The Trump Administration could not be clearer about the scope and ambition of its plans for a trade deal with Brexit Britain with Ambassador Woody Johnson saying: “The entire economy, everything that is traded, would be on the table.”
He claimed that consumers would still have a choice of whether or not to buy US produce: “If they don’t like it,” he said of chlorinated chicken, “they don’t have to buy it.”
Indeed, most British consumers are unlikely to want to buy chlorinated chicken or hormone-fed beef.
But the Trump Administration is a lot less clear about whether British consumers will still have the information needed to make a choice on the origins of food, whether it contains Genetically Modified ingredients and different chemical food colourings.
That’s because a key component of the proposed Trump trade deal is to reduce our ability to make an informed choice by removing country of origin labelling.
Ben Bradshaw MP, the former Environment Minister and leading supporter of People’s Vote, said:
“The US president knows there is no chance of British consumers voluntarily choosing to buy chlorinated chicken from Chicago, Cornish pasties from Pittsburgh or Scotch Whisky from Wisconsin – so he plans to take away our rights to even know that is what we are being sold.
“Done properly trade deals take years because they require a complex trade-off of rights and regulations to ensure both sides are beneficiaries. But Trump wants to bounce us in a hasty America First deal.
“He needs to hear us loud and clear: there is no mandate for a no deal crash out Brexit. We do not consent to selling our rights to him in return for some chemically-cleaned chicken or anything else he has to offer.
“Instead, MPs from all sides of the House of Commons and the people of Britain will resist him. And we are determined that even Trump will hear our ever-louder demands for Brexit to be put back to the people in a democratic final say referendum.”
Additionally, People’s Vote campaigners have organised a photo opportunity today (Tuesday) at which ‘Donald Trump’ will offer passers-by the chance to try out some of his special recipe chlorinated chicken at Trafalgar Square.
Trump’s administration has made it clear that getting chlorine-washed chicken on to British plates is a priority for any trade negotiations that would follow Britain leaving the EU.
Photographers and news crews are invited to cover a photo-opportunity that will highlight the need for British consumers to be given the final say in a democratic referendum on Brexit.
Who? ‘Donald Trump’ (people wearing Donald Trump masks)
What? An offer of ‘chlorine washed’ chicken and an unveiling of a banner calling for the public to be given the final say on Brexit
Where? North side of Trafalgar Square (National Gallery side)
When? 10am, Tuesday 4 June, 2019
Notes to Editors:
How the Trump Administration plans to undermine our right to choose:
The first target is Britain’s “Geographical Indicator” rules, which we have as part of the European Union. These laws ensure that when you buy Welsh lamb or Cornish pasties, they actually come from Wales or Cornwall. Such protections are currently in place for 66 British products, from Stilton to the Newmarket sausage.
The US however wants to “prevent the undermining of market access for U.S. products through the improper use of the UK’s system for protecting or recognizing geographical indications, including any failure to ensure transparency and procedural fairness, or adequately protect generic terms for common use” (p8).
If the US gets its way, you could soon be drinking “Scotch Whisky” and eating “Stilton” that was made thousands of miles away in the United States.
Country of Origin Labelling
Furthermore, the US no longer has mandatory country of origin labelling (COOL) on beef and pork, because Mexican and Canadian producers appealed successfully to the WTO, calling the rules discriminatory (link). Similar pressure could be put on the UK once it leaves the EU, meaning that you would not necessarily know where your food was produced.
Given the differences in food standards between the US and UK, this is very concerning.
Canada and Mexico challenged U.S. COOL in the World Trade Organization (WTO), arguing that COOL has a trade-distorting impact by reducing the value and number of cattle and hogs shipped to the U.S. market, thus violating WTO trade commitments. In November 2011, the WTO dispute settlement (DS) panel found that COOL treats imported livestock less favourably than U.S. livestock, and does not meet its objective to provide complete information to consumers on the origin of meat products. (link)
Given that mandatory COOL is now unlawful in the US we can expect Trump’s negotiating team to insist it becomes unlawful here too.
The US is also keen to expand the market for genetically modified food exports, which is referred to euphemistically as “agricultural biotechnology” or simply “new technologies” in the trade document. One way they plan to sell this to British consumers is to pressure the UK into droppings its mandatory labelling requirements for food containing genetically modified ingredients.
In the document, the Office of the US Trade Representative says it wants to “establish new and enforceable rules to eliminate unjustified trade restrictions or unjustified commercial requirements (including unjustified labelling) that affect new technologies” (p2). Even if you think you can avoid American products that you don’t like the sound of, a potential US-UK trade deal will be designed to make that as hard as possible.
The (US) National Confectioners Association have asked for an end to Britain’s mandatory labelling scheme for GMO, meaning that you would not know what’s in your food. They said: “US industry also would like to see the US-UK trade agreement achieve progress in removing mandatory labeling [sic] and traceability requirements for products containing biotech ingredients.” (National Confectioners Association, link)
US firms are not obliged to tell consumers what colourings are in their food, including food colourings which are currently banned in the UK. Furthermore, the National Confectioners Association has called for American negotiators to cajole the UK into getting rid of its own mandatory labelling laws for food colourings (link).
The National Confectioners Association have said that “US industry is hopeful that a US-UK trade agreement can achieve progress to rescind the requirement for mandatory warning labels for certain colors used in confectionery that are approved for use in the European Union and by many Governments around the world.” This would prevent shoppers from knowing whether they are buying sweets and chocolate riddled with chemicals and E numbers. (National Confectioners Association, link)