Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has been tasked with drafting the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee’s views on trade with New Zealand. The report will help to define the EU’s negotiating position in relation to a potential EU-New Zealand free trade agreement.
Speaking after the announcement Mr Nicholson highlighted the importance of ensuring that agriculture locally and across the EU is protected and that any free trade agreement with New Zealand is “fair and balanced”. MEPs in the Committee will debate the issue at the end of August.
Mr Nicholson said: “I am delighted to have been tasked with taking charge of the Agriculture Committee’s report on trade negotiations between the European Union and New Zealand.
“There is a rich shared heritage between Northern Ireland and New Zealand and I welcome any opportunities to bring us closer together.
“However, in terms of our trade in agricultural products with New Zealand we have a number of sensitive sectors – namely the beef and lamb sectors.
“For instance, at present a quota system (Tariff Rate Quota) applies to sheep meat imports from New Zealand. This system allows tariff-free access to the EU market for specified volumes of sheep meat.
“As a trade agreement is negotiated between the EU and New Zealand, how will imports be managed in the future? Concerns have been voiced by UK producers about the existing system and the impact of large quantities of New Zealand sheep meat imported during the peak lamb production season in the UK - there are calls to improve the current quota system as a result.
“Locally, and across the EU, beef and sheep farmers adhere to high welfare, environmental and traceability standards.
“There are also the social and economic benefits associated with the sectors. These facts must be reflected in the European Commission’s negotiating position with New Zealand – quite simply agriculture must not be used as a bargaining chip in these negotiations.
“I feel it is especially important that an EU-New Zealand deal is a fair and balanced agreement, as it could potentially serve as a template for a UK-New Zealand trade agreement post-Brexit.”