Labour's general election candidate for Mid and South Pembrokeshire, Henry Tufnell, has accused ministers in the Conservative government of being “all talk and no action”, after it emerged that geographical protections promised for regional Welsh specialties in the October 2020 UK-Japan trade deal have still not been delivered more than three years on.
When the post-Brexit agreement was announced, the government promised that 77 new UK food and drink products would be guaranteed protected geographical indication (GI) status in Japan, alongside seven existing protections carried over from the previous EU-Japan trade deal, covering the likes of Scotch Whisky, Scottish Salmon, and Stilton Cheese.
GI status is vital for producers to protect them against competition in foreign markets from falsely-branded imitators.
Securing those protections has become an important objective of modern trade deals to support the export potential of specialty food and drink products.
Of the 77 new protections that were promised by the Westminster government in October 2020, fifteen were for Welsh specialties, including - Pembrokeshire Earlies, Carmarthen Ham, Caerphilly Cheese, West Wales Coracle Caught Salmon and Sewin, Welsh Laverbread, Welsh Lamb, Welsh Beef, Welsh Wine, Welsh Cider, Conwy Mussels, Anglesey Sea Salt and Vale of Clwyd Denbigh Plum.
At the time, then Trade Secretary Liz Truss said: “This is a historic moment for the UK and Japan. From our Welsh lamb and Pembrokeshire early potato farmers to our Traditional Welsh cider breweries, this deal will create new opportunities for people throughout Wales and help level up the whole of the UK.”
Her department originally said that all 77 new protections would be in place by May 2021, and boasted that – thanks to the agreement – the UK would benefit from a fast-track process for securing brand protection that “would not have been possible” under the EU-Japan deal, under which it said “the EU must negotiate each new GI individually on a case-by-case basis.”
But while the EU has added 84 extra products to its protected list since October 2020, including 28 more just a few weeks ago, the government has yet to secure brand protection for a single one of the 77 products it originally promised.
The EU’s number of GIs in Japan now stands at 291, while the UK is still stuck with only the seven protected products it inherited from the EU-Japan deal.
Labour's Henry Tufnell said: “Since Liz Truss announced her deal with Japan, we've had three harvests of Pembrokeshire Earlies, we've had three National Laverbread Days, we've had three seasons for Coracle Caught Sewin and Salmon, and yet we are still waiting for the geographical protections that were promised in that deal.
“It sums up so much of what is wrong with this Tory government. All talk and no action. Making promises they never keep. Boasting about things they haven't delivered. Telling lies for the sake of a press release. And most of all, treating our farming and fishing communities with total contempt.
“And of course, what started out in that one-sided deal with Japan ended up with the shameful betrayal of the trade deals with Australia and New Zealand, where our farming communities in Wales were sold out by Westminster just so the Tories could claim their rotten Brexit deal was working.
“Neither Simon Hart or Stephen Crabb have said a word about the way local food and drink producers in Pembrokeshire have been let down and lied to.
“We are only going to get the results we need once we have a Labour MP in Mid and South Pembrokeshire, and a Labour government in Downing Street working with our Welsh Labour Government in Cardiff Bay.
“But I'm not prepared to wait that long. I have written to the Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch to remind her of the promises that were made to our region, and demand that she take action to secure the long-overdue protections that our specialty exporters need and deserve.”
The candidate for Mid and South Pembrokeshire has been backed up by Labour's Shadow Trade Minister, Gareth Thomas, who has repeatedly raised the issue of the missing GIs in Parliament.
He said: “Henry is absolutely right to ask these questions. Iconic Welsh producers were not only promised that they would receive protection under this deal, but also saw their products used by the government to promote the benefits of a deal that otherwise offered little new to British exporters or the UK economy.
“Three years on, those Welsh producers are entitled to ask why the government's promises have not been kept, and tell them to get on with it, especially since we've already had to watch 84 additional EU products receive protected status in Japan in the same time that we've been waiting for ours.”