Commerce and Agriculture Fee: Remaining Report (government abstract)

Chair’s foreword

In July 2020, the Secretary of State for Worldwide Commerce, the Rt Hon Liz Truss MP, invited me to chair a brand new impartial physique, the Commerce and Agriculture Fee. There had been a rising clamour for such a Fee over latest years and the timing of our institution made good sense.

Our job was to advise the UK authorities on how finest to advance the pursuits of British farmers, meals producers and shoppers in future commerce agreements. To some this may appear simple, but it surely most positively will not be. Offering a set of suggestions which correctly steadiness liberalisation of commerce with what issues most to UK residents and is honest for the UK agri-food sector is daunting. However that is in regards to the future and the priorities we set now that the following generations will choose us on. What we suggest will not be short-term and a few parts will take time to implement.

Changing into an impartial buying and selling nation for the primary time in over 40 years provides a significant alternative. UK exporters can hunt down new markets and the UK may also help form the foundations which govern worldwide commerce.

Setting out as an exterior buying and selling accomplice of the EU within the midst of a worldwide pandemic was by no means going to be straightforward. Agri-food companies are, like many different companies, going to must make changes to stay aggressive. We regarded exhausting on the choices, however in our actuality verify we conclude that not all might be winners.

Because the buying and selling atmosphere evolves so too does shopper behaviour and the alternatives shoppers make. There may be a lot larger consciousness of the impression of farming and meals manufacturing on the atmosphere. Customers need to know the place their meals comes from and the way it’s produced. They need to be assured that animals are handled humanely and that employees’ rights are protected. There may be much less tolerance for the large quantities of meals wasted in some elements of the world whereas tens of millions go hungry elsewhere.

The query we needed to ask ourselves, due to this fact, was how to make sure a aggressive farming sector while offering sustainably produced reasonably priced meals. There aren’t any straightforward solutions. We all know this might have change into an instructional train with unrealistic outcomes. So, we checked that what we have been proposing was compliant with worldwide guidelines and that it was sensible. We then made assessments about how our potential commerce companions would view the UK’s method. We consider our suggestions go these three checks.

We began from the premise that we’d like a long-term method to feeding the nation, specializing in Three key areas – reasonably priced meals, defending the atmosphere and serving to those that need to lead more healthy lives in a system which is honest for all concerned.

We additionally want a UK commerce coverage which creates a good and secure farming system for all. This implies no race to the underside, no backsliding or turning again the clock on requirements and an ambition to play a number one position in worldwide agricultural points.

Our intention has been to set the rules, methods and goals which others will measure us on as commerce agreements are reached. To assist inform our considering, we sought the views and perception of farmers, companies, commerce our bodies, educational and civil society organisations and elected representatives throughout the UK. Over 400 responded to an proof survey or took half in digital round-table discussions and regional roadshows in England and the devolved nations.

Our working teams on competitiveness, requirements and shopper points gathered proof from specialists in agri-food, animal welfare and the atmosphere. Commerce coverage specialists and commerce negotiators additionally gave us recommendation. We now have been informed that our engagement course of was exemplary in its attain however, extra importantly, the standard of the insights we acquired made our job a bit simpler. We’re immensely appreciative of all those that have contributed professional data to assist us formulate our suggestions which, we consider, are modern, operational and pragmatic.

We have been created as an impartial, non-political Fee. This has allowed us to think about the views from extremely skilled specialists, bringing views from throughout the agricultural and commerce sectors. We now have had strong debates all through. We now have not at all times agreed with one another, however the collective dedication to our mission has been instrumental in reaching frequent conclusions that are mirrored on this report.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, all Fee conferences and exterior engagement occasions have been carried out just about. In some methods this was a boon, permitting us to interact with individuals from throughout the UK and past. However the truth that Fee members by no means met bodily, aside from just a few at our launch occasion, was a remorse.

My thanks additionally go to the devoted workforce who supported our deliberations, saved us organised and labored tirelessly to create this doc.

It has been an awesome pleasure to function Chair of the Commerce and Agriculture Fee.

Tim J Smith

Government abstract

We’re at a crossroads.

