The committee’s report acknowledges that the Australia free-trade deal does not prevent core standards being adopted in the future and that it is unlikely that much food that doesn’t meet these standards will enter the country because of this deal.
However, the report does quote an adviser to the government, Henry Dimbleby, as saying that a failure to adopt a ‘core standards’ approach to animal welfare and the environment, while negotiating free trade agreements, poses a danger of “exporting cruelty and carbon emissions abroad”.
The committee also argues that committing to standards such as deforestation and the use of hormone growth chemicals in meat ahead of negotiations would strengthen the hand of the UK. The report said that it would also reassure UK producers about the government’s commitment to high environmental and animal welfare standards.
It calls on the government to aid the UK farming and food sector in making up the £278m loss the government itself estimates the sector will experience as a result of the free trade agreement, by allocating additional support for exports.
Government data also reveals that the Australia free trade agreement, which removes tariffs on a wide range of imports from Australia, including beef and sheep meat, sugar and wine, would boost the UK economy by £2.3bn (or 0.08%) by 2035.
The report said that UK cattle and sheep farmers have been among those most concerned about the deal as Australian exporters would be able to undercut them in UK shops. The committee said it was disappointing that the deal did not include more far-reaching provisions on animal welfare, which would have shown greater international leadership by the UK in this area.