Carmichael calls for focus on farmers and crofters in Commission assessment of NZ trade deal

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today called for the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) to focus on farmers and crofters in its assessment of the recently signed UK-New Zealand trade agreement. While the government’s own figures indicate that UK agriculture and food production will take a £150m loss due to the trade deal, media reports have suggested that the Secretary of State for International Trade has only requested that the TAC look at the impact on food standards.

Mr Carmichael asked if the DEFRA Secretary would hold discussions with the Secretary of State for International Trade on the potential effect on farmers and crofters in the Highlands and Islands of the UK-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement.

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice said:

“I’ve held regular discussions with both the current Secretary of State and her predecessor regarding the negotiating mandate. The deal includes protections for British agriculture and tariff reductions for New Zealand products will be staged over time.”

Responding, Mr Carmichael said:

“The decision of the Secretary of State for International Trade to seek advice from the Trade and Agriculture Commission is a welcome one, but the questions on which she seeks advice all seem to revolve around standards. Important though that is, it is not the full story as far as the crofters and farmers in my constituency are concerned. Will he encourage his Right Honourable friend to take a more farmer- and crofter-focused approach? As the government’s own figures show, this deal risks taking £150m out of British agriculture.”

Mr Eustice said:

“New Zealand have always had access under WTO rules. In the past they’ve only used half of their quota, because long before they fill their quota they are unable to compete with our British producers including in his constituency.”

Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:

“Not for the first time Mr Eustice has ignored the substance of the question to avoid talking about the impact on real people – the farmers and crofters in our rural communities. Food standards matter but they are only one part of a wider, delicate ecosystem for agriculture, which risks being rapidly unbalanced by this and other trade agreements done in haste.

“We need a farming and crofting focus for any TAC assessment of the New Zealand deal – the impact of a £150m hit to agriculture and food producers would reverberate across rural communities. We cannot let local farmers and crofters go to the wall for the sake of a cheap Tory trade deal.”

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