The UK is preparing its independent trade policy once it leaves the EU. The UK Government has run consultations on potential trade agreements with the USA, Australia and New Zealand, and on potential accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The parties to the CPTPP are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Trade agreements will be necessary in the future because the current trade agreements are between the EU and third countries, and these might cease to apply once the UK leaves the EU. It is up to the UK to replace them with agreements of its own. The trade agreements are critical in ensuring that trade barriers are minimised and import tariffs kept low.
Seafish has already responded to the consultations, focusing on the need for the facilitation of the seafood trade between the UK and these countries. We provided evidence for the need for current arrangements to be maintained and where possible improved upon.
Seafood trade between the UK and the US is significant: £84m imported into the UK and £254m exported to the US in 2017, with salmon predominating. In addition to salmon the UK imports Alaska pollock (tariff free thanks to an Autonomous Tariff Quota, ATQ) and live lobsters. Non-salmon exports are small but some exporters are eager to export more UK-sourced whitefish and shellfish, particularly bivalve molluscs.
Imports (£7.4m in 2017) are mainly of frozen green mussels (£3.8m) and blue grenadier/hoki, the latter under an ATQ. Exports are insignificant. The sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) agreement between the EU and New Zealand means that seafood from New Zealand has far fewer port health checks (and associated costs) than other imports and it is important that this or a similar arrangement remains in place after the UK leaves the EU.
Imports from Australia totalled just £1.3m in 2017. These were listed as "not elsewhere specified" so the presumption is that this is "exotic" fish. Exports amounted to £4.6m and were mostly preserved mackerel and sardines.
This bloc has significant trade with the UK, with imports from the 11 countries totalling £300m and exports reaching £55m in 2017. The main trade is with Vietnam and Canada, and pangasius and prawn/shrimp imports predominate. While SPS arrangements between the UK and the CPTPP parties may differ, but the fact that there already is significant trade means that any conflicts in this area can be resolved. With this in mind it is important that if the UK becomes a party it participates fully in the various CPTPP committees that are envisaged to deal with trade measures and disputes.