UK and India launch free trade agreement talks
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Last week, Canada was said to have asked “probing questions” into allowing Canadian beef to be sold on UK shelves should it join the CPTPP: a trade pact among a bloc of nations with a combined total GDP of roughly £10trillion ($13.5trillion). The agreement, signed by Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, came about when talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership collapsed after the withdrawal of the United States. Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, several key figures from the British farming industry raised their concerns surrounding such trade deals. The National Farmers Union stated: “It is the NFU’s consistent position that any new trade deals should not undermine British farming by allowing imports of food produced using methods that are illegal here.”
Adding to this, the CEO of the National Beef Association, Neil Shand addressed several key issues.
Speaking of whether imported meats could fall short of high British production and welfare standards, he said: “In simple terms, we shouldn’t be accepting beef where the standards of production are not equivalent to our own.
“In terms of traceability, there is a real concern that the currently proposed Australian deal could allow beef produced at standards below those required in the UK to be imported.
“Whilst it’s unlikely any of this beef would end up on supermarket shelves – especially after the negative press the Australian deal has attracted – it is perfectly possible that it would be filtered into foodservice, where spotlights don’t shine as brightly, and fewer questions are asked.
“As an organisation, we actively encourage all consumers to ask their food outlets for the country of origin of the beef they eat.”
Tim Lang, an Emeritus Professor of Food Policy from City University of London also highlighted the importance of labelling food.
He said should imported beef and other meats arrive in the UK: “The Government will have to let the people decide what they buy, but, there are no labels on where the food came from, which makes things murky.
“This is going to be an issue some consumers won’t know about because it is not on the label.
“Food labelling is a weak form of intervention for public health.”
Mr Shand stated front line consumer labelling is good but does not guarantee customers know where their meat is coming from all the time.
He said: “Legislation in regard to retail labelling is excellent, and the customer can clearly and easily see the origin of the product and where it has been processed.
“The grey area is in food service – pubs and restaurants – where the product is not served to the customer in detailed packaging.
“This is where the black hole of food traceability exists, and where food produced at lower standards – with its accompanying potential for poorer quality – could pass undetected by consumers.”
Professor Lang also raised concerns about rising food prices in the UK, and how certain communities are seeing the gap widen.
He stated: “High-quality hormone-free, lowered anti-bacterial food will be for the rich, which is causing a danger of a two-tier market, and in the name of trade is widening the market.”
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Discussing the challenges faced by British farmers, Mr Shand said: “We are in a period of global inflation; the EU average is actually above the UK level.
“The aftershocks of the pandemic have resulted in the global economy being switched on and off like a light switch.
“Our members – beef producers – are facing colossal price rises in fertiliser, feed and fuel costs.
“Fertiliser costs alone have risen by over 200% in little over 6 months, and farmers are also facing massive energy bill rises.
“There is no room to reduce production costs whilst maintaining our world-renowned standards, and prices don’t appear to be falling any time soon.”
Britain must now avoid a poor deal when it comes to joining the CPTPP.
Previous deals, such as the Australia UK pact appears to have upset British farmers.
ARE YOU A BRITISH FARMER? HAS YOUR BUSINESS BEEN AFFECTED? DO YOU CARE WHERE YOUR MEAT COMES FROM? ARE YOU WILLING TO PAY LESS FOR IMPORTED BEEF? LET US KNOW HOW THIS STORY AFFECTS YOU IN OUR COMMENTS SECTION JOIN THE DEBATE, EVERY VOICE MATTERS
Speaking of the Australia deal, NFU President Minette Batters said: “As we feared following the agreement in principle, there appears to be extremely little in this deal to benefit British farmers.
“We will analyse the detail in full but on the face of it, this is a one-sided deal.
“When it comes to agriculture, the Australians have achieved all they have asked for and British farmers are left wondering what has been secured for them.
“Ultimately, this deal simply serves to heap further pressure on farm businesses at a time when they are facing extraordinary inflationary pressure and sustained labour shortages, an issue the entire food supply chain agreed needed urgent action at a cross-sector summit earlier this week.
“I hope that MPs will now take a good, hard look at this deal to see if it really does match up to the Government’s rhetoric to support our farmers’ businesses and safeguard our high animal welfare and environmental standards. I fear they will be disappointed.”
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