The UK's trade agreement with Australia, agreed in principle only, will not allow hormone-injected beef to make its way into Britain, says Liz Truss, secretary of state for international trade. The deal is the first one negotiated from scratch since Brexit.
"It's very important to note we are not lowering our food import standards… what is allowed to be shipped into Britain we are not changing at all in any trade deal and we have protected that in our deal with Australia so there will be no hormone-injected beef allowed into the UK," she told the International Trade Committee.
The government had heralded the deal as a post-Brexit win. However, in a letter that garnered cross-party support, campaign group Best for Britain warned that offering a tariff-free, zero quota access to the UK agricultural market risks undercutting British farmers. It said "the importing of products derived from conditions, agricultural practices and hormone treatments banned in the UK is not acceptable".
But Truss believes the Australian deal is a stepping stone to get the UK into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which she said was crucial for UK farmers.
This is because she expects demand for meat from the 11 countries that are in the partnership (including Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico) to grow significantly in coming years.
Truss also said the CPTPP will have huge gains for the UK economy in the future because it’s a fast-growing trade area.
She said that by 2030, 66% of the world's middle class will be in Asia and they will want to buy more products like UK cars, Scotch whiskey, financial services and computer games.
"What we are doing is positioning the UK to the world of the future," she added.
She said the deal is not about gains in the short term but the UK's long-term positioning, "putting itself at the heart of some of the fastest growing markets in the world", adding that the biggest gains are likely to be in areas like data and services.
When asked if the Australian deal would help recover money the UK economy has lost as a result of leaving the EU, Truss said to the committee that the deal was about giving more opportunities to Brits to work in Australia, opening up alternative markets for exporters and getting more reliable supply chains.
"It's not about looking backwards and wishing we were still a member of the EU," she said.
The free trade deal will eliminate tariffs on Australian favourites like Jacob’s Creek and Hardys wines, swimwear and confectionery, boosting choice for British consumers. The government estimated it could save households up to £34m a year.
British cars, Scotch whisky and confectionery will also be cheaper to sell in the tariff-free agreement.
Truss said her team's task over the next few months is to make sure "all these details are encapsulated in legal text", potentially towards the end of the year, after which parliament will have at least three months to scrutinise it.