A nation’s method to liberalisation of commerce in agricultural commodities is seen by buying and selling companions as totemic; a litmus take a look at. What we should resolve is a tricky nut to crack. We are attempting to plot a path on which we confidently embrace an open, liberalised commerce technique, and a genuinely reciprocal method to negotiations. In the meantime we are attempting to safeguard necessary requirements in a approach that’s not protectionist or commerce distorting. It’s a path which guarantees that we are going to present real management on local weather, environmental, moral and welfare points. We is not going to undermine many years of stable, hard-won progress, nor will we ‘offshore’ the impacts of meals consumption within the UK. This method calls for that we offer readability in our imaginative and prescient, rules and suggestions. If we’re formidable and optimistic in our outlook, we are going to overcome the hazard of inertia.

The UK has been navigating a path by a number of the most unsure weeks and months that any of us have skilled in our lifetime. When this Fee began its work in July 2020, the unrelentingly complicated strategy of reaching an settlement with the EU had not reached a conclusion. COVID-19 was putting unprecedented pressures on our public companies, companies and folks. However as we publish this report in the beginning of the brand new yr, there’s a sense of recent optimism about what’s forward. The EU-UK Commerce and Cooperation Settlement means the UK leaves the EU customs union and single market with a transparent framework, with a zero tariff, zero quota association at its centre. It’s a crucially necessary milestone, and, while there may be proving to be an inevitable interval of adjustment and preliminary disruption, the settlement has supplied the nation with reassurance. In the meantime COVID-19 continues to be the backdrop for on a regular basis lives, however the vaccination programme provides us all hope of a return to normality.

By these latest months, our meals and farming system has remained steadfast and resilient. That is testomony to the experience and willpower of the sector and the availability chain constructions which have developed over many years. After an preliminary flicker of panic, shoppers have largely had continued entry to the various, top quality and reasonably priced meals they’re used to. If something, meals has change into an much more central focus of day by day life. That’s not to downplay a number of the challenges; meals poverty is an issue which ought to by now have been consigned to the historical past books. Our hospitality sector has been notably exhausting hit. Above all, the entire scenario has been a reminder that we should always not take our meals provide with no consideration.

We now embark on a brand new section, as an impartial nation, of crafting and discharging a progressive new commerce coverage. The UK can current its imaginative and prescient for commerce to the world. We are able to make a transparent assertion about our priorities, our degree of ambition, how we wish our international worth chains to work and what we need to obtain with our buying and selling companions. We should do that shortly however in a measured, considerate approach. The world is watching us with curiosity to see what path we take. What we do within the coming months will set the tone for a while to return. We have to sign that we aren’t going to stay constrained by our former membership of the EU, and that we’re genuinely open to new, liberalised buying and selling relationships. 2021 can be a pivotal yr for worldwide engagement. Our Presidency of the G7 and position as host nation of the COP26 give us a singular confluence of alternatives to indicate energy and management.

This brings us again to the essential problem recognized on the outset. We must be clear about our technique and create coherence throughout completely different authorities departments, earlier than we sit down on the negotiating desk.

It’s clear that the farming sector is amongst these most affected by EU exit. The shift away from many years of subsidy and management from the Frequent Agricultural Coverage implies that the sector goes to want to recalibrate to a completely aggressive situation. The trade will restructure and lots of, however not all, will adapt. There’s a lot at stake; our farmers are usually not simply producers of meals, however custodians of our countryside, pure atmosphere and biodiversity, and the bedrock of rural communities. Commerce might be key to competitiveness, and expectations of the sector from new exporting alternatives are excessive. It’s anticipating to unlock an array of recent alternatives for meat, dairy, cereals, fish, whisky and a bunch of different iconic UK merchandise.

Our shoppers, though prioritising value, are additionally excited by the potential for having extra selection of merchandise from world wide. We’re all changing into ever extra discerning of the place our meals is from and the way it’s produced. More and more, environmental footprint, moral elements and animal welfare are shaping our determination making. Transparency is essential all through the availability chain. Traceability offers a data of provenance. Labelling has a task, and specifically nation of origin labelling and third-party assurance schemes present handy methods to sign that the product has reached a sure normal. Acquainted examples would come with Fairtrade, Purple Tractor and the Rainforest Alliance. However, with busy lives, individuals usually don’t have the time to scrutinise what they purchase and count on the reassurance that the federal government has this in hand and that they’ll store freely within the data that primary requirements are being adhered to and that there’s traceability all through the availability chain.

