FARMERS have raised concerns that a tariff-free trade agreement between the UK and Australia could undercut Welsh products.

Farmers’ Union of Wales members outlined their concerns and objections to the agreement with Australia at a recent meeting with Aberconwy MP Robin Millar.

Australian politicians and industry representatives have been candid in expressing their view that the UK is a major target for the expansion of sales of red meat in particular.

The Australian Agricultural Company, Australia’s biggest beef exporter, said there may be a tenfold rise in beef exports to the UK if the zero-tariff deal is agreed.

But Dafydd Gwyndaf, FUW Caernarfonshire County Executive Committee member, said there has not been “thorough scrutiny” of the deal.

“Claims that a liberal deal with Australia should not be feared since current import volumes are extremely low and unlikely to increase are clearly nonsense,” he said.

“If such arguments had any merit, then maintaining the current quota would not be controversial and would not be opposed by Australia.

“We made it very clear in our meeting with Robin Millar MP that trade deals lock the current and future governments into them, and as such need time and thorough scrutiny.

“Under no circumstances should they be rushed, but that is what is happening here, on top of which the UK Parliament will not be able to scrutinise and have a final say on a deal in the way other democratic nations do.

“The extreme problems we are seeing in Northern Ireland because of the protocol show what happens when politicians do not listen to stark warnings and rush things through in order to meet a self-imposed timetable, but that’s exactly what’s happening with regard to the Australia deal.

“A repeat in terms of a trade deal with Australia would be disastrous because it would be almost impossible to undo unless there is something like a break clause.”

FUW Denbighshire County Executive Committee member Elwy Williams said: “As it stands - we in Wales have no ability under existing legislation to reduce our standards to the extent that they come close to meeting the competitive advantage that Australian imports would enjoy.

“Doing so to any extent like that would equate to a ‘race to the bottom’ that would add to friction for our exports to our main markets in Europe.”

The free trade agreement, which is expected to be made in coming weeks, would allow Australia to import 3,761 of beef and 13,335 tonnes of lamb into the UK.

This compares with the EU import agreement for 7,150 tonnes of beef and 19,186 tonnes of lamb.

A major benefit to consumers in the UK is expected to be cheaper products.

Mr Millar, who has backed the UK Government’s approach to post-Brexit deal-making, said the Australia agreement will offer “a huge opportunity” to farmers in Wales to access the country’s market while he expects Australia’s share of the UK market to remain low.

“These deals have been many months in negotiation and it has been very helpful to have an open-eyed conversation with farmers about trade over recent weeks,” Mr Millar said.

“Free trade deals offer a huge opportunity for our world beating products. They give our farmers access to important growing markets like Australia where the high-quality lamb and beef we raise here in Aberconwy is very desirable to consumers.

“There are risks to business but even though Australian farmers already have access to British markets, less than one per cent of the beef sold here comes from there. In fact they are not using their existing tariff free quota and they do not project an increase in production.

“The government has agreed to a Trade and Agriculture Commission to look at any deals before they are signed to help protect food standards. I am also pressing for clear product labelling.

“I have also shared my concern with the FUW for the impact of trade and climate change policy on the unique contribution of Welsh farming to the culture and community here in Wales. I have started some cross-party work on this so that ministers are clear on this when they make decisions.”