Scotland’s world-class food and drink ‘under threat’ from US deal

The SNP has warned the UK government not to agree to any “bargain basement” trade deals with the United States as fresh fears emerged that a proposed post-Brexit trade deal could allow big American firms to “run riot” in the NHS and threaten food standards.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 15: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks on border security during a Rose Garden event at the White House February 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump is expected to declare a national emergency to free up federal funding to build a wall along the southern border.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 15: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks on border security during a Rose Garden event at the White House February 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Trump is expected to declare a national emergency to free up federal funding to build a wall along the southern border. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Donald Trump’s administration has published negotiating objectives for a deal that includes demands for full market access for US drug firms and a block on state institutions such as the NHS discriminating against American companies when purchasing goods and services.

The document also seeks “comprehensive market access” for US agricultural products through the reduction or removal of tariffs and the elimination of “unwarranted barriers” to food and drink imports.

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The Department for International Trade welcomed the paper, published by the office of US trade representative Robert Lighthizer, as a sign that Washington is keen to start talks soon after Brexit.

Liam Fox’s department said the UK would insist on maintaining “high standards for businesses, workers and consumers” in any deal.

But SNP MSP Gail Ross condemned the requests, claiming the US government wanted the UK to leave the door “wide open” to products such as chlorine-washed chicken and beef from animals given growth hormones.

She said: “Not only does that raise questions over health issues given that these products are currently banned by the EU, it is also a direct threat to Scotland’s world-class food and drink sector. The Tories have repeatedly failed to ensure Brexit will not put Scotland’s high-quality food and environmental standards at risk.”

She added: “No matter how desperate the UK government are they should not sacrifice food safety or our agriculture sector to placate Donald Trump.”

Labour MP Jo Stevens said the proposed deal, which also requires the removal of restrictions on transfers of personal data, would turn the NHS into “a playpen for huge US corporate interests”.

She said: “Donald Trump’s administration has now made it clear just what it will be demanding from the UK in return for a trade deal – and one of those things is that we let big US companies run riot in the NHS.”

She warned the proposals would require “US drug companies – the very corporations that have caused the opioids crisis in their home countries through reckless marketing and pressure on doctors – get full access to the NHS”.

Mr Lighthizer’s office stressed the importance of the UK/US trade relationship, currently worth about £173 billion a year. A statement said: “The UK’s decision to leave the EU creates a new opportunity to expand and deepen the US/UK trade relationship.”