For some, this belief within the framework of requirements has lately been eroded. Excessive environmental, moral and animal welfare requirements which have been constructed up in our home meals system, over many many years. They look like threatened by the doubtless pernicious impression of signing agreements with nations whose meals requirements seem like weaker than our personal. Farming unions, companies, civil society, shopper teams and celebrities have lined as much as push for a safeguarding of those necessary requirements.

In response, we have now articulated a imaginative and prescient of the long run success that the UK authorities ought to intention for when creating and deploying a commerce technique. This imaginative and prescient is mirrored in a sequence of 6 rules that we advise ought to information authorities on this work.

The imaginative and prescient

The UK has an formidable commerce coverage which contributes to a worldwide farming and meals system that’s honest and trusted by all its members, together with farmers, companies and residents, from supply to consumption. Our meals is secure, wholesome, reasonably priced, produced in a approach which doesn’t hurt the planet, respects the dignity of animals and offers correct reward for these concerned.

The rules

The UK ought to intention to:

  • promote the liberalisation of commerce, to positively affect innovation and productiveness, and value and selection for shoppers
  • prioritise a thriving home agri-food sector supported by complementary home and commerce insurance policies
  • be sure that agri-food imports meet related UK and worldwide requirements on meals security and biosecurity
  • match tariff-free market entry to related local weather, atmosphere, animal welfare and moral requirements, remedying competitors points arising the place permitted imports don’t meet related UK and worldwide requirements
  • lead change, the place wanted, to the worldwide framework of guidelines on commerce and related requirements, to handle the worldwide challenges of local weather change and environmental degradation
  • assist creating nations in accessing the complete advantages of the worldwide buying and selling system

To grasp the imaginative and prescient of an formidable commerce coverage that respects the rules we have now set out, we have now developed a sequence of suggestions for motion in 5 areas. These are designed to be mutually reinforcing of their impression, and we consider the UK authorities must take motion throughout all of those areas.

First, we advocate that the UK authorities ought to develop a daring, formidable agri-food commerce technique. This may allow a coherent method to the sector that respects the completely different tasks of the UK authorities and the devolved administrations and offers a framework of priorities for future commerce negotiations. The technique must be based mostly on a liberalising method to commerce coverage, centered on bringing new alternatives for UK enterprise, tempered with safeguarding of necessary requirements. The agri-food commerce technique would must be framed throughout the context of a broader UK meals technique.

An agri-food commerce technique must be a catalyst for bringing collectively the pursuits and efforts of all related UK authorities departments throughout agri-food, commerce and growth.

We now have concentrated, specifically, on the necessity to steadiness liberalisation with not undermining the UK’s world main environmental and animal welfare requirements. We advocate due to this fact that the UK authorities undertake an method to imports which might align with its total method to commerce liberalisation and search to decrease its tariffs and quotas to zero inside commerce agreements over an affordable time interval. This may be contingent on imports assembly the excessive requirements of meals manufacturing anticipated from UK producers. It will be dynamic, recognising the interaction between normal commerce coverage, the provisions of particular free commerce agreements and the success of UK advocacy for animal welfare, environmental and moral requirements in worldwide fora. It will embody safeguards towards anti-competitive commerce distortion. We recognise that that is an modern proposal, however we have now drawn inspiration from parallel provisions within the EU-UK Commerce and Cooperation Settlement. Our proposal is much less radical and could also be much less controversial with buying and selling companions than it could have been just some quick months in the past.

We all know that we must be sensible and recognise that the UK authorities is at present persevering with negotiating plenty of free commerce agreements (FTAs) with nations such because the USA, Australia and New Zealand. There can be challenges ensuing from altering this method within the rapid short-term. Our suggestion is a strategic aspiration for UK commerce coverage within the medium and long term.

