for increased competition.
However, Australia is pushing for a much shorter timeframe, with one source suggesting that it would not settle for longer than 10 years.
A Whitehall source told The Times: “We are not rushing a deal.
“If it takes longer then so be it, but we are hopeful that something can be concluded soon. We are getting close but nothing is finalised.”
The Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss has pushed hard for the deal, and has faced fierce internal opposition from Conservative colleagues, who fear the negative impact it will have on British farming, according to reports.
She said: “A UK-Australia trade agreement would be significant for Scotch whisky and the Union.
“Part of the promise of leaving the EU was striking deals with countries beyond Europe, opening new opportunities for iconic British goods like Scotch overseas.
“I am fighting hard to get these tariffs cut and secure a deal that benefits producers in Scotland and helps the whole of the UK.”
Critics say that any positive economic impact of a trade deal with Australia would be minimal. The UK Government’s estimates suggest that it would only add 0.01 per cent to 0.02 per cent to gross domestic product over 15 years.