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James Withers: “Frankly, the process behind the Free Trade Agreement negotiations with Australia is cause for concern”

10/06/2021
James Withers, Chief Executive, Scotland Food & Drink

Today, 14 leaders from the Scottish food and drink industry signed an open letter to the UK Trade Secretary Liz Truss MP raising concerns over negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement with Australia and the ramifications for the sector.

One signatory, James Withers, Chief Executive at Scotland Food & Drink, added:


“As a food and farming industry we want to be ambitious for global trade. The future of our sector relies on it, and international sales of Scottish food and drink are already worth over £6 billion in a normal trading year.

“However, if we rush trade deals through, without any serious scrutiny and no engagement with industry and other experts we can harm businesses, communities, the environment and the UK’s international reputation. 

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“Frankly, the process behind the Australian negotiations is cause for concern. 

“We want to work collaboratively with UK Government on trade but that is very difficult to do when everything happens behind closed doors.

“We need a UK trade policy that not only protects the high animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards here, but acts as a force for their development globally.

“Trade is enormously complex and the cost, complications and trade barriers introduced by Brexit for large swathes of the UK food industry should be a cautionary tale. Whilst the headlines this week about sausages may seem ludicrous to many, they demonstrate that details matter.

“The Trade and Agriculture Commission, set up by Liz Truss, has set out a way forward on UK trade policy that embraces ambition, but alongside engagement with all parts of the UK and increased scrutiny. The importance of the UK-Australian deal goes beyond the relative value to both nations; it could set the framework for all future trade deals. So, we need to get this right because the price of failure is too high.”

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