Second, our imaginative and prescient requires sturdy worldwide management by the UK. This can be a explicit crucial when it comes to motion to resolve the local weather disaster. For international commerce to flourish sooner or later, it have to be made extra sustainable and resilient to exterior shocks. The UK should leverage worldwide boards and work with worldwide companions to boost local weather and environmental requirements. This requires clear dedication and significant motion.

The UK must profit from the alternatives for international management that 2021 offers. This yr the UK takes centre stage within the G7, at COP26 and at COP15. At these boards the UK can present management in resolving the local weather disaster and likewise on animal welfare points, labour rights, moral buying and selling and countering antimicrobial resistance.

We give sensible ideas as to how this could be achieved. The method of the UK in worldwide boards must be bolder and fewer understated and we should always deploy our greatest individuals in these settings. We should always discover alternatives for mutually helpful options with creating nations. We should always construct assist for a science-based method and work inside internationally agreed norms, whereas recognising the place we have to problem the established order.

Third, the UK authorities ought to proceed to strengthen its method to the negotiation of free commerce agreements (FTAs). We recognise the unprecedented tempo with which our UK negotiating groups have delivered new and continuity commerce agreements. We recognized some optimistic apply included within the EU-UK Commerce and Cooperation Settlement that ought to inform our ambitions for FTAs with different buying and selling companions. In doing so we haven’t underestimated the challenges of reaching progressive commerce agreements, and we don’t intend to bind the arms of our negotiators unnecessarily.

The UK authorities must proceed its work to develop efficient approaches to scrutiny and evaluation of FTAs. Affect assessments ought to embody qualitative evaluation of impacts the place quantitative measures are missing, together with in relation to the atmosphere and animal welfare. Mandates for FTAs ought to mirror broad-based session and engagement, together with with devolved administrations. We have to strengthen processes for risk-based audit, assurance and certification.

Fourth, the UK authorities ought to put extra power and useful resource into export promotion, market entry and advertising. These are essential pre-requisites for rising UK agri-food exports past the negotiation of commerce agreements.

We all know that the UK’s meals ‘provide’ is one in every of high quality, traceability, heritage, security and excessive environmental and welfare requirements. A brand new, ramped up method to exporting ought to determine systematically the UK’s home provide and alternatives abroad and goal sources accordingly. It ought to leverage the UK authorities’s abroad community to draw curiosity in UK agri-food expertise.

Authorities can use its political leverage to open doorways; companies can construct the availability chains and networks to commerce. Collaboration between authorities and trade, throughout the entire of the UK, will enable us to maximise every alternative for our agri-food sector to export. Our ambition must be to make our collective impression larger than the sum of what could be achieved individually.

Fifth, the UK authorities ought to align its commerce, assist and local weather insurance policies regarding agri-food. These insurance policies should work collectively to strengthen {our relationships} with creating nations over time, to diversify our meals provide, assist our meals safety targets and assist the financial prosperity of these nations. In reviewing these insurance policies the UK authorities ought to draw on structured engagement with governments, agri-food companies and charities in creating nations and agri-food companies within the UK with creating nation pursuits.

In abstract, UK commerce coverage have to be formidable and the agreements which might be negotiated have to sort out the problems of the following technology, not simply this one. Our focus have to be on long-term positive factors, not short-term expediency. Each authorities and enterprise have to adapt, studying the teachings from the COVID-19 pandemic and reflecting the generational shift within the priorities of shoppers.

We don’t have the time to delay these modifications. We now have proposed clear rules to information the UK authorities that can enable the UK to maneuver ahead confidently with a transparent, properly executed technique. This must be underpinned by a dedication to a good and secure meals and farming system for all, with no race to the underside or backsliding on requirements. There also needs to be sturdy ambition for the UK to play a number one position in worldwide agricultural and meals points and a optimistic financial impression the place everybody feels the advantage of commerce.

We see alternatives for all and are optimistic in regards to the future for the UK as an impartial buying and selling nation.


Suggestion 1:

The UK authorities ought to develop a daring, formidable agri-food commerce technique. This may allow a coherent method to the sector throughout the UK authorities and the devolved administrations and supply a framework of priorities for future commerce negotiations. It must be based mostly on a liberalising method to commerce coverage, centered on bringing new alternatives for UK enterprise, tempered with safeguarding of necessary requirements. It must be framed properly within the context of a broader UK meals technique.

