Calls for an Urgent Meeting on UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement

With an agreement between the UK and Australian Governments reported to be close to completion, Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon (pictured) has written again to Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss to reiterate concerns about the potential UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

In the letter, she has requested an urgent meeting as the Scottish Government has still not seen any of the proposed details despite the potential impact on the Scottish economy and the significance of this deal to farming and food production industries in Scotland and across the UK.

Ms Gougeon also echoed calls from Scottish industry representatives for the UK Government to publish an assessment of the cumulative impact of Free Trade Agreements with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

The full text of the most recent letter is below:

10 June 2021

Dear Liz,

I refer to my earlier correspondence, of 19 May, in which I raised significant concerns around the UK Government’s approach to the UK-Australia trade negotiations. Given the stage that these negotiations appear to have reached, I am disappointed that you have not yet replied. I remain extremely concerned that the UK Government is prepared to sign up to a UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement that would lead to a sustained increase in imports of Australian agri-food produced to a lesser standard – and on a scale not seen on UK farms.

I understand that 14 leading Scottish industry representatives have jointly written to you. In their letter, industry representatives have raised concerns at the lack of consultation and have asked that you publish an assessment of the cumulative impact of FTAs with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. The Scottish Government would echo their ask. It is also clear that industry representatives share the same concerns that I raised in my earlier correspondence on animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards.

As requested in my earlier correspondence, in light of the clear significance of this matter to farmers and food producers, I wish to discuss this with you urgently. I would also welcome your attendance at the upcoming Inter-Ministerial Group between Defra and the devolved administrations scheduled for later this month, as I am sure you are aware of the strong views held across the devolved administrations an a potential UK-Australia FTA.

I am copying this letter to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Chancellor of Duchy of Lancaster, the Minister of State for Trade Policy, the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales in the Welsh Government and the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in the Northern Ireland Executive.

Yours sincerely,

MAIRI GOUGEON