Big Ben

Slow down US trade talks, CIEH urges MPs

Timing of negotiations questioned as stakeholders occupied with COVID-19.
21 May 2020 , Katie Coyne

Trade talks with the US must be slowed down to ensure they receive the required level of scrutiny and attention they deserve, CIEH has urged MPs.

Deeply uneasy that an amendment to the Agriculture Bill to maintain existing food, animal welfare, and environmental standards failed, CIEH has been lobbying MPs and peers asking them to take up this issue with government.

The organisation is concerned that improvements in food-related public health outcomes, environmental and welfare standards across the UK will be undone unless there is political and public pressure to prevent this.

Particular concern focuses on the weakening of rules on chlorine-washed chicken, livestock intensification, and food labelling. CIEH described clear food labelling as “a cornerstone” of the UK's current public health strategy.

While environment minister Victoria Prentis reassured the Commons following the amendment’s defeat that food issues would be dealt with in the Trade Bill, it doesn’t currently “make appropriate mention” of these matters, CIEH said.

CIEH has written: “Although we recognise that the government is anxious to negotiate and conclude new trade deals with countries outside of the European Union, the timing of the talks with the United States is questionable as many of the relevant stakeholders and food organisations are busy helping their communities get through the COVID-19 crisis.

“There is a great deal at stake if negotiations are rushed and deliver a deal that undercuts hard-won British food standards.”

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