U.K/NEW ZEALAND – Following 16 months of trade talks, United Kingdom and New Zealand have signed a pact that will circumvent bureaucratic obstacles that have previously impeded trade between the two countries.

The British government is claiming the deal will “cut red tape” for businesses, suggesting there might be some harmonization of standards. It also claims the deal will bring a halt to tariffs for UK exporters and make it easier for UK professionals to work in New Zealand.

The second post-Brexit trade deal was agreed in a video call between UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

There was little mention of access to the UK market for agricultural produce such as lamb but the government is claiming the deal will make wine, honey and kiwi fruits cheaper.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the New Zealand-based global dairy nutrition company, Fonterra, Miles Hurrell has called the move a “fantastic result for New Zealand.”

“We appreciate the hard work and effort that has gone into securing this high-quality outcome by New Zealand’s Trade and Export Growth Minister Hon. Damien O’Connor and his negotiating team. We recognize that this deal has been done in challenging conditions, due to the travel complexities arising from COVID-19,” he commented.

Under the in-principle agreement, the UK has committed to the removal of tariffs on all dairy products over five years or less, with transitional quotas for butter and cheese.

Mixed reactions from stakeholders

Hurrell remarked that the trade deal was a historic outcome for New Zealand adding that the UK is the second largest importer of dairy by value, with customers and consumers in high value market segments who are willing to pay for New Zealand’s provenance, sustainability credentials and innovation.

“A high-quality comprehensive agreement which removes all tariffs creates new opportunities for exporters, helps deliver value back to our shareholders and communities, and ultimately benefits broader New Zealand,” he said.

However, some British activists have expressed concerns about an influx of antibiotic-treated beef created by the new trade corridor. UK agri-food action group Sustain published its critique on the new outcome.

“Yet again we are seeing trade deals done without adequate scrutiny or impact assessments. New Zealand still permits the routine antibiotics use on farms as well as their use as a growth promoter, a practice outlawed in the UK,” reacts Vicki Hird, head of sustainable farming at Sustain.

Data cited by Sustain reveals that sales of farm antibiotics have been increasing in New Zealand.

“They also permit the use of 35% more highly hazardous pesticides than in the UK (99 in NZ versus 73 in UK) and pesticide residues on food at much higher levels than the UK – in some instances hundreds of times more,” adds Hird.

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