UK-Canada trade deal: UK govt has made “the right decision”

Farming groups have welcomed the government’s decision to halt negotiations with Canada for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) – owing to disagreements on hormone treated beef and import taxes on British cheese.

Last week it emerged that the UK had halted negotiations for a trade deal with Canada after two years, owing to a lack of progress around beef and cheese.

Canada had reportedly been seeking a relaxation of the ban on hormone-treated beef, while the UK has concerns about the 245% import taxes Canada placed on British cheese at the start of the year.

Commenting on the news, NFU president Minette Batters said: “The Government’s decision to walk away from trade talks aimed at enhancing the trading relationship between the UK and Canada would have been difficult, but it’s the right decision.

“On products such as beef and cheese, Canada was demanding too much and offering too little, therefore preventing progress to the benefit of both countries.

“During those negotiations, we understand that Canada made repeated attempts to force the UK to change its food safety rules and to extract unreasonable concessions for maintaining our preferential access to its cheese market beyond the end of 2023.”

“Disappointed by not surprised”

The Canadian Cattle Association (CCA) said it was disappointed but not surprised by the UK’s decision.

CCA president Nathan Phinney said the Canadian beef industry would continue to oppose the UK’s access to the CPTPP until the obstacles to exporting Canadian beef to the UK are addressed.

He said: “Until the UK barriers to Canadian beef are resolved, Canadian producers will continue to be at a disadvantage. The UK currently has unlimited access for British beef exports to Canada while Canadian beef producers are unable to export into the UK market.”

Meanwhile, a UK government spokesperson said: ‘We have always said that we will only negotiate trade deals that deliver for the British people. And we reserve the right to pause negotiations with any country if progress is not being made.

‘We remain open to restarting talks with Canada in the future to build a stronger trading relationship that benefits businesses and consumers on both sides of the Atlantic.’

Must become permanent

NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy noted that this is the first time during any of the post-Brexit FTAs that the UK government has held the line on existing market access barriers for agri-food products.

“Post-Brexit trade deals with major agricultural and manufacturing economies like Australia and New Zealand saw our agricultural interests and access to our food and drink sector used as cheap bargaining chips to secure what is seen as more lucrative market access for other sectors.  There was little or nothing in such trade deals for Scottish food or farming.

“With Australia and New Zealand completed; domestic producers are increasingly exposed to being undermined by growing volumes of produce derived from very different agricultural systems that operate with very different cost structures with little in return. This robust approach on a Canadian deal is something that both Defra and the Department for International Trade must permanently adopt in the future.” 

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