Tory Senedd member ‘deeply concerned’ about zero-tariff Australia trade deal
A Tory Member of the Senedd has said she is “deeply concerned” about a proposed zero-tariff trade deal with Australia.
Janet Finch-Saunders, the MS Aberconwy, says she is worried that Welsh farmers could be “undercut” by “unfair competition” in an agreement that allows an influx of cheap imports of Australian beef and lamb.
She has written to the Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart MP, to seek clarity on what protections are under consideration to safeguard local farmers during any trade deal negotiation.
This follows reports that Boris Johnson has signed off on an offer of zero-tariff, zero quota to Australia in a post-Brexit agreement.
He has given his blessing to Trade Secretary Liz Truss to propose a 15 year transition, despite fears the move will devastate Welsh farming.
The proposed timeframe was agreed by the inner-Cabinet committee in charge of talks, according to The Sun, with ministerial sources confident an agreement is now in sight.
Australia and the UK could sign the new agreement when their Prime Minister Scott Morrison jets to Cornwall next month for the G7 summit.
Commenting on her letter, Janet Finch-Saunders said: “Farmers and producers across Aberconwy, as well as Wales more broadly, are deeply concerned that they may be undercut through unfair competition, brought about by a liberalising of UK market access for competitive producers from the global stage.
“I believe wholeheartedly in the opportunity that Brexit provides, particularly in seeking new trade opportunities for UK agriculture.
“However, I am clear that every possible step should now be taken to ensure that trade deals are to the benefit of Welsh farmers.
“With a welcome commitment from the UK Government to include protections for the agricultural industry in such trade deals, I have now written to the Secretary of State for Wales to seek clarity on what protections are under consideration.
“Whilst this moment provides the scope to strengthen the export of Welsh meat globally, especially lamb if shelf life is improved, we must also ensure the domestic market continues to provide for our land custodians so that they may sustainably grow their businesses.”
In her letter, she said: “Given the work I have carried out to champion Wales’ network of family farms, it should come as no surprise to you that I am concerned about the possible impact a zero-tariffs free-trade deal with Australia could have on Welsh farmers.
“Whilst I believe that there is scope to strengthen the export of Welsh meat globally, especially lamb if shelf life is improved, I agree with NFU Cymru that the UK Government must safeguard the interests of Welsh farmers in trade talks. Indeed, as I hope you will agree, Welsh farmers should not be undercut through unfair competition.
“It was with much interest that I read the following comment by the Department for International Trade: ‘Any deal we sign with Australia will include protections for the agricultural industry and will not undercut UK farmers or compromise our high standards’.
“I would be grateful if you could kindly liaise with UK Government colleagues so to clarify what protections are under consideration.
“Please be assured that I, like FUW, believe wholeheartedly in seeking new trade opportunities for UK agriculture and other industries. However, every step possible should be taken to ensure that trade deals are to the benefit of Welsh farmers.”
Supporters of the deal insist food and wine will get cheaper in British supermarkets when import levies are scrapped.