British angst over trade as O’Connor prepares for UK visit

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Next week, Damien O’Connor will travel to London and Brussels to push forward potentially lucrative trade talks with the UK and the EU – but he may not receive an entirely warm welcome.

New Zealand politicians and agriculture officials have played down British farmers’ fears of kiwi exports flooding the market as domestic politics threaten hopes of a quick conclusion of free trade talks.

In mid-June, Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor will travel to London and Brussels to discuss New Zealand’s free trade negotiations with the UK and the European Union.

O’Connor will be the first government minister to travel offshore since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, enduring a two-week stay in managed isolation upon his return.


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But a little peace and quiet might be just what he needs after his trip, depending on the reception he receives from UK farmers.

While O’Connor and his UK counterpart Liz Truss recently announced plans to speed up negotiations, there has been unrest in the UK over a zero-tariff offer for the two countries.

There are reports that UK farmers may protest the G7 summit due to take place in Cornwall next month, while in an opinion piece for the Mail on Sunday, Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union, said the removal of tariffs “would make life unbearable for small family farms in Britain”.

“The truth is this: Removing tariffs on unmanageable vast volumes of Australian beef or New Zealand lamb – or, God forbid, allowing zero tariffs on all of their products – could mean the end.”

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But speaking to the press room ahead of his trip, O’Connor said those fears were misplaced.

“The total volumes that we invest in these markets are not massive, Australia and New Zealand want to complement the contributions of these beef producers and we do not want in any way to undermine the market value of their product or the our. “

“We hope that at the end of the day they too will recognize that there has to be a compromise, but we are waiting for a commercially meaningful trade deal, otherwise what’s the point?”

It was exaggerating to think that the NZ-UK deal could be finalized during his visit, but he hoped that progress could be made on some of the more sensitive issues with a timeline set for completion, given the significant symbolic value for the UK by being able to show that it was open for business after Brexit.

“We hope that at the end of the day they too will recognize that there has to be a compromise, but we are waiting for a commercially meaningful trade deal, otherwise what’s the point?”

National Trade Party spokesman Todd Muller told the newsroom the government needs to ensure it gets the same level of “unequivocal free market access for goods and services” UK than that offered to Australia, with a transition period if necessary.

Muller said O’Connor must repel any attempt to impose “unnecessary regulations” on agricultural producers to undermine the cost competitiveness of exports.

The environmental chapter, if done right, could actually allay the concerns of UK farmers over allegedly inferior products flooding the market by showing that New Zealand is producing the most environmentally efficient animal products in the world.

Regarding trade talks with the EU, the government seemed to be ‘walking on water’ after 10 rounds of negotiations and needed to better understand why there was an apparent reluctance to engage meaningfully with the News. -Zeeland.

Muller was also skeptical of the EU’s requests for geographical indications, which he said raised concerns in the agricultural sector.

“The idea that feta cheese cannot be called feta cheese because we make it so superbly here seems just nonsense, just as it would be nonsense for Italian kiwi growers not to be able to. call a kiwi …

“What matters is the quality of the product, the branding and your relationship with the consumer, without trying to find highly defensive and anti-competitive mechanisms to stop the business.”

Esther Guy-Meakin, senior director of strategy, trade policy and advocacy for the Meat Industry Association, told the newsroom that the organization appreciates O’Connor’s willingness to travel given Covid’s restrictions and hoped he could encourage a more meaningful supply from the UK and the EU.

Esther Guy-Meakin of the Meat Industry Association says New Zealand has shown itself to be a responsible trader. Photo: provided.

Guy-Meakin said she understood the apprehension of UK farmers about what trade liberalization would mean for them in a post-Brexit world, but said New Zealand had been shown to be a responsible player who did not would not flood the market with substandard products.

“Our farmers do not receive subsidies, our sector is very exposed to market dynamics and we are global traders – we export to 110 different markets around the world and therefore we sell our products where our customers are. willing to pay. the highest price for it.

The EU’s lack of movement on its market access was a concern and undermined its credibility as a supposed global trade policy leader, she said.

Dave Harrison, general manager of policy and advocacy at Beef + Lamb NZ, said he was not surprised by the reaction of UK farmers to the potential terms of the Australia-New Zealand deals as he was unlikely that they ever thought of a zero price offer. would be on the table.

However, the British media had tended to ‘lump’ the two countries together when reporting on agricultural conditions, although practices varied considerably.

“They talk about these huge cattle in North Queensland and the scale they operate on, the use of growth hormone products that just don’t have any real relevance in the New Zealand context, but they don’t understand that.

New Zealand’s failure to fully utilize its current quota limits for mutton exports to the UK has shown that accessing a market does not mean the country will exploit it, said Harrison.



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