As it launched the new ‘strengthened’ Trade and Agriculture Commission, the government also announced a council to promote exports from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The TAC will be chaired by Lorand Bartels, professor of international law. Members of the commission also include Jim Moseley, CEO of Red Tractor and Kate Rowell, chair of Quality Meat Scotland.
The new commission’s advice will inform a government report which will be laid before Parliament ahead of the ratification of any new Free Trade Agreement and following the signature stage. In a statement, the government claimed: ‘Any deal we sign with other countries will include protections for our agriculture industry and we have a range of tools to defend British farming against any unfair trading practices.’
Measures being introduced to support farmers, in response to recommendations in the original TAC report, include a new cohort of ‘agri-food attachés’ who will work to promote export opportunities for UK farmers and producers around the world.
The new Food and Drink Export Council will work in collaboration with industry and governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to promote exports from all parts of the UK, with the aim of helping to ‘level up’ the country.
“Positive about export opportunities”
International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said that as a trade lawyer and academic, Lorand Bartels would bring a “wealth of knowledge and experience” to his role as chair.
She added: “I’m grateful to all the original members of the Trade and Agriculture Commission for their thorough and wide-reaching report. I want our farmers and food producers to be positive about the export opportunities that exist and take advantage of booming demand for British exports.”
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “We welcome the contribution that the TAC report has made as we consider future trade policy and the approach that we will take to ensure that our high standards of food safety are maintained.”
Mixed response from NFU
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) welcomed some elements of the news. President Minette Batters said: “The government has made some important commitments in its response to the TAC report, particularly to provide greater resource to promote British food overseas as well as a positive commitment to review public procurement and country of origin information for out of home eating. The NFU wants to work with the government in establishing the new Export Council to open up real market opportunities overseas for UK food and farming businesses.
“It is also good to see the new TAC established, which more than one million people supported when they signed our food standards petition.”
However, Batters stressed that two Free Trade Agreements had been agreed in principle while the government’s response to the TAC report had been awaited, adding that there “remains plenty of work to do” to ensure the UK’s trading position equally benefits British farmers and the public.
She said: “The disconnect between the government’s domestic and trade policies is stark and needs bridging urgently. The NFU has repeatedly stressed the importance of a strategic approach to boosting domestic food production so farmers can compete in the face of new trade deals and, given the TAC’s own recommendation for a new agri-food trade strategy, it’s frustrating that government has once again failed to address this.”