Trade agreement with New Zealand damaging to Scottish farmers, say ministers

The UK Government’s free trade deal with New Zealand will be “damaging” to Scottish farmers and food producers, Holyrood ministers have warned.

The agreement will allow much higher quantities of produce to come into the UK tariff-free, which rural affairs minister Mairi Gougeon and trade minister Ivan McKee have said will mean a “lack of a level playing field” between Scottish and New Zealand farmers.

The Scottish ministers have written to UK Trade Policy Minister Penny Mordaunt to point out a “stark contrast” in the European Union’s free trade agreement (FTA) with New Zealand which secures the same market access for it exports but seemingly with better safeguards for its domestic producers.

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The deal will see 12,000 tonnes of New Zealand beef come into the UK, while the EU has agreed just 3,333 tonnes across all 27 member states.

New Zealand will eventually be able to import an uncapped amount of beef to the UK
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By year 15, the UK Government will increase the quantity to 60,000 tonnes, followed by an unlimited amount of beef after that, while the EU will cap imports at 10,000 tonnes and still apply a 7.5% tariff.

In a joint letter to Ms Mordaunt, Ms Gougeon and Mr McKee said the deal “emphasises the futility and economic self-harm of the UK Government leaving the EU, making its own trade agreements, and then ending up with a worse deal that if we had stayed in the EU”.

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And they urged the UK Government to set out “what mitigations and compensation it will put in place for economic sectors and communities that suffer as a result” of the trade deal.

The letter addressed to Ms Mordaunt said: “We have consistently raised concerns at the lack of a level playing field between Scottish and New Zealand farmers, who can benefit from larger economies of scale.

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“It is notable that the EU–New Zealand FTA specifically excludes beef that is produced on commercial feedlots from benefiting from the preferential terms of this agreement.

“As concerns about fair competition are well known, why could the UK Government not agree a similar condition with New Zealand as part of its FTA negotiations?”

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Scottish ministers also raised similar concerns on lamb imports.

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