UK Trade Deals: Japan and Canada

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:15 pm on 7th December 2020.

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Photo of Gordon Dunne Gordon Dunne DUP 2:15 pm, 7th December 2020

3. Mr Dunne asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to outline the benefits to the agri-food sector of the recent UK trade deals with Japan and Canada. (AQO 1260/17-22)

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

The UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was signed on 22 October 2020 and is largely based on the existing agreement between the EU and Japan. Similarly, the agreement in principle with Canada, announced on 21 November 2020, will roll over the provisions of the existing Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

These agreements have still to be fully ratified, but once that has been done, they will give certainty to agri-food businesses that are exporting goods and will ensure that they can continue to benefit from the existing trading arrangements. For example, CETA includes tariff-free trade on 98% of goods that can be exported to Canada, including beef, fish and seafood. The CEPA agreement with Japan secured tariff-free access for more agri-food goods and protection for some of our iconic products. Commitments on tariffs for the UK and Japan have largely been transitioned from the EU deal without changes. That deal sees tariffs for UK exports to Japan fall on beef, pork, salmon and a range of other agricultural exports, subject to staged tariff liberalisation, which is in line with the EU agreement.

Photo of Gordon Dunne Gordon Dunne DUP

I also pass on my best wishes to the Agriculture Minister, Edwin Poots. I got a message from him today saying that he is receiving great service, so he appreciates the health service to which he contributed as Minister.

I thank the Minister for her answers. I welcome the great news and the opportunities for the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland. Can she give the House an assurance that incoming products to Northern Ireland will continue to meet the required high quality standards?

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

Northern Ireland will meet the standards because it will continue to employ EU single market rules. I suppose that the wider issue to which the Member refers is the potential for wider UK free trade deals. What we would really like to see is the United Kingdom as a whole not accepting agricultural produce that is produced to a lesser environmental standard or social standard in terms of employment than it would expect of Northern Ireland or other member states from the United Kingdom. It is important that we do not make Northern Ireland produce — indeed, United Kingdom produce — uncompetitive by undercutting it with cheap imports.

Photo of Caoimhe Archibald Caoimhe Archibald Sinn Féin

I also extend my good wishes to Edwin to get well soon.

The Minister said that the UK-Japan agreement largely replicates that between Japan and the EU. Does she accept that, due to the fact that no new tariff rate quotas (TRQ) were agreed, some exporters could be at a disadvantage under the agreement?

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

The Japan agreement largely replicates the agreement that the EU has with Japan. Commitments and tariffs have been transitioned largely without changes. That will see tariffs for UK exports to Japan fall on pork, beef, salmon and other agricultural produce. For butter, milk and milk powders, where there were UK exports in 2019, UK exporters will continue to access Japan's market via their WTO TRQ.

Photo of Alan Chambers Alan Chambers UUP

I join in the good wishes to Minister Poots. It is reassuring that the NHS was there for him in a timely manner when he needed it.

Minister, following 1 January 2021, will Northern Ireland food products for export be labelled "UK" or "EU"?

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

Those matters will be worked out in the Joint Committee.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

Mr John Stewart. Sorry, Mr John Blair. I am on autopilot.

Photo of John Blair John Blair Alliance

Thank you, Mr Principal Deputy Speaker. May I associate myself and my colleagues with the good wishes expressed to Minister Poots for a full and speedy recovery?

I think that the Minister has clarified that what is being talked about is, at the very best, a replication of existing EU arrangements for Canada and Japan. More specifically, from an economic or agricultural perspective, can she tell us whether any data is available to show whether there is any benefit at all for trade or the economy with the new arrangements?

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

I presume that the Member means in relation to the trade deals with Japan and Canada. Canada is one of our largest partners. The CETA deal means that 98% of all products that pass between the countries, and now the United Kingdom, are tariff-free. That is a huge boost to the economy of Northern Ireland and the wider economy of the United Kingdom.

The good news about the Canada deal is that Canada is committed not only to the rollover of the deal signed in November but the renegotiation of parts of that deal so that it is bespoke to the rest of the United Kingdom. It is a really important trade deal for Northern Ireland.

The Japan trade deal is also important. Japan is one of the largest importers of agricultural produce in the world. There is an enormous opportunity to take our product to that market. That is another extremely important trade deal for the Northern Ireland economy. The crux of the matter for Northern Ireland will be making sure that we are a full part of those trade deals, notwithstanding the implications of the Northern Ireland protocol.

Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP

Once again, I apologise to the Member for getting his name wrong. There is only one John Blair.