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Free Trade Agreements

Volume 696: debated on Thursday 10 June 2021

We have signed trade deals covering 67 countries and the European Union, we are making good progress with like-minded friends and allies such as New Zealand and Australia, and we will shortly launch negotiations to join the trans-Pacific partnership, worth £9 trillion of GDP.

Penblwydd hapus, Mr Speaker. On 6 November, the Secretary of State told the National Farmers Union of Wales:

“We have no intention of ever striking a deal that doesn’t benefit farmers, but we have provided checks and balances in the form of the Trade and Agriculture Commission”.

May I ask her if the commission will have the power to tell Parliament whether her Australia deal benefits Welsh farmers, or is she breaking the promise that she made only seven months ago?

I assure the hon. Lady that the Trade and Agriculture Commission will be up and running to fully scrutinise the Australia trade deal. As set out in the Agriculture Act 2020, the TAC will look at whether FTAs

“are consistent with the maintenance of UK levels of statutory protection”

for

“animal or plant life or health…animal welfare, and…the environment.”

That is what Parliament supported in the Agriculture Act and the Trade Act 2021.

On 6 October, the Secretary of State said:

“A lot of farmers would consider it unfair if practices that are banned in the UK because of animal welfare reasons are allowed elsewhere and those products are allowed to come in and undercut the standards that our farmers are asked to follow. I agree with that. I think that’s an important principle.”

That is what she said, so may I simply ask the Secretary of State whether she still stands by that principle in the context of her proposed deal with Australia?

I have always been clear that we will not allow our farmers, with their high animal welfare standards, to be undermined by unfair competition from elsewhere. The right hon. Lady will be well aware that Australian beef and lamb is already able to come into the United Kingdom under our current import rules.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, but if I may, I will give her a specific example. The practice of mulesing is illegal in Britain but is in common use in Australia, not just in the wool industry, but in meat. Lambs at six weeks old are held down without pain relief and have the skin from their buttocks gouged out to prevent the scar tissue that grows back bearing wool. My simple question to her is this: under her proposed trade deal with Australia, will tariffs be reduced on meat produced on sheep farms that use the practice of mulesing?

We are still in negotiations about the final stage of the deal, but I can assure the right hon. Lady that British farmers, with their high animal welfare standards, will not be undermined. I am sure she is aware of World Trade Organisation rules that prevent discrimination on the basis of production methods, and what she seems to be advocating is leaving the World Trade Organisation. By the way, she might be interested to know that foie gras is already banned in Australia.