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Australia Trade Agreement: Scottish Farming

Volume 696: debated on Thursday 10 June 2021

What recent assessment she has made of the potential economic effect of the proposed free trade agreement between the UK and Australia on farming in Scotland. (900745)

What recent assessment she has made of the potential economic effect of the proposed free trade agreement between the UK and Australia on farming in Scotland. (900780)

This is a deal for the whole Union. Our scoping assessment found that Scotland will benefit in all modelled scenarios. Reducing tariff barriers for our world-class food and drink industry should help bolster exports of iconic Scottish goods to Australia, such as Scotch whisky, apparel and services, such as financial services. Once we accede to CPTPP, Scottish farmers will also gain access to the increasing middle class in Asia.

Australia’s red meat industry has the goal of doubling its sales by 2030, which requires access to UK markets. That expansion can only come, despite what the Government say, at the expense of domestic producers and standards. What absolute minimum SPS, bio-security and welfare standards will the Government insist on in any Australian trade deal to safeguard producers and consumers, and to ensure that our farmers are not simply the next industry to be thrown beneath the wheels of the Brexit bus?

I have met with NFU Scotland a few times in recent weeks. To be honest, it would be nice to hear the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues for once sticking up for agriculture in Scotland and the opportunities that come from trade, rather than being against every single trade agreement. Australia apparently exports a lot to Asia—75% of its beef exports, 70% of its lamb exports—and only 0.15% to the UK. There are strong reasons for that. The production costs, for beef in particular, are much higher in countries such as Japan and Korea than they are in either the UK or in Australia. Staged over time, tariff reductions and making sure that safeguards are in place, we are confident that we will have the ability to protect UK farmers from any unforeseen increases in Australian imports to this country.

I wish you a very happy birthday, Mr Speaker.

Currently, the UK does not have specific legislation to ban meat from animals raised by inhumane methods such as battery cages—methods that are utterly intolerable here but permitted and used extensively in Australia. The Department for International Trade has also never set out if or how it might inspect animal welfare and food standards in countries with which we may sign new post-Brexit trade deals. Does the Minister truly believe that the people of Scotland are prepared to see food on their supermarket shelves reared in appalling conditions, all for the additional 0.1% to 0.2% of GDP over 15 years as per his Department’s own assessment?

I have never heard the SNP support any trade deal, ever. SNP Members even voted for a no-deal Brexit last December. The hon. Member mentioned standards. We have been absolutely clear that there will be no compromise on our standards. However, Australia, in its standards on animal welfare, is actually ranked five out of five by the World Organisation for Animal Health for its performance in veterinary services across 38 categories. The hon. Member talks about meeting our standards; our import standards remain high, and will be unchanged as a result of this or any other trade agreement. Australian produce—as, indeed, other produce—must continue to meet our high import standards.