Trade deal won’t benefit Wales

EVERY week the Herald carries political opinions from the main political parties in Wales.

This week, Jonathan Edwards MP takes a look at the UK-Japan trade deal that was announced this week and wonders, "What's in it for Wales?"

Jonathan Edwards writes: THE BUNTING was seen in Westminster this week when the UK government announced it had reached the holy grail of signing its first post-Brexit international trade agreement.

The agreement with Japan was described by Foreign Minister Liz Truss as "an important moment in our national history". In the most important moments, a casual look at the details leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, the UK government has just repeated an agreement that UK business has already benefited from under the EU-Japan trade agreement signed in 2019.

The UK government admits that the deal will only increase the UK's economic prosperity by 0.07% over a 15 year period. According to the rules of the Brexit political discourse, however, the facts should never stand in the way of an excuse to sing Rule Britannia and wave the Union Jack.

During the debate in the House of Commons, I highlighted that the UK government's own numbers, at best, suggest that 71 deals of this nature are required to balance the UK government's strategy for the second phase of Brexit's exit from the EU single market and customs union. If we didn't reach an agreement by the end of the year, the situation would be a lot worse.

Welsh economic benefits are projected to be less than the negligible UK numbers, with the deal expected to benefit the Welsh economy by only 0.05%. The same goes for other trade deals currently being negotiated by the UK government.

Surrendering to chlorinated chicken under the US trade agreement could only benefit the Welsh economy 0.05% over 15 years, according to an excellent paper from Senedd Research.

Business with New Zealand and Australia could have a 0% impact on the Welsh economy, according to the same paper.

Never again can the Tories claim to be the party to business: what we are witnessing is economic madness.

The agricultural provisions in the Japanese agreement fuel my fears that our farmers will be the proverbial sacrificial lambs in these trade negotiations. While there has been progress on geographic indicators, the UK government has not been able to set tariff quotas on food. Instead, our farmers can only use unused European Union quotas.

Let that sink in.

Effective in the real world. EU export policy will determine what can be exported from the UK.

The Foreign Minister stressed that the Japan Agreement paved the way for accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. A free trade area made up of 11 countries (of 12 after the US withdrew).

What the UK government is reluctant to reveal is that the TPP contains strict state aid rules and also includes an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism that would replace UK domestic law. These are of course the same two areas that led to the collapse of the current Brexit negotiations in the second phase.

Ultimately, the two great Brexit-era slogans, "Take back control" and "Global Britain", are completely incompatible and inherently contradictory.

As the UK's international trade policy evolves, these inconsistencies will become apparent to all.

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