FOOD AND drink producers will benefit from greater market access and improved country of origin rules under the new trade deal between the UK and Japan – which the UK Government claims will boost the economy in Scotland by approximately £101 million in the long run.

UK Minister of State for Trade Policy, Greg Hands MP, told The SF that the deal with Japan, the UK's first free trade agreement outwith the EU, had secured lower tariffs on key agricultural products like pork, beef and salmon, as well as enhancing protections for British products.

The UK-Japan ‘Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement’ (CEPA) could be seen as a sweetener to mask the growing discontent over the stalled talks to agree a post-Brexit trade arrangement with the EU, and concerns over a future US-UK trade deal, but the UK Government touted the new deal as ‘historic and a landmark moment'.

Mr Hands said: “This will benefit the over 500 businesses in Scotland that exported to Japan last year and help even more local businesses sell their goods and services to the Japanese market.

“Total trade in agri-food products with Japan was worth £362.8m in 2019 and grew between 2017 and 2019, at an average of 14.5% per year,” he continued. “Promoting the interests of our farmers and agri-food exporters has been a priority throughout these negotiations. And we were clear with Japan that we would only sign a deal that works for our agricultural sector.”

In the event of a no deal outcome with the EU, livestock producers have raised concerns that reverting to WTO rules could see them face ‘Most Favoured Nation’ tariffs of around 40% on products such as Scotch beef.

Mr Hands explained that the CEPA ensures UK agri-food producers can continue to benefit from lower tariffs into Japan: “The CEPA will support the exports of British products through reduced tariffs on products such as beef (MFN 38.5% reducing gradually to 9%) and pork (MFN up to 4.3% reducing gradually to 0%)."

He insisted that the CEPA was not just a 'rollover' deal, but goes beyond the existing Japan – EU ‘Economic Partnership Agreement’ (EPA) by giving greater protection of foods with 'geographical indication' status: “Under the terms of the EU EPA, only seven British products were protected," he said. "As well as ensuring protection of these seven GIs which include Scottish farmed salmon and Scotch whisky, the new CEPA obliges Japan to run their GI approval process on any eligible product that the UK puts forward, which is a substantial improvement on the EU deal."

The UK government aims to put forward a list of around 70 GIs in January, including many more iconic Scottish products, which Mr Hands said could mean products such as Shetland lamb and Stornoway black pudding are protected by mid- 2021.

“The previous agreement contained a five-year review of the treatment of certain agricultural products; the CEPA extends this to cover all agricultural products,” he explained. “This review will give the UK the opportunity to improve market access across a wider range of products than under the previous agreement, for example, by introducing measures such as faster reduction or elimination of tariffs or streamlining tendering processes and increasing quota quantities.”

Sharing Government figures on the economic value the deal will bring to Scottish and UK-wide producers, he concluded: “The deal could increase UK trade with Japan by £15.2 billion, giving a £1.5 billion boost to the UK economy and increasing UK workers’ wages by £800 million in the long run. Government analysis indicates that the UK-Japan CEPA could boost the economy in Scotland by approximately £101 million in the long run.”