Iconic Welsh brands used to promote post-Brexit trade deals
Two iconic Welsh brands are being used by the Westminster government to promote the UK’s first post-Brexit trade deals negotiated from scratch.
Penderyn Madeira Single Malt Whisky and a Wales rugby shirt signed by 36 players are among a selection of handpicked goods being sent to Australia and New Zealand as the free trade deals kick in.
However, despite the deals being hailed as great for the UK economy, critics suggest their benefit to consumers will be minuscule while posing risks to British farmers and food standards.
According to Westminster’s Department of Business and Trade (DBT), the deals’ beneficial terms will see tariffs on all UK goods exported to Australia and New Zealand removed, unprecedented access to these markets for services unlocked, and “red tape” slashed for digital trade and work visas.
Each region and nation of the UK is expected to benefit, according to DBT, which also claims that the deals will deliver an economic boost by driving bilateral trade up by 53% with Australia and 59% with New Zealand.
The agreements could also mean reduced prices for UK consumers on items such as wine, Tim Tam chocolate biscuits and kiwi fruit, says DBT, as well as lowered costs on machinery parts for UK manufacturers.
Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said: “Today is a historic moment as our first trade deals to be negotiated post-Brexit come into effect.
“Businesses up and down the country will now be able to reap the rewards of our status as an independent trading nation and seize new opportunities, driving economic growth, innovation and higher wages.”
International Trade Minister Nigel Huddleston is due to tour DHL’s Southern Distribution Centre near Heathrow to see off two hand picked consignments of UK goods, As well as bottles of Penderyn whisky and the Welsh rugby shirt, the items sent will include Beano comics, Brighton Gin, The Cambridge Satchel Company bags, Fever Tree mixers, an England cricket top and a real tennis racket from Gray’s of Cambridge.
Mr Huddleston said: “It is incredibly exciting to be visiting DHL to see some of the first shipments leave the UK, knowing that when they arrive Down Under they will benefit from our brand new deals.
“Australia and New Zealand are two of our closest friends and like minded partners and our trade deals secure favourable terms for British exporters, removing tariffs on all UK goods and slashing red tape.”
Under the trade agreement with Australia, the age limit for UK applicants going to Australia as part of the mutual Youth Mobility and Working Holiday Maker visa schemes will go from 30 to 35, and from July 2024 Brits will be able to stay in Australia for up to three years without having to meet specified work requirements.
Both free trade agreements are also part of the UK’s strategic tilt to the Indo-Pacific region and are said to complement its accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade bloc which will have a total GDP of £12 trillion once the UK joins.
According to DBT, the deals include robust protections for British farmers, including staging tariff liberalisation for sensitive goods over time.
Other mooted benefits of the deals include:
* Access to Australian work visas for UK service suppliers without being subject to its changing skilled occupation list and enabling Brits to work in New Zealand more freely
* Flexible rules of origin and removal of tariffs on all UK exports to both markets;
* Advanced rules on digital trade which cut red tape, unlock the free flow of data and give businesses confidence their valuable intellectual property will be protected;
* Access to government contracts and investment opportunities, including equal footing to compete for an additional £10bn of Australian public sector contracts per year and high investment screening thresholds for New Zealand;
* Progressive opportunities to grow our low-carbon economy through liberalised tariffs on environmental goods and encouraging investment in low-carbon technology; and
* Environment chapters reaffirming our commitments to the Paris Agreement and recognising our right to regulate to meet Net Zero.
In economic terms, however, critics have argued that the deal with Australia is expected to cut prices of Australian products in British shops by little more than a pound a year per household, and is expected to add just 0.08% to the size of the UK economy over 15 years by the government’s own admission.
British farmers are concerned the deal could damage their industry, while Greenpeace has warned that UK consumers could be eating Australian beef linked to deforestation, flown across the world at a time when demands are growing for sustainable produce with fewer miles between farm and fork.
The Farmers’ Union of Wales submitted a document to the House of Commons Committee considering the trade agreements which said: “If amending domestic procurement legislation allows for both Australia and New Zealand to apply for procurement contracts in the UK, it may act as a further incentive to flood UK domestic markets.
However, given the differences in economies of scale, it’s unlikely that UK producers would be able to compete for procurement contracts in Australia and New Zealand. This is further hampered by the fact that the UK Government did not argue for legal protection for products with Geographical Indication (GI) status such as PGI Welsh Lamb and Beef.”
British trade unions are also concerned the deal has no effective means of enforcing labour rights, or protections for migrant workers from exploitation.
Plaid Cymru’s agriculture spokesperson in Westminster, Ceredigion MP Ben Lake, raised concerns over the negative impact of the trade deals on the Welsh economy.
He urged the UK Government to involve the devolved nations in future trade deals given UK ministers’ “evident failure to champion the interests of the Welsh economy”.
Under the terms of the Australia and New Zealand trade deals, tariffs on agricultural products will be eliminated in stages, which Plaid Cymru has warned will harm Welsh agriculture in the long term. The removal of tariffs raises concerns about the impact unrestricted imports from Australia and New Zealand, particularly in sensitive sectors such as beef, lamb, dairy, and horticulture, could have on Welsh farmers and the broader economy.
Mr Lake said: “The commencement of the UK-Australia and UK-New Zealand trade deals marks the beginning of a worrying chapter for Welsh farming. The removal of tariffs on agricultural products in these trade deals established a dangerous precedent which other nations will almost certainly use when negotiating with the UK Government.
“Plaid Cymru warned of the impact that this dangerous precedent would set, and it is disappointing the UK Government decided to concede on this point for negligible gains. The UK has willingly granted extensive and ultimately unrestricted access to our markets for beef, lamb, and dairy products from two major agricultural nations, all in pursuit of convenient political headlines.
“The ramifications of these trade deals for the Welsh economy are serious. Agriculture employs over 52,800 people and constitutes 3.25% of workforce jobs, a figure notably surpassing the UK average of 1.1%. In rural areas such as my own constituency of Ceredigion, agriculture, forestry, and fishing represent over 12% of the local workforce.
“As negotiations progress with Canada and Mexico, it is crucial that market protections are upheld. The UK Government’s evident failure to champion the interests of the Welsh economy in previous negotiations underlines the importance of according the devolved nations a role in future talks.”
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