FarmingUK | 30 May 2022
UK-Mexico deal: Safeguards needed for agri sectors, NFU says
The government must install safeguards for sensitive sectors such as horticulture, beef and sugar as the UK opens trade talks with Mexico, the NFU has said.
Both countries have commenced negotiations towards a new free trade agreement, which will replace the existing post-Brexit ’rollover’ deal.
While 97% of UK exports are already eligible for tariff-free entry into Mexico under the existing agreement, the vast majority of UK food products continue to face prohibitive tariffs.
In spite of this, UK food and drink exports to Mexico were worth an average of over £136 million from 2019 to 2021.
In a joint statement, trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan and her Mexican counterpart Tatiana Clouthier said the first round of talks would be held in Mexico City in July.
This would be followed by a second round of negotiations later in the year, with the aim of securing a new free trade agreement within two years.
The NFU, which is seeking feedback from farmers with knowledge of Mexican agriculture, said the new trade deal could offer opportunities to increase exports of high-quality British food.
Notably, the union said negotiators could do more to secure enhanced access to the Mexican market for dairy products and pork.
However, it warned that since Mexico was a huge agricultural exporter, safeguards were needed for sensitive sectors, particularly beef, sugar, eggs and horticulture products.
NFU President Minette Batters explained that the UK was a ’prized market’ for Mexican agricultural exporters.
“While our existing agri-food trade with Mexico is modest, there are significant opportunities for British farmers to export more quality produce.
"For example, we know that there is demand for British dairy and meat, notably pork. However, government must remain aware that Mexico is a significant agricultural exporter which will want to increase its access to the prized UK market.
"Safeguards are needed for sensitive sectors, such as horticulture, beef, eggs, and sugar in this case,” she added.
Mexico is a member of the 11-country trading bloc, the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership), which the UK is simultaneously seeking to join.
It is unclear whether a bilateral trade deal will be struck first between the UK and Mexico, or whether the UK will accede to the CPTPP before these bilateral negotiations conclude.
In either case, the NFU said it was crucial to ensure that the UK did not pay twice in terms of granting preferential market access through both negotiations, with the same applying to the UK’s negotiations with Canada.