Australian trade demands highlight need for four-nations approach to trade deals

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Wales should have the right to block trade deals that damage its national interest, Plaid Cymru has said, following revelations that Westminster is preparing to sign a trade deal with Australia, which would include opening Welsh markets to hormone-treated beef from Australia.

The party has called for a "four-nations approach" to trade post-Brexit, giving all four countries an equal say on trade. 

Plaid Cymru points to Belgium as an example of what it considers a mature approach to trade, with the federal government requiring the endorsement of all three of its regions - Flanders, Wallonia and the Brussels Capital Region - before they can sign any prospective trade deal. The system allowed the regional parliament of Wallonia to block a trade deal between the EU and Canada in 2016, on the grounds that the deal would have exposed its agricultural sector to competition from Canadian farmers. Wallonia's demands were eventually agreed to by all 28 EU Member States, paving the way for the Canada trade deal to be implemented.

Plaid Cymru's international trade spokesperson, Jonathan Edwards MP, has warned that allowing hormone-treated beef, which has been banned in the EU since 1981, to be imported as part of a trade deal with Australia would flood the domestic market with cheap imports, undercutting Welsh farmers and put the Welsh agriculture sector at risk. He warned too that dropping the ban on hormone-treated beef could have a detrimental impact on human health in Wales.

Hormones used in cattle outside the EU can increase their weight gain by more than 10 per cent a day, cutting the time it takes to fatten the animals for market. The practice has been banned in the EU since 1981 on the grounds that at least one of the hormones used is carcinogenic.

Commenting, Plaid Cymru's international trade spokesperson, Jonathan Edwards MP, said:

"The revelation that Westminster is preparing to sign up to demands from Australia that we drop a ban on hormone-treated beef in order to strike a trade deal is a perfect illustration of why we need a four-nations approach to trade, post-Brexit.

"Not only will this have an impact on human health, with some of the hormones used considered by the EU to be carcinogenic, it will be devastating for our own agriculture sector, which is so important to our economy.

"Signing up to such demands will lead to our own market being flooded with low-quality, cheap imports, undercutting our own farmers. The Australians know what they're doing - gaining access to our market would be a game-changer for their farmers but it could well be the final nail in the coffin for ours, who have been neglected for far too long by this Westminster Government.

"This is exactly why need to adopt the Belgian model of trade negotiations in the UK, with all four countries having a say. Perhaps agriculture isn't a priority for Liam Fox in England but it certainly is for Wales. In 2016, the Belgian region of Wallonia was able to win concessions from the 27 other EU countries in negotiating a trade deal with Canada, in order to protect its own agriculture sector - that is a mature approach to negotiating trade deals and it is an approach that the UK must adopt."

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