The government is urging British farmers and food producers to become more focused on exporting and to look to growing markets in the east.
Speaking to the National Farmers Union conference, Trade Secretary Liz Truss said that as an independent trading nation, the UK could deepen trade with the Asia-Pacific and the Americas.
“This is where the real opportunities lie for Britain and our farmers,” Truss said.
Middle class market
Although Europe would remain an important market, Truss pointed to the fact that by the end of this decade, two-thirds of the world’s middle-class consumers are expected to be found in Asia.
UK producers could command higher prices for their goods there, she said.
Writing in Farmers Weekly, Truss said: “We exported nearly £24bn worth of food and drink in 2019. Our exports to non-EU nations grew that year by over three times as much as exports to our European neighbours, which shows where the enormous potential lies.”
Truss spoke as the government launched its new ‘Open Doors’ campaign which will give advice and mentoring to encourage producers to take advantage of changing trade dynamics such as rising meat prices in Asia and high US demand for imported beef among, the FT reports.
The campaign has initially received £2m in funding and is backed by the National Farmers Union and the Food and Drink Federation.
The campaign forms part of the government’s strategy to trade more with eastern nations, alongside its bid for the UK to join the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) pact of 11 Pacific nations.
A formal application to join the £9 trillion free trade area was submitted by Truss on 1 February. UK trade with CPTPP nations was worth £111 billion in 2019 and has been growing by 8% a year since 2016.
Concluding a deal with CPTPP member Australia could smooth the path to membership, with British and Australian negotiators entering the fourth round of bilateral trade talks this week.
Total trade between the UK and Australia was £14.5 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q3 2020, former Australian High Commissioner for the UK, Alexander Downer, wrote in City AM that there is “room for growth”.
“The immediate task for the UK in securing CPTPP accession is to conclude a comprehensive, trade liberalising, deal with Australia – a deal that would deliver immediate benefits for UK consumers and businesses,” he said.
“I am confident that such an outcome would see the Australian Government give the UK a green light to CPTPP accession.”
Australia is only the UK’s 21st largest trade partner.