Free trade down under?

In response to the International Trade Select Committee’s request for evidence about possible trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand, Wines of Great Britain (Wine GB) has submitted a report supporting tariff free access by both countries to the UK market and vice versa for all products related to wine and its production.

The UK’s trade with Australia and New Zealand is largely focused around the import of wine from those countries, with relatively small tariffs on wine imports currently equating to around 10 to 12 pence added to a bottle of still wine and 22 pence on sparkling wine.

Calling for the removal of these tariffs, Wine GB is mainly concerned in ensuring that there is free access to Australian and New Zealand markets for wines produced in the UK (from grapes grown in the UK). With the majority of exports likely to be that of high quality sparkling wine it is thought this will be complementary to the industries in both countries which produce a limited amount of such wine.

In a bid to prevent any confusion among customers or the misrepresentation of ‘English and Welsh wines, the organisation has stated that it will only support the free import of grapes and grape must into the UK if restrictions, such as stricter labelling regulations, were made to prevent the use of such products being sold as wine made in the UK.

Seeking to protect growers, the Wine GB report has also called for the use of pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals to be a “matter for national governments only” with trade agreements unable to “discriminate against products where chemicals have been used which are not permitted under domestic regulations.”

With the shortage of skills in the UK and the rapidly expanding industry, the Wine GB report has also proposed the introduction of a flexible immigration regime to allow for seasonal and casual workers, as well as the possibility of longer term immigration by skilled workers, to come to the UK from Australia and New Zealand.

Following Wine GB’s sentiments, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has also called on government to remove all existing tariffs and to prioritise new bilateral agreements post-Brexit to enhance trade with Australia and New Zealand.

“We call on government to remove all unnecessary regulatory barriers and allow goods to flow more freely between the markets,” said Miles Beale, chief executive of WSTA. “A tariff free trade deal is a win-win for industry and consumers on both sides of the world. There is strong support on both sides for this sort of bilateral trade agreement which should become a blueprint for our future trade agreements with other countries outside the EU.”

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