At International Trade Questions this week, I asked the Minister whether the Government would act on warnings in the National Food Strategy (NFS) about the effect future trade agreements could have on our environmental and welfare standards. The report says that lowering our standards for imports to secure trade deals, whilst asking our own farmers to raise their standards higher than ever, “would be an extraordinary failure of joined-up thinking. It would make it much harder to achieve the other goals we have set for our food system and undermine many of the recommendations [in the NFS]”.
The NFS was commissioned by the Government, but its warnings have been consistently ignored by Ministers as they rush through trade deals with nations with lower standards, like Australia.
The Government will soon publish a White Paper in response to the NFS, but the Minister would not give any guarantees that this will include a commitment to protecting environmental and welfare standards in future trade agreements.