In questions to the Department of International Trade earlier today, Dr Neil Hudson MP asked about safeguard mechanisms in the UK/Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that would assist British farmers. One such mechanism is the Tariff Rate Quota, which Dr Hudson has long been a campaigner for.
Dr Hudson asked:
“Free Trade Agreements should be fair to both partners. The Australian FTA like the Ashes cricket series is a bit one-sided in favour of Australia. Can my Right Honourable Friend reassure the farmers in Cumbria and across the UK that the safeguard mechanisms in the agreement will have teeth? For instance if the Australian meat market were to pivot away from Asia towards Europe, will the Tariff Rate Quota mechanism be effective in turning down the supply of meat so that our fantastic British farmers are not undermined?”
President of the Board of Trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, responded:
“Yes, I am confident about the safeguards that we have brought in, that I am happy to set out again, support the most sensitive parts of the UK farming industry. Including a general bilateral safeguard mechanism, which provides a safety net for all those products, the stage liberalisation and the tariff rate quotas and those specific safeguards for beef and sheep meat will be there to ensure that fantastic British produce doesn’t suffer.
I want to encourage everyone to just sing loudly about how fantastic our British produce is and it is across the plates of the UK and around the world. We will continue to see that finest produce enjoyed by all.”
After the Commons question session Dr Hudson added:
“The UK/Australia FTA can be a beneficial one to both our great countries. However, we need to make sure that our British farmers, who are the best in the world, do not get undermined by cheaper imports that do not meet our high animal welfare standards. I was encouraged that the Minister seems willing to trigger mechanisms to protect the UK farming industry. The proof may be in the pudding as to whether and to what extent the Government will use Tariff Rate Quotas but I will not stop applying pressure on this point.”