Blunt reality on post-Brexit trade deals
Speakers invited at BMPA Conference this year have pictured a blunt image for the British meat industry on post-Brexit trade deals. Bill Westman of the North American Meat Institute and Lars Hoelgaard of the international consultancy TradeUp were called on the stage to tell the participants ‘how it is’, first from a US and then from an EU perspective.
Bill Westman was keen to emphasise that the US wants to work with the UK and sees ‘big opportunities around Brexit’, but it became clear that this cooperation would come at a price. Part of that price, Mr Westman explained, is that the US ‘must have meaningful market access through the elimination or reduction of all import duties and tariff-rate quotas’.
He went on to say that America doesn’t want to ask the UK to change its system, but it does want to ask us to not restrict trade in goods that are ‘internationally approved’. In practice, however, that would mean changing UK standards to allow currently banned products into the country.
Lars Hoelgaard put it more bluntly: "You’re going to take some hormone beef, some chlorinated chicken and some GMOs’ in order to do a deal with Trump’s America. He also cautioned that we’d be giving up 50% of our trade (currently with the EU) in favour of chasing after some ‘marginal, perhaps non-existent’ trade with the US. ‘Is this what you want?" asked Mr Hoelgaard.
Peter Hardwick, BMPA’s Trade Policy Advisor, emphasised that there is no way of knowing just how the meat industry will be traded-off against other key industries in future trade negotiations with third countries like the US. Trade deals are about compromise and there will be no ‘easy deals’ to be done. The main conclusion in the future relationship with the EU is that unless Brexit is cancelled or the UK agree on some form of a customs union and harmonised regulations and standards, the industry should prepare for a bumpy ride.
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