Nicholson calls for agri-food input on free trade deals

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Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has called for a “coherent and co-ordinated trade strategy” that actively works with the agri-food sector. The comments come as MEPs put forward their views ahead of the 11th World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference next month in Buenos Aires.

Mr Nicholson said that trade deals cannot simply be negotiated in silos without taking on board the local impact, particularly for the rural economy.

He added: “Often I find there are misconceptions about the attitude of producers across the EU have towards free trade. The truth is they want a level playing field, and an understanding that sensitive sectors will be defended in negotiations. There is the sense that agriculture is simply ignored, and then used as a bargaining chip by negotiators.

“In Buenos Aires next month, Trade Ministers from across the globe will meet to discuss international trade issues. I welcome the fact that the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee is sending a representative. Trade deals cannot be negotiated in silos, with negotiators not taking on board any input or acknowledging concerns from the agri-food sector.

“When the UK leaves the European Union, and takes up its own seat at the WTO, it is vital that we in the UK have a coherent and co-ordinated trade strategy - working with local producers and our wider agricultural community - rather than chasing quick trade deals at any cost.”