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Assembly Written Question 19641/17-22

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs for his assessment of the proposed free-trade deal with Australia, and the potential impact on the Northern Ireland agricultural sector.

Answer: Negotiations are continuing on a free trade agreement with Australia and we need to await their outcome before coming to a definitive conclusion. I am concerned about reports that tariffs may be removed completely for sensitive agricultural products. This presents a high level of risk to farmers in Northern Ireland and across the UK, particularly in the beef and sheep sectors. Australia has a number of distinct advantages over Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK in terms of the land available for farming, climate and lower standards that allows it’s farmers to have considerably lower costs of production. Australian beef and sheep products have the potential to undercut UK producers and to reduce Northern Ireland’s market share in GB which is our most important market for these products.

I have long maintained that tariff and quota protection must be retained for sensitive agricultural products and have emphasised the importance of this to UK Government Ministers. I have written to Defra Secretary of State George Eustice to express my strong opposition to the prospect of a zero tariff, zero quota Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the UK and Australia. I have also met with, and subsequently wrote to the Minister of State for Trade Policy, Greg Hands MP to outline my concerns. I will continue to pursue these matters with the Government.


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