Australia and New Zealand free trade agreements: letter to UK Government

Letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands to the UK Government's Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Seacole Building
2 Marsham Street

15 November 2022

Dear Thérèse, 

I am writing to you in light of recent comments made by one of your predecessors, George Eustice MP, in the House of Commons yesterday evening, regarding the Australia and New Zealand Free Trade Agreements.

I have written to UK Government Ministers about these FTAs on numerous occasions, to highlight what is now, clearly, an abject failure with the deals to protect domestic producers. The UK Government has repeatedly extolled the benefits of these agreements, however, those arguments are now tissue-thin with the flaws laid bare in the UK Parliament by the former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who was also the incumbent at the time those deals were negotiated.

Mr Eustice stated that the “Australia trade deal is not actually a very good deal for the UK” and “that the UK gave away far too much for far too little in return”. He also outlined that the UK Government should have negotiated “enduring TRQs”. Frustratingly, these are points the Scottish Government had consistently raised with the UK Government, to no avail.

Indeed, it is not only the former Secretary of State that is concerned. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee just last week also raised concerns, similar to those expressed by Scottish Ministers. While these developments clearly vindicate the Scottish Government’s position on these trade deals, it is of course no comfort to our producers who will ultimately face the consequences of such poor negotiations.

I hope Mr Eustice’s comments in relation to DIT overriding DEFRA are treated with the seriousness that they deserve. This undoubtedly strengthens our calls for Scottish Ministers to play a full role in crucial decisions regarding both tariffs and quotas, areas in which the UK Government has clearly failed to represent not only Scotland’s, but the wider UK’s interests.

I sincerely hope that the mistakes made consistently throughout the negotiation of these FTAs are learned from, so that domestic producers are better protected in any trade deals being negotiated now and in the future.

I am copying this letter to the Ivan McKee, Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, Vaughan Gething, Minister for the Economy in Wales and Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales and Trefnydd in the Welsh Government and to the Permanent Secretary of the Northern Ireland executive.

Yours sincerely,

Mairi Gougeon

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