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Committee publishes Government response to report on Australia trade deal

29 September 2022

The International Trade Committee publishes the Government’s response to its report on the UK’s trade deal with Australia.

In two reports on the deal, the Committee warned the Government against overselling the benefits of trade deals, given that tariff reductions on processed food and drink are unlikely to make a noticeable difference at supermarket checkouts, with products such as Australian wines likely becoming cheaper by just a few pence.

The cross-party Committee of MPs expressed disappointment that Australian food will not be required to meet core UK food production standards, for example regarding pesticide use, and argued that negotiating legal protection for the names of iconic UK food and drink exports - such as Melton Mowbray pork pies, Scotch whisky and Welsh lamb - should have been an easy win.

The reports also called on the Government to extend the Parliamentary scrutiny period to give MPs more time to examine the deal, which the Government declined to do, and requested a full assessment of the winners and losers across all economic sectors and nations of the UK.

Commenting on the response, Angus Brendan MacNeil MP, Chair of the International Trade Committee, said:

“We welcome the Secretary of State to her new role and look forward to a fruitful and constructive working relationship.

“While we thank the Government for responding to our reports, it is disappointing that not all of our points were fully responded to. There is also a contradiction between the Government’s support for our ‘comprehensive and detailed’ report and its suggestion that we took too long to produce it. We are considering the scrutiny process for future trade agreements and will provide recommendations to the Government in the coming weeks.”

The reports included the following conclusions and recommendations:

  • Insofar as tariff cuts are passed through, this will benefit UK consumers – and UK exporters should also benefit. However, the gains are likely to be modest, and the removal of tariffs from Australian imports will not make any noticeable difference at supermarket tills.
  • The almost complete liberalisation of unprocessed agri-food trade with Australia is a significant step, especially given the UK’s strong defensive interests and minimal offensive interests. The Committee acknowledges the Government has sought to cushion negative impacts on UK producers with long-lasting phase-in arrangements. However, the duration of those arrangements is not necessarily a long period for the sectors concerned, given their lengthy planning horizons.
  • The Government has failed to secure any substantive concessions on the protection of UK Geographical Indications in Australia. This is another example of the Government failing to secure an obvious benefit in exchange for the extensive concessions it has given on liberalising agri-food imports.
  • The Government must beware of overselling trade agreements. Impact Assessments must clearly communicate a realistic assessment of potential winners and losers (across different sectors and different parts of the UK) under each agreement.

Further information

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