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Failures of Trade Deal Negotiations must not be repeated

With the UK-Australia and UK-New Zealand Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) going live from midnight tonight (31 May), the Government’s track record on these particular FTAs is one of failure writes NFU Scotland President Martin Kennedy.  

Both of these FTAs were negotiated in 2021 without the interests of primary producers in mind but with politically driven haste in the wake of the UK’s departure from the EU.  The UK Government failed to protect Scottish farming interests, failed to properly engage with stakeholders and failed to provide Parliament with proper scrutiny on such deals once agreed.



They saw our agricultural interests and access to our food and drink sector used as cheap bargaining chips to secure what is seen as more lucrative market access for other sectors.  There was little or nothing in these damaging trade deals for Scottish food or farming, a fact that former Defra Secretary of State George Eustice recently recognised.

NFU Scotland has consistently highlighted the clear lack of meaningful safeguards to protect domestic food security, in addition to the cumulative impacts for particular sectors such as beef, lamb and dairy posed by two giants of global agri-food trade. 
Fast forward to the ‘Farm to Fork’ summit hosted at Downing Street on 16 May and the rhetoric of ‘putting agriculture up front’ and ‘protecting sensitive sectors’ in the context of any new FTAs.  

For NFU Scotland, these commitments are certainly welcome, but in the case of Australia and New Zealand, they ring hollow, and the horse has now bolted.  
The approach now being promised and pursued by the UK Government around trade deals should and could have been in place from day one, had the UK Government listened to industry at the time.

Author: Martin Kennedy

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About The Author

Martin Kennedy

Martin is a tenant farmer in Aberfeldy, Highland Perthshire and farms with his wife Jane and three daughters. They have 600 ewes and 60 cows on the farm rising from 800ft to 2,500ft. Martin served two years as Highland Perthshire Branch chair, before representing East Central region on the LFA committee in 2009. Martin went on to be Vice-Chair before chairing the committee for three years. He was elected Vice-President in 2017 and elected as President in 2021.

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