Suggestion 2:

There must be a minister with particular duty to steer on agri-food commerce, who would guarantee coverage coherence throughout UK authorities. The minister would lead in pushing for an elevation of worldwide requirements on atmosphere, animal welfare and moral commerce in worldwide boards.

Suggestion 3:

Local weather change and different environmental pressures are of such paramount significance that the UK authorities should be sure that they’re integral to its commerce coverage and negotiations. It ought to promote these points in worldwide boards, particularly COP26. It ought to champion the creation of a worldwide requirements framework for the atmosphere and clear metrics for measuring environmental sustainability, while establishing a corresponding set of rigorous nationwide requirements. WWF’s Codex Planetarius might be a mannequin from which to construct these ambitions.

Suggestion 4:

The UK ought to draw on its strengths in animal welfare to indicate world management in embedding it into commerce coverage. The UK authorities ought to play a management position in worldwide boards, to boost worldwide requirements of animal welfare. It ought to do that by investing in professional services and specialists who can present impartial recommendation to authorities. It ought to then construct worldwide relationships and put ahead proposals which might be fastidiously crafted, convincing and proof based mostly.

Suggestion 5:

You will need to fight antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in compliance with the WHO International Motion Plan. The UK authorities ought to apply the method taken within the EU-UK Cooperation Settlement, in all future commerce negotiations. It also needs to undertake a powerful stance on AMR in multilateral boards and on the UN Meals Programs Summit later in 2021.

Suggestion 6:

The UK authorities ought to reply to the noticeable shift in public attitudes to moral buying and selling and set out its ambitions for the agri-food sector, to be an exemplar for different sectors. It ought to conduct an evaluation of enforcement practices abroad, to present an everyday scorecard efficiency on exporting nations. It ought to search to incorporate a labour chapter and Company Social Accountability (CSR) provisions in all FTAs. Lastly, it ought to be sure that the UK is main by instance domestically. This can contain enhancing assist for the UK Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority. It additionally means calling on UK trade to make sure honest wages and circumstances are being supplied for seasonal employees.

Suggestion 7:

The UK authorities ought to search to construct international coalitions to advertise and defend labour rights of employees in key provide chains. Our analysis suggests the UK may focus first on provide chains for bananas, rice, cocoa, espresso and tea. It ought to work throughout the Worldwide Labour Organisation (ILO), as a founding member, to push for the 8 ILO basic Conventions to change into an evaluation of efficiency on labour rights linked to commerce, quite than a registration train.

Suggestion 8:

The UK authorities ought to take an formidable method to the liberalisation of the UK’s import tariff regime, for nations that may meet the excessive requirements of meals manufacturing anticipated from UK producers. It ought to work with buying and selling companions inside future FTA negotiations to decrease tariffs and quotas to zero the place equivalence is demonstrated for these requirements. These requirements have to be aligned with core international requirements, and the UK authorities ought to take an lively position in strengthening requirements through worldwide boards.

Suggestion 9:

The UK authorities ought to strengthen impression evaluation of commerce insurance policies and agreements by bettering qualitative evaluation on well being, welfare, biosecurity and atmosphere. Modelling in assessments ought to transcend commerce flows and tackle wider penalties similar to impression on UK meals costs. Evaluation of commerce offers with creating nations ought to assess progress and growth of the accomplice nation, in addition to the UK.

Suggestion 10:

The UK authorities ought to guarantee session and engagement on FTAs, from the early phases of inception of a potential settlement and all through negotiations, is clear, thorough, and extra detailed than it’s at present, while recognising the necessity for confidentiality.

Suggestion 11:

To make sure that future commerce coverage incentivises and builds belief with buying and selling companions, the UK authorities ought to implement a strong, risk-based audit, assurance and certification course of. This might embody an end-to-end Trusted Dealer community to ease border checks from authorities in exporting nations on sealed hundreds. The UK ought to absolutely discover using SMART in addition to latest expertise similar to blockchain to additional cut back friction factors on the border and alongside the entire provide chain. Future agri-food danger assessments must be carried out in a clear approach, that features publishing the findings, at a commodity and nation degree.

