Public ‘left in the dark’ over trade deals

Ministers have been urged to talk “transparently and openly” about trade deals after two-thirds of consumers said they wanted to know more.

In a Which? survey of 3000 adults, 67 per cent claimed the government did not provide enough information on the agreements. 

Just seven per cent knew that Britain and Japan signed a deal last autumn, which created “strong tariff reductions” on pork and beef exports.

Over a quarter of those surveyed said ministers were “not at all open” about the arrangements.

READ MORE: UK and Australia confirm free trade deal

The UK’s individual nations were unsure that their interests would be taken into account by the government’s trade team.

Almost six in 10 of respondents from Northern Ireland, plus four in ten and three in ten of those from Scotland and Wales, were “not at all confident” the deals would meet their particular needs.

It comes despite the efforts of international trade minister Liz Truss to emphasise trade agreement benefits and dent the cause for Scottish independence.

Last June, she said that slashing tariffs between the UK and Australia would be “significant for Scotch whisky and the Union”.

Four in five of those polled agreed the government should not dismantle environmental rules for trade pacts.

However, nearly 60 per cent were not confident that it would prioritise the environment when negotiating.

News that supermarkets would begin stocking chlorinated chicken as part of a US trade deal prompted an outcry in 2017.

More recently, farmers claimed that an Australian deal would see products full of banned pesticides and feed additives entering the UK.

“The success of future agreements will be judged on what they deliver for ordinary people in their everyday lives, not just the export opportunities they provide,” Which? food policy head Sue Davies said.

“Our research shows that consumers feel they have been left in the dark about what trade deals will mean for them.

“The government must take this opportunity to communicate transparently and openly with the public about trade negotiations.”

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