NFU welcomes opportunities but CIEH is concerned that government has “sacrificed standards for the sake of striking a deal”
The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is the “biggest trade deal since Brexit” says the UK government; however, critics argue it could have major implications for food safety.
The government says the deal will ensure the UK’s food and health standards are maintained, and all food and drink products entering the UK must comply with import requirements. Beef and lamb will be given “proportionate access”, while pork, chicken, sugar and eggs are protected.
It also gives UK exporters access to a trade bloc of over 500 million people, cuts tariffs on food, drink and cars, and offers new advantages for business.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) has been critical of similar deals with Australia and New Zealand, but President Minette Batters said: “Joining the CPTPP could provide some good opportunities to get more fantastic British food on plates overseas.”
The government has negotiated a “considered and balanced outcome,” she said: “I will continue to press government to ensure its domestic policies are aimed at improving the competitiveness of British farming and strengthening our domestic food security.”
However, critics argue the deal, which will add 0.08% to the size of the economy in ten years, risks greatly undermining food safety, farming and environmental standards in the UK and in supply chains.
"The UK has joined a trade bloc where food, farming and environmental standards are lower than our own. This raises real concerns about the impact on consumer health and farm businesses in the UK,” said Orla Delargy, Head of Public Affairs at Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming.
The agreement could introduce food imports containing pesticides currently banned in the UK and poses a unique challenge from an animal welfare perspective as there are no explicit references to animal welfare standards in the trade bloc’s formal condition.
“Many CPTPP countries use methods of production which are illegal here... Worryingly, we now fear there will be nothing to stop those products being imported into the UK.”
David Bowles, Head of Public Affairs, RSPCA said it “is another potential nail in the coffin for animal welfare standards back home. Many CPTPP countries use methods of production which are illegal here, such as sow stalls and battery cages for laying hens. Worryingly, we now fear there will be nothing to stop those products being imported into the UK.”
The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) also expressed concerns, particularly surrounding imports from Mexico, which uses conventional cages banned in the UK in 2012. Mark Williams, Chief Executive said: “Such imports would undercut our own egg producers who operate to high standards of animal welfare. To create a situation where egg products, which would be illegal to produce here, are imported and unknowingly purchased by consumers in the form of finished food products is unforgivable.”
Ciaran Donaghy, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Executive, CIEH: “As was the case with the various trade deals with Australia and New Zealand, it appears as though the government have sacrificed standards for the sake of striking a deal. Public health and environmental protection are not pawns to be played with during diplomatic negotiations. Once again, we would impress the need for the UK to maintain or enhance standards during trade negotiations for the sake of public health.”
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