Amid concerns over chlorinated chicken imports, even in the first day of talks between the U.S. and the U.K., hopes of securing a post-Brexit trade deal between the two have come under threat.
While British campaigners insist that a proposed bilateral trade deal with the U.S. would lower British food standards, Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has insisted that the issue of poultry imports is “a detail of the very end stage of one sector”.
A continuity agreement that will allow the two countries to continue trading after Brexit is being aimed to be established as Fox is currently in Washington for the second of two-day trade talks with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Though U.K. cannot sign a deal until the U.K. leaves the EU in March 2019, Fox said in a press statement Monday that they also hope to “lay the ground work” for a potential future free trade agreement.
A trade agreement including agriculture could leave consumers faced with imports of chlorine washed chicken and hormone-fed beef and would hurt farming standards, British campaigners argue while the U.S. farmers have insisted that any future deal with the U.K. must include agriculture.
Producers and regulators in the U.S. argue that washing chicken carcasses in chlorinated water reduced the spread of contamination and therefore it is legal in the U.S. in the EU, there are concerns that it could be used by unscrupulous producers to make meat appear fresher and hence such items are banned in the EU on health grounds.
UK will be free to retain the EU’s ban or lift it and accept U.S. food standards once the U.K. leaves the EU. The U.S. and the EU failed to agree on a transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) last year partly due to these differing views on the issue.
President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that “protectionist” EU rules were preventing a deal and the creation of new jobs and he has long advocated striking a deal with the U.K.
However, EU regulations should remain in place, the industry bodies have said. the notion of Importing chlorine-washed chickens as part of a “makeweight in trade negotiations with the U.S.” was slammed by the British Poultry Council.
“The U.K. poultry meat industry stands committed to feeding the nation with nutritious food and any compromise on standards will not be tolerated. A secure post-Brexit deal must be about Britain’s future food security and safety. This is a matter of our reputation on the global stage,” it said in a press note.
The British media risked undermining plans to achieve a free trade agreement with the U.S. and was “obsessed” with chlorine-washed chickens, Fox said dismissing the critics, during a joint press conference with Ross on Monday.
The U.S. would likely plug the gap left by the EU as the world’s largest beef producer, supplying one-fifth of the beef eaten around the world. However, British farmers would be left at risk of being undercut by larger, and typically cheaper, producers by this, critics have argued.
Saying that “never trust a Fox in your hen coop”, the U.K’s shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner criticized Fox on Monday.
“By arguing the case for chlorine-washed chicken, Liam Fox shows he is ready to abandon British poultry farmers in favour of cheap U.S. imports that do not meet our sanitary or animal welfare standards,” he said.
“The U.S. is our biggest trading partner outside of the EU and accounts for 17 percent of British exports. We want to see that figure grow and every effort must be made to support British exporters and reduce unnecessary barriers to trade, but never at the expense of the interests of British consumers and producers.”
(Adapted from CNBC)