Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) Chairman Kevin Roberts headed to Westminster today (Wednesday, 23 May) to take part in a House of Commons Select Committee evidence session regarding possible future trade deals between the UK and Australia and New Zealand.
The influential International Trade Committee of MPs called HCC’s Chairman as an expert witness amid fears that post-Brexit trade agreements with New Zealand and Australia have the potential to harm the domestic red meat industry, unless safeguards are put in place and until there is clarity on the future trading relationship of Britain and the EU.
Two main themes were discussed in Mr. Roberts’s evidence session. The major issue of how the current Tariff Rate Quotas which operate on meat imports will be divided between the EU and the UK was addressed. Currently, New Zealand has the right to export over 220,000 tonnes of sheep and goat meat into Europe each year without tariffs.
Also, the wider issue of how the UK should approach future trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand was under scrutiny, with Kevin Roberts arguing that any deal should not mean unfair increased competition for Welsh sheep and beef farmers.
Kevin Roberts said, “No doubt New Zealand and Australia will be aiming for the best deal possible for their agricultural sectors after Brexit. But it’s important that agreements are based on what’s fair for farmers in Wales.”
“New Zealand lamb has a very high Tariff Rate Quota of 228,000 tonnes at the moment,” he said. “Negotiations on what the UK share of this should be after Brexit should not be based on historic entitlements, but rather on how much lamb has actually been exported here in the past few years – around 65,000 tonnes.”
On the issue of future trade deals, Mr. Roberts explained, “Trade between the UK and Australia and New Zealand has traditionally involved those countries exporting agricultural and other primary produce, and importing British manufactured goods and services. So it’s vital that Welsh farmers’ voices aren’t ignored in any rush to find new trade agreements after Brexit.”
He added, “Increased imports from the southern hemisphere risk undermining Welsh farmers, who have to adhere to extremely high environmental and welfare standards. Any future trade deal must take full account of the needs of the Welsh red meat sector.”