International trade secretary, Liz Truss, has announced a series of changes to the Trade and Agriculture Commission which will see it put on a statutory footing.
The Commission has also been extended beyond its initial six-month period and will now be in place for up to three years. It will have more legislative powers, which will include a report on the impact on animal welfare and agriculture of each free trade deal the Government signs after the end of the EU transition period on the 1st January.
Government says the amendments will help give farmers a stronger voice in UK trade policy.
Commenting on the changes, Truss said: “As trade secretary, I want deals that deliver for British farmers and help them sell more brilliant produce around the world. I will never sign up to anything that threatens their ability to compete, or that undermines their high standards.
“Our trade policy is deeply rooted in British values – democracy, the rule of law, human rights and a fierce commitment to high food and farming standards. Any deal that does not abide by those values or deliver for vital industries like agriculture will remain firmly on the shelf.
“The Trade and Agriculture Commission is an important part of our vision for a values-led and value-generating trade policy. It is about putting British farming at the heart of our trade agenda and ensuring the interests of farmers and consumers are promoted and advanced as we move closer to becoming an independent trading nation on January 1st.”
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, added: “By putting the Trade and Agriculture Commission on a statutory footing, we are ensuring that the voices of our farmers, as well as those of consumers and key environmental and animal welfare groups, continue to be heard while we are in the process of scrutinising future trade deals.
“The food producers that we have in this country are second to none, and we know that there is a growing global demand for our great British produce.
“We will always back Britain’s farmers and food producers and will make sure they can seize the vast range of opportunities outside of the EU, so that their world-famous produce can continue to be enjoyed all around the world.”
Ian Wright CBE, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and member of the current Commission, said: “The news that the Trade and Agriculture Commission is to have a permanent role is very welcome. The Commission has already shown its capacity to bring laser like focus to the debate on food standards and trade. However, it is important that the whole food supply chain is engaged in the scrutiny of the UK’s future trade policy. Farmers represent one part of the food supply chain, but it is important that its other voices – manufacturing, retail and hospitality – are equally represented and heard.”
British Veterinary Association (BVA) president, James Russell, said: “We welcome this very important step from the Government in acknowledging the strength of feeling on the issue of protecting UK animal health and welfare standards in future trade deals.
“While we welcomed the establishment of the Trade and Agriculture Commission in June, we raised concerns that its role was only advisory and repeatedly called for the Government to commit to protecting standards through legislation. We’re pleased that the Government has listened to concerns and will now put the Commission on a statutory footing.
“It’s essential that in scrutinising future trade deals the Commission draws on a wide range of veterinary expertise to put animal health and welfare at the centre of decision making. The farming community, veterinary profession, and consumers need to be reassured that the UK will not compromise our reputation for high animal welfare standards.”
President of NFU Scotland (NFUS), Andrew McCornick, added: “This is a huge step forward. There has been overwhelming public backing, celebrity endorsement and growing cross-party support for measures to be written in to legislation that recognise the outstanding standards met by the nation’s farmers and crofters and that ensure any imports coming into the UK would meet the standards that are required of UK producers.
“That has been matched by a relentless lobbying effort seeking significantly greater governance and scrutiny of the nation’s trade negotiations as we enter a new era.
“This is a landmark decision. We will study the detail of the proposals and strive to ensure that the best interests of farming, food and drink and the public continue to be front and centre of any future trade deals.”