'Safeguards' promise over UK-Australia trade deal

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'Safeguards' promise over UK-Australia trade deal

The Scottish Secretary has insisted that Scotland's interests will be safeguarded in a forthcoming UK-Australia trade deal

Scottish ministers have raised concerns that the farming industry could be overwhelmed if the market is flooded with lower standard goods.

But Alister Jack said he believed the domestic food and drink sector would be the "best beneficiary".

He also promised the deal would contain safeguards for domestic producers.

Scotland's rural affairs secretary, Mairi Gougeon, wrote to the UK's government's international trade secretary, Liz Truss, last week raising "significant concerns" about the negotiations.

She said: "I remain extremely concerned that the UK government is prepared to sign up to a UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement that would lead to a sustained increase in imports of Australian agri-food produced to a lesser standard - and on a scale not seen on UK farms."

Representatives of 14 companies and trade bodies have also written to Ms Truss warning about the way trade deals are being negotiated, claiming they are "rushed" and there has been a lack of consultation with the industry.

'Enormous advantages'

Alister Jack, however, said the deal was a "huge opportunity for Scottish producers" which could open up lucrative markets in the Asia-Pacific region.

He told the BBC's The Sunday Show: "We believe that the best beneficiary from these trade deals is Scotland's food and drink sector.

"Whisky is our biggest drink export, salmon our biggest food export, and we see enormous advantages."

While unable to give details at this stage, he insisted "there are safeguards built into the trade deal".

He also dismissed claims that it would allow cheap, lower standard imports to flood the market.

"We won't be taking chlorinated chicken in any trade deal we do, that's illegal in the UK. We won't be taking hormone induced beef into the UK, that's illegal," he said.

"We will have safeguards built in around the amount of product coming so we don't see the market swamped or dramatic price reductions."

The Scottish government has asked for urgent discussions of the trade deal, and asked Ms Truss to attend a meeting with representatives of the devolved administrations scheduled for later this month.