The four big problems with the Australian trade deal

The UK government is currently, in its own words, “sprinting” to secure a trade deal with Australia, and if it agrees one there could be a dramatic lowering of tariffs and a dramatic rise in imports from Australia. Meanwhile, the National Farmers’ Union has warned of dire consequences if the trade deal goes ahead.

We took a look at the facts, and they are alarming. Here are just a few of the agricultural practices which are banned in the UK but are currently legal in Australia:

  • Growth-promoting hormones in beef cattle
  • Ractopamine, a growth-promoting hormone in pigs
  • Neonicotinoids – which cause harm to bees – used on rape seed crops
  • Insecticides Dimethoate and Fipronil
  • Chlorinated chicken

Then there’s animal welfare standards, where the difference is even starker. The Animal Protection Index exists to keep track of each country’s record on animal welfare. The UK is currently rated ‘B’ overall, and is near the top of the international league table. Australia, on the other hand, is rated ‘D’, and gets an even worse grade (an ‘E’) when it comes to protecting animals used in farming. On nine out of ten indicators, the UK has substantially better animal welfare protections than Australia.

There are four big problems with having open, tariff-free access with an agricultural market like Australia:

  1. Ethically: we will be consuming produce which involves greater suffering
  2. Environmentally: we will be consuming produce which harms the environment more, and which has been shipped or flown here from the other side of the world, creating carbon emissions
  3. For UK farmers and rural communities, especially in Scotland and Wales: this trade deal could undercut and ruin them
  4. Deregulation: in the long run, if the government wants UK farmers to be able to compete with Australian (or American, or Brazilian) agriculture it will want to bring our standards down to their level – and that could be permanent