Suggestion 12:

The UK authorities ought to work with the trade to extend funding in data and perception of abroad markets. It ought to conduct systematic mapping of the sector’s aggressive benefits. It ought to evaluation the way it may encourage inward funding that might helpfully increase the UK’s buying and selling capability. Specific focus must be positioned on alternatives for agri-food centered small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Suggestion 13:

The UK authorities ought to assist and take part in a brand new Meals and Drink Export Council, which might carry collectively trade and authorities export leads for England, Northern Eire, Scotland and Wales, with a rotating chair. The Council would allow UK-wide collaboration, sharing of data and sources, assist exporters and market entry negotiations, and maximise the advantages of working collectively while respecting the separate approaches in numerous elements of the UK.

Suggestion 14:

The UK authorities ought to work with the Meals and Drink Sector Council on the trade’s request for a specialist agri-food export physique for England. This would offer one-stop-shop commerce info, to present it the most effective likelihood of success. Authorities ought to present associated, extra funding for current nationwide foods and drinks export organisations.

Suggestion 15:

The UK authorities ought to escalate the tempo of efforts to take away market entry boundaries, by FTA negotiations and wider diplomacy. It ought to work with the agri-food sector to find out whether or not the UK Export Certification Partnership (UKECP), which contributes to market entry and upkeep negotiations, must be given a wider remit, for poultry, recent produce and cereals.

Suggestion 16:

The UK authorities ought to quickly improve its abroad resourcing, by increasing its community of agri-food specialists based mostly in embassies in goal markets. These specialists would kind a part of the community of commerce workers reporting to Her Majesty’s Commerce Commissioners. This must be performed in collaboration with, and supported by, key sector organisations. These specialists ought to deal with market entry and opening up commerce alternatives.

Suggestion 17:

The UK authorities ought to evaluation advertising and promotional actions for agri-food exports, notably underneath the banner of the GREAT marketing campaign. It ought to place a larger deal with creating campaigns delicate to the wants of UK nations and areas and selling items related to particular abroad markets. This might be performed by the proposed new Export Council in collaboration with the Devolved Administrations.

Suggestion 18:

The UK authorities ought to evaluation the present public procurement plan for meals. Along with reaching worth for cash and assembly dietary necessities, it ought to maximise the chance to supply from the UK, supply sustainably and enhance the transparency of the sourcing course of.

Suggestion 19:

The UK authorities and the meals trade should work collectively to enhance nation of origin info within the free meals, meals service and out of residence provide chains. This can reply to shopper urge for food for extra belief and transparency in these provide chains. This could kind a part of a broader agenda to assist these provide chains because the nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Suggestion 20:

The UK authorities ought to conduct structured engagement with governments, agri-food companies and charities in creating nations and agri-food companies within the UK with creating nation pursuits. It ought to draw on this engagement to facilitate the constructing of relationships and enhanced understanding of the place UK funding would have essentially the most optimistic impression. It also needs to underpin nearer collaboration between the International, Commonwealth and Improvement Workplace (FCDO), DIT and Defra on agri-food commerce coverage, regulation and different exercise.

Suggestion 21:

The UK authorities ought to align its commerce, assist and local weather insurance policies regarding agri-food. Groups throughout authorities ought to set up clear, particular programmes to make sure that they’re cooperating on this and aligning budgets and priorities. Specific assist must be supplied to smaller companies and poorer producers. It ought to assist them to enhance local weather resilience. It ought to assist them to satisfy requirements in export markets to allow them to higher entry the advantages of worldwide commerce. It also needs to be focused in the direction of serving to them shift into the ‘added worth’ house of processing and packaging their very own uncooked commodities, which is able to create lasting financial progress.

Suggestion 22:

The UK authorities ought to undertake a bolder, extra assured and fewer understated method to working with like-minded nations or in pluri- or multilateral discussions. It ought to apply this to influencing vital reforms to the worldwide guidelines for commerce and requirements. These goals must be embedded in a standard technique in order that they are often pursued in all related multilateral negotiations and boards. The worldwide actions of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) must be recognised and supported the place there may be frequent trigger.

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