NFU president Minette Batters

NFU President Minette Batters says the FTA is a risk to UK farmers

The UK today (28 February) finalised its trade deal with New Zealand, after reaching an agreement in principle last October.

The deal, signed by International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan and New Zealand Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor, will “remove trade barriers on a huge range of UK goods and services and provide new opportunities for British businesses”, the government said.

The UK-New Zealand trade relationship was worth £2.3 billion in 2020 and is now expected to increase by almost 60 per cent, boosting the UK economy by £800 million and increasing wages across the UK, the government said.

Under the new deal, tariffs will be eliminated on all UK exports to New Zealand and smaller businesses will also find it easier to break into the New Zealand market as a result of modernised customs procedures, such as digital documents and customs clearance as quick as six hours, the government statement added.

Other UK benefits include:
• Red tape being slashed for the 5,900 UK SMEs who export goods to New Zealand and employ 233,000 people.
• Guarantees for small businesses who will benefit from practical advice and support to find opportunities and link to commercial partners in New Zealand.
• Flexible rules of origin that will give British exporters an advantage over international rivals in the New Zealand import market, which is expected to grow by 30% by 2030.

International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “This deal will slash red tape, remove all tariffs and make it easier for our services companies to set up and prosper in New Zealand.
“Our trade with New Zealand will soar, benefiting businesses and consumers throughout the UK and helping level up the whole country.
“Like all our new trade deals, it is part of a plan to build a network of trade alliances with the most dynamic parts of the world economy, so we set the UK on a path to future prosperity.”

Responding to the signing of the UK-New Zealand trade deal, NFU President Minette Batters said: “As expected, this deal takes the same approach as the UK-Australia deal in eliminating tariffs for agricultural products, meaning that even for sensitive sectors like beef and lamb, dairy and horticulture, in time there will be no limit to the amount of goods New Zealand can export to the UK.

“I have consistently pointed out that the real risk to UK farmers, and longer term for people wanting to buy British food, from the government’s approach to trade deals is not the individual deals themselves but the cumulative impact of each deal when added together. This deal today shows I was right to be concerned,' she added.

“Once again, there appears to be extremely little in this New Zealand trade deal to benefit British farmers. UK farm businesses face significantly higher costs of production than farmers in New Zealand, and margins are likely to tighten further in the face of rising input costs, higher energy bills and labour shortages.

'The government is now asking British farmers to go toe-to-toe with some of the most export-orientated farmers in the world, without the serious, long-term and properly funded investment in UK agriculture that can enable us to do so; the sort of strategic investment in farming and exports that the New Zealand government has made in recent decades.

“There remains an urgent need for government to have a coherent approach across all of its departments to focus on UK farming’s productivity, as well as recognise and remedy the contradictions within current domestic policy, which is still woefully sparse on the detail of how farmers will be supported to become competitive food producers at a time when food security is an increasingly important concern.”

Responding to the news of the FTA, New Zealand kiwifruit grower-marketer Zespri International tweeted: 'We're really pleased to see the NZ-UK Free Trade Agreement signed and look forward to the removal of the tariff on New Zealand fruit into the UK market. We'd also like to thank our trade negotiators, the Government and those who continue to create opportunities for exporters.'