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Victory for NPA as Government drops plans to slash pork import tariffs

19th May 2020 / By Alistair Driver

Following intense lobbying from the NPA, the Government has dropped its damaging plans to slash tariffs on imports of pork products from the start of next year.

ShipOn Tuesday morning, the Government announced the UK’s new Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariff regime, the UK Global Tariff, which will replace the EU’s Common External Tariff on January 1 2021, at the end of the Transition Period. These are the default tariffs that are offered to all countries, before any direct ‘free trade agreements’ are made with individual nations.

The regime scraps and simplifies a number of tariffs, for example on products like biscuits, pizzas and confectionary.

But it is maintaining tariffs on a number of agricultural goods in order to ‘support businesses in every region and nation of the UK to thrive’.

The new tariff regime will apply from the start of next year to imports from countries and trading blocs where there are no trading agreements in place, potentially including the EU.

It effectively holds tariffs on pork products, and many other agricultural goods, at current EU levels, with adjustments made for currency.  

In the NPA’s response to the consultation earlier this year, NPA senior policy adviser Ed Barker argued for the current rates to be maintained. He highlighted some of the most important rates for the UK pork sector in terms of import volume. Today’s announcement highlights how these have been maintained at EU level for the most commonly imported pork products to the UK:

  • Fresh or chilled boneless meat of domestic swine – £72/100kg
  • Fresh or chilled with bone in, domestic swine hams and cuts thereof - £65/100kg
  • Meat of domestic swine, salted or in brine– £72/100kg
  • Hams and cuts thereof, of domestic swine, prepared or preserved – £131/100/kg
  • Uncooked sausages - £125/100kg.

As a member of the EU, the UK currently has tariffs in place of up to 45% on pork products, offering protection against imports from outside the EU produced to much lower costs and to standards not permitted in the UK.

The NPA was deeply concerned last year when the Government proposed to slash tariffs on pork products to, typically, around 3-5%, which would have opened our doors to cheap imports from across the world, who would easily have been able to absorb these tariff rates.

NPA chairman Richard Lister expressed ‘grave concerns’ and called for an ‘urgent review’, warning that the resulting flood of cheap imports could force UK producers out of business and export more of our pig production abroad.

NPA reaction

Ed said today’s announcement was ‘great news’ for the pig sector. “This is overwhelmingly better than the 'no deal' 3-5% tariffs published in 2019, which would have been devastating.

“The Government has clearly listened to the arguments we put forward and has announced a regime that will go a long way to protecting the pork sector against cheap imports.”

He pointed out, however, that the threat has not gone away as the Government can still slash tariffs as it strikes up new trade deals with the likes of the US.

“But this announcement removes some of the immediate threat, with the end of Transition Period now only a few months away,” he said.

There was more good news in the Government announcement as it has put zero tariffs on products such as soya bean flour/meal to zero, compared with 4.5% now, which should help keep a lid on feed costs.

This was also something the NPA specifically requested in its response to the consultation.

The Government said the new tariff  regime was tailored to the needs of the UK economy, making it easier and cheaper for businesses to import goods from overseas.

“It will scrap red tape and other unnecessary barriers to trade, reduce cost pressures and increase choice for consumers and back UK industries to compete on the global stage,” it said.