Wednesday, 05 September 2018 18:36

TORY TRADE MINISTER DISMISSES SCOTLAND’S ROLE IN FUTURE TRADE DEALS

TORIES GEARING UP TO TRADE AWAY SCOTLAND’S INTERESTS

The Tory government is gearing up to deny Scotland a voice in future trade negotiations, risking the current protections for Scotland’s health service and food and drinks industries, the SNP has warned.

The UK Minister of State for Trade Policy confirmed during an appearance before Holyrood’s Finance Committee today that neither the Scottish Government nor the Scottish Parliament would be granted a formal say in future trade negotiations, claiming that the power grab can be justified by a need for “continuity”. The SNP’s Bruce Crawford said this would be “a weakness not just for Scotland, but for the UK.”

On protecting Scotland’s NHS from American companies, as well as for Scottish food standards faced with an influx of chlorine washed chicken and hormone injected beef, the UK minister, George Hollingbery MP, confirmed:

“That will all be a matter for negotiation - there are offensive interests, there are defensive interests, there are some things you refuse to accept, there are other things you may have to give and all that in the end will come out in the wash.”

And on Geographical Indication (GI) Protections, for Scotch Beef and Scottish Salmon for example, the minister said:

“In most free trade deals, certainly the ones I’ve looked at recently, you have to demonstrate a certain level of penetration into market and or desire amongst consumers for that GI to gain protection, so on the whole quite a few UK GIs which we promote fail that test when going to the Japanese market or say the South Korean market. Whisky, no problem at all. Amazingly, blue and white stilton actually quite often get through but there are several others, which we would like to protect which just don’t have sufficient penetration to warrant GI status in that market.”

Emma Harper MSP, who sits on Holyrood’s Finance Committee, said:

“It is extremely concerning that we don’t have any guarantees from the Tory government that Scotland’s interests and indeed Scottish Government policy will not be compromised in future UK trade deals - quite the opposite in fact, the Tory trade minister confirmed that certain interests will be bargained off in negotiations.

“Our fishing and farming interests, those of our valuable food and drinks industries more widely, and indeed our NHS, are all at stake here.

"The Tory government must immediately set out provisions for enhanced involvement of the devolved administrations in trade negotiations.

“It is completely unacceptable that we could be in a position in the near future where UK trade deals are imposed on us from London that do not properly protect Scotland’s interests, including those of our hugely important exports like Scotch Beef and Scottish Salmon.

“The Tories think they can do whatever they want to Scotland and get away with it - but the SNP will do all in its power to stop the Brexiters disregarding Scottish interests in any post-Brexit trade deals."

ENDS

Notes to the editors:

Excerpts from the Finance Committee today:

Bruce Crawford MSP, Convener: “The International trade committee at the House of Commons has a different perspective to you, others, I know around the table, have a different perspective to you that changes may be required that are substantial. And if we are talking about systems that already exist, the concordat between the UK government and the Scottish Government states that the UK government recognises the devolved administrations will have an interest in international policy making in relation to devolved matters, also an obligations touching on devolved matters that the UK may agree as a result of concluding international agreements. So the thrust of involving the devolved administrations is already part of the architechture. It may not be specifically part of the architecture of existing trade deals but it’s part of the architecture of agreements between the government in the UK and the Scottish Government. And I’ve got to say, I would be personally disappointed if there was no formal mechanism recognising that there’s a role for the Scottish Government… “

Emma Harper MSP said:
“The welfare of our animals is quite different to maybe American beef, and I mean you commented, I used to live in America and I stopped eating beef when I started looking after patients who presented with crushfelts Jacobs’ disease – so I think when we are looking at the difference in the welfare of the products, we have great products, our beef, our lamb, and our Scotch Salmon, and of course our whisky, so the issue is, why can’t we just make that a done deal and accept and protect the GI status of our good provenance?

UK Minister of State for Trade Policy George Hollingbery responded: “..my general impression is that a) some countries regard these as non-tariff barriers to trade. B) do we think they’re important, yes we do, there is absolutely no question that the likes of Scotch Whisky have to carry some sort of GI with them because they are easily counterfeited, they need to be protected, it is a very, very, very important export for the United Kingdom let alone Scotland, and we believe that there are very clear areas of other sectoral interests where that also applies, now we also have to count, I just have to set that around a little bit and say that, in most free trade deals, certainly the ones I’ve looked at recently, you have to demonstrate a certain level of penetration into market and or desire amongst consumers for that GI to gain protection, so on the whole quite a few UK GIs which we promote fail that test when going to the Japanese market or say the South Korean market, whisky, no problem at all, amazingly, blue and white stilton actually quite often get through but there are several others, which we would like to protect which just don’t have sufficient penetration to warrant GI status in that market and we come across that..."

Murdo Fraser MSP: If you listen to some of the commentary around these issues, you often see it claimed that, for example, future trade policy will lead to the National Health Service in Scotland being sold off to American multinational companies, or we will all be force fed chlorinated chicken, which will then become part of the food chain – can you give some assurance as to whether these claims have any basis in fact?

UK Minister of State for Trade Policy George Hollingbery responded: "It simply comes from the fact that the American market is different from the UK market and I suspect that a great many people have actually been to the United States and therefore have probably consumed products that have some of these items in them.
The UK is absolutely clear that we will not be dropping our... standards, we will not be dropping our food standards, these are things which we will not be negotiating away in any free trade deal. As to how it could be dealt with within a free trade deal itself that will all be a matter for negotiation – there are offensive interests, there are defensive interests, there are some things you refuse to accept, there are other things you may have to give and all that in the end will come out in the wash. I think it’s right that people express their concerns about free trade deals, I think it’s right that if they have particular issues which they want included, they make those plain to us and people should write to us and in the consultation go online and do that, I think it’s also right to deal with any misinformation that’s out there. And it is not true to say that any free trade deal will end up creating issues for the National Health Service."

Read 130 times Last modified on Wednesday, 05 September 2018 18:42

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