Quest for trade deals takes Britain into turbulent seas

Linda J. Dodson

EU exit could push UK standards closer to WTO

Regrettably for all observers of trade, the issue of hormone-fed beef is likely to rear its head in Britain’s talks with all other countries that do not already have a deal with the EU, such as Australia and New Zealand.

“The UK will be under more pressure to bring its attitude in line with the global centre of gravity,” Booth says.

“Away from the EU’s precautionary principle that you ban things because they might be dangerous and more in line with the World Trade Organisation’s principle that you can’t ban things just because you don’t like the way they’re produced.”

Nonetheless, Elizabeth Ames, chair of the Australia Institute at King’s College London and a former Australian trade negotiator from 2009 to 2015, claims Britain need not worry about Australian food standards or an onslaught of Australian beef, lamb and wheat.

“Australia already struggles to keep up with the demand from east Asia for its products and it takes a long time to set up a logistics chain to export agricultural products safely,” she says.

“Australia also has lots of space so there’s more free animal rearing and the Australian public doesn’t have the tolerance for the sorts of farming practices you see more in the US.”

She predicts an Australia deal could be completed by the middle of next year. Speaking to MPs on Wednesday, she will argue that services and digital trade – instead of agriculture – should be centralised in the campaign for Global Britain.

“There’s a real opportunity for the UK to go further in its services chapters with Australia than it has in other agreements – on regulatory alignment, mutual recognition of qualifications and visa conditions for skilled workers to move between the two countries,” she argues.

Trade with Australia, while not negligible, has plenty of room to grow compared to other large countries like the US and China.

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