The Government is brushing away grower concerns about a looming potato invasion from the European Union.
That’s the view of Mike Petersen, NZ’s special agricultural trade envoy, who’s been in Europe meeting with various people involved in the Brexit process.
Petersen told Rural News of a significant deal. He says it is progress and covers three major sticking points: the agreement on a ‘soft’ border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, the UK’s financial settlement for leaving the EU and the rights of citizens living within the two jurisdictions.
But Petersen says the issue that particularly interests NZ, tariff rated quotas (TRQs) for lamb, was not discussed.
“In reality it was always out on a limb anyway and unfortunately that issue is still going to have to be addressed. That is the disappointing aspect of it, but to be honest I wouldn’t have expected it to be in their discussions.”
Petersen says other more pressing issues – such as the Irish border – needed to be resolved. The good news now is that the deal has prevented a ‘no deal’ between the two parties, which was touted as a possibility. Peterson believes with this deal the EU and the UK can work on their future relationship and the issue of the TRQs could be part of that. In respect of the Republic of Ireland, Petersen says there are major issues still to be resolved on trade with the UK. He notes that, for example, 70% of the cheddar cheese used in the UK comes from Ireland.
“Ireland’s reliance on the UK is significantly greater in proportion than NZ’s reliance on the UK.”
Petersen says that while visiting Europe to advocate for NZ’s agri food sector he’s made a point of encouraging ministers, officials and lobby groups to come to NZ.
He doesn’t think NZ has all the answers, but thinks it is important for UK officials to get out and see the world from a different perspective and see the lessons we learned from our reforms and what could be applicable for them in the UK .
“At the moment, Brexit is like living in cardboard box and they are becoming so consumed with the Brexit issues that it is hard for them to focus on the bigger picture.”
Petersen says next year there will be a steady stream of visitors from the UK and Europe coming to NZ and he also has plans to go to Europe himself.