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Free Trade Agreement: Japan

Volume 681: debated on Thursday 8 October 2020

What assessment she has made of the potential effect on farmers and food producers of the free trade agreement with Japan. (907219)

What steps she is taking to maintain the UK’s (a) food and (b) animal welfare standards in future free trade agreements. (907225)

What assessment she has made of the potential effect on farmers and food producers of the free trade agreement with Japan. (907229)

What steps she is taking to maintain the UK’s (a) food and (b) animal welfare standards in future free trade agreements. (907253)

The deal with Japan will go further and faster than what we had under the EU, for instance by increasing the number of geographical indications from seven in the EU-Japan deal to up to 70 in our new agreement, from Cornish clotted cream to Scotch beef. Furthermore, Japan has guaranteed market access for UK malt exports under an existing quota, which is more generous and easier to access than the EU quota.

My right hon. Friend recently visited Grange Hill farm just outside Bishop Auckland, and John, Jane and Becky—the farmers there—are rightly very proud of the high-quality beef products that they produce. Will my right hon. Friend tell the House how this and other deals she is seeking, such as the deal with the USA, will benefit British beef farmers right across our United Kingdom?

I hugely enjoyed my visit to Grange Hill farm with my hon. Friend. Our deal means that British beef going into Japan will have lower tariffs. We also announced last week that the first beef for 24 years was shipped from Britain to the United States. In the United States trade deal, we will seek to remove the 26% tariff on British beef so that we can get even more of that great product into that market.

I have been contacted by many constituents who are concerned about the animal welfare standards in a US-UK trade deal. They ask me why the state of California can ban imports of products that do not meet its animal welfare standards but the UK Government are not willing to do the same.

We are absolutely clear that we are going to stand up for our high standards in any deal we strike, including with the United States, and make sure that the high standards our farmers operate to will not be undermined.

May I start by praising my right hon. Friend and her Department for the sterling work that she is doing in making us a global trading nation once again? We have heard about the wonderful beef exports of the north-east, but it will come as no surprise to her that Welsh lamb is a major part of the Delyn economy. It would be remiss of me not to stand up for the agricultural sector in my constituency, so what message can she give me to take back to my local farmers to tell them that they will not only do well in the new arrangements, but thrive, prosper and grow?

Welsh lamb is some of the best in the world, and in the new Japan trade deal, it will be recognised as a GI for the first time. We got our first Welsh and British lamb into Japan for over 20 years last year, opening up a market worth £52 million. My next target is to get the ban on lamb removed in the United States, which would be a huge market. The US is the second largest lamb importer in the world.

I was interested to read that the members of the Trade and Agriculture Commission were calling for parliamentary scrutiny on all future trade deals. The head of the Government’s Food Commission has said the same, so can the Secretary of State show that she is listening to her advisers by guaranteeing this House of Commons a debate and a vote in Government time on any trade deal with the USA?

I can confirm that we will have a world-leading scrutiny process, comparable with Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. That will mean the International Trade Committee scrutinising a signed version of the deal and producing a report to Parliament, a debate taking place and then, through the CRaG—the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010—process, Parliament can block any trade deal if it is not happy with it.

We have spent countless hours in this House and in the other place debating the impact of imports on food standards—a debate that has captured the attention of millions of people across the country—but I would like to boil it down to asking the Secretary of State one simple question today. If it is her argument that we do not need Labour’s amendments because bans on the relevant imports are already enshrined in law, can she please tell us which law prevents the importing of pork that has been produced on American farms that continue to use sow stalls?

The right hon. Lady is talking about an animal welfare issue and, as I made very clear earlier, we will not allow the high animal welfare standards of our pig producers to be undermined.

I listened very carefully to that response, but I do not really think that it was an answer further than rhetoric. The point is that there is no import ban against pork produced on farms using sow stalls because, as the Secretary of State says, it is an issue of animal welfare, not of food safety. That means that, if the Government drop tariffs on US pork, British pork farmers will be undercut by cheap imports from American agricultural companies using practices that have been banned in our country for the past 21 years. Will she please listen to reason and write into law the protection of all UK farming standards against imports that do not meet them?

As I have said, of course in any trade deal that we strike we will take into account our high standards, to ensure that our farmers are not undermined, but if the right hon. Lady is suggesting a blanket ban on any foodstuffs that do not comply exactly with British farm regulations, she is talking about preventing developing countries from sending their foodstuffs to the United Kingdom. Is she saying—[Interruption.] She will understand that under most favoured nation rules we have to apply the same standards to every country that we deal with, so is she saying that she wants to ban Kenyans from exporting their products to us if they do not follow exactly the same farm standards as here in Britain? I want to ensure that our farmers are able to continue with their high standards, but I do not want to stop developing countries exporting their goods to us.

Let us calm it down a little with the Chair of the International Trade Committee, Angus Brendan MacNeil. There is no more calming influence than Brendan.

Tapadh leibh, Mr Speaker, and a nice calm morning in the Hebrides it is too.

In 2014, the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, promised Scotland that the choice was between independence and all options of devolution, and all indeed were possible—as well, of course, as guaranteed EU membership. Leaving that aside, the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill is expected to do the opposite of that on devolution. Given that the USA has differences across its states, can the Secretary of State guarantee that no attempt will be made to grab powers from the devolved nations to present the entire UK on an easily consumable platter for USA negotiators when it comes to a UK-USA trade deal?

I can absolutely say that we are not grabbing powers; we are using the powers that were previously in the hands of the European Union to create a strong internal market across the United Kingdom. That it is vital, because Scottish farmers need to be able to sell their lamb and beef into England, Wales and Northern Ireland without impediment.