A controversial trade deal being negotiated between the EU and US could open doors for UK farmers but also pose threats, say farming organisations.
If agreed, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – or TTIP – will be the biggest ever free-trade agreement between two economies, representing nearly half the world’s GDP.
A wide variety of sectors are involved in negotiations – from insurance to telecoms – but farming is proving to be a sticking point in negotiations.
Farming groups have voiced concern that certain sectors – particularly our beef, pork and poultry farmers – could suffer if trade barriers are removed because US farming faces less stringent standards and is therefore more price competitive.
The dairy and sheep sectors, on the other hand, could have much to gain from TTIP if trade barriers are removed.
Lucia Zitti, economist in the international affairs team at the NFU, said: “There could be benefits to a TTIP deal in terms of export opportunities, but the challenges ahead cannot be underestimated.
“There are significant differences in policy areas such as biotechnology, hormone growth enhancers and pathogen reduction treatments.
“EU negotiators should seek opportunities to increase exports of high-value products, notably in dairy, and resumption of trade in beef and lamb.”
What farming organisations said about TTIP:
Andrew Large, chief executive, British Poultry Council (BPC)
“The British Poultry Council’s main concern over the TTIP negotiations is the potential for the US and EU production methods for poultrymeat to be declared ‘equivalent’ for trade purposes when they quite clearly are not.
“The British poultrymeat industry supports free trade, but such trade must respect the EU’s ‘farm to fork’ hygiene standards that have been developed over many years.”
Richard Lister, chairman, National Pig Association (NPA)
“Trade is very important to the British pig sector as we already export over £70 million of pig products to countries outside the EU.
“However, as the US is already a very proficient pork producer and more likely to want to export pork into the EU, securing equivalence on production standards will be paramount.”
Phil Stocker, chief executive, National Sheep Association (NSA)
“With a very small national flock and an appetite for prime lamb, the USA is a very interesting export market for the UK. NSA cautiously welcomes the TTIP negotiations.
“However, it is not appropriate that UK agriculture be used as a pawn in a bigger game of opening up the UK to American non-food industries.
“The devil will be in the detail – while the principle of free trade is good, it has got to work for both parties.”
Dr Judith Bryans, chief executive, DairyUK
“DairyUK fully supports balanced bilateral trade deals as long as they do not disadvantage the UK or undermine public confidence in the safety and wholesomeness of dairy.
“Industry and government must work closely together to ensure the final TTIP deal brings new opportunities for the British dairy sector while meeting the highest European standards of food safety and integrity.”
John Royle, NFU chief livestock advisor
“TTIP represents an opportunity and a challenge for British farmers.
“To make the most of access to the US market we urgently need a resumption of the trade in beef and lamb.
“However the US is very competitive in beef production as it has the ability to use animal breeding techniques such as cloning, operate under a reduced regulatory burden and a cost of production advantages through the use of hormone growth promoters and the feedlots systems.
“The US is in a position to increase the volume of beef produced and if barriers were removed could increase exports to the UK with the potential to damage the UK beef industry.”