NFUS concerns over WTO negotations

NFU Scotland has expressed concern over the affect that agricultural trade reform proposals might have on quality food and farming in Scotland.

NFUS is worried that under World Trade Organisation (WTO) reform proposals, Scotland could be exposed to cheaper imports produced to lower standards. The Union argues that a deal which fails to recognise standards of food production could have "horrendous" consequences for Scotland and the rest of the EU.

In the European Parliament last Tuesday, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson stressed that the Commission is not prepared to do a deal on agriculture at any cost. However, the latest proposals, which would expose Europe and its farmers to cheap imports of lower standard produce, have not allayed fears. Proposals for tariff cuts could lead to major reductions in farm income and food production in Europe.

NFUS says whilst firmer, albeit contentious, proposals on an agricultural agreement have emerged, there remain real problems in progressing proposals in other trade areas.

NFUS chief executive James Withers said: "We have heard some warm words this week from Mr Mandelson about not selling out farming, but the proposals on the table are doing little to calm the concerns of farming organisations across Europe.

"We have to strike a balance between free trade and fair trade and there is a real danger that a deal of the kind being discussed could penalise the very producers that have striven to raise their production standards. They would have the rug pulled from under them as cheap imports undermine their good work.

"I have real doubts that a deal will be reached this year and it is clear that whilst agriculture has been fingered as the stumbling block in the past, there are other areas of a trade agreement that are not even close to a final phase of negotiation.

"However, whatever cynicism we have over the likelihood of a deal, we cannot afford to ignore the threats posed by a bad deal and the latest plans have not changed significantly from those on the table prior to the recent Geneva discussions.

"This latest round of WTO horse-trading is happening at a time of massive food security concerns. This is a global problem which risks being exacerbated if the European Commission does not recognise the issues as part of its discussions on a new agricultural trade deal."