What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for International Trade on safeguards for British agriculture in a future trade deal with Australia.
What assessment his Department has made of the potential effect of the proposed UK-Australia trade deal on (a) UK and (b) Scottish agricultural producers.
As part of the agreement with Australia, we secured a special agricultural safeguard, which has a strict automatic volume trigger. It means that for the first 10 years, Australian beef and lamb will be subject to a tariff rate quota, and for the subsequent five years it will be subject to a special agricultural safeguard with a volume trigger.
This particular Opposition Member has no doubt about the world-class nature of our crofting and farming sector and our food production throughout the UK. However, I am aware of the concerns expressed by those sectors about the lack of consultation with the trade bodies and with Parliament before this deal was announced. What can the Secretary of State do to reassure these industries that a dangerous precedent is not being set and we are not going to see a lack of consultation repeated with trade deals, however important they might be, in future?
The Department for International Trade has a number of groups, including one covering agri-food, that discuss the approach to trade deals and help the Department to identify priorities. Necessarily, when in the final stages of a negotiation, the mandate the Government have is kept confidential, otherwise it would undermine our negotiating position, but we do share as much as we are able to with stakeholders, including the National Farmers Union.
Will the Secretary of State confirm that there is tariff-free access for Australian farmers from day one up to a meaningless cap 60 times current levels of imported beef, and the same applies to lamb up to a cap three times current import levels? Does that not render promises of a 15-year protection period absolutely redundant, and can we expect the same so-called protections in future trade deals?
We have to look at this in the context of the fact that at the moment Australia does not sell us any of these goods because, in the case of beef, it has a minuscule tariff rate quota of only about 1,400 tonnes. We also have to look at it in the context of the fact that we already have a TRQ with New Zealand that is over 100,000 tonnes, and New Zealand does not fill that quota.