Industry must take a lead on Brexit, WSTA urges

The wine industry needs to act now rather than waiting for Brexit, the WSTA has told members on the day of its annual conference.

brexit-shutterstock2The wine and trade body said it was crucial that the industry work out ‘model’ trade agreements that could help steer talks with government and determine the parameters of talks.

As db reported last week, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association has begun talks with Australian and New Zealand counterparts to ensure the best deal for consumers and the industry in any free trade agreement.

The WSTA quoted a YouGov poll conducted for its market report that found around 87% of people polled wanted to see free trade agreement with non-EU countries, while around 86% of people said they want a free-trade deal with the EU.

It follows news that the UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Australian Premier Malcolm Turnbull were keen to progress early trade talks between the two nations.

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said the impetus for the development of a model wine and spirit agreements not just from the UK-side, saying he had seen “warm and broad-based support” for the WSTA’s proposal to work with the Australian industry bodies and government to develop model agreements in a recent visit.

“Trade in wines and spirits is mutually beneficial and all negotiators must and should recognise this,” he said. “We have no intention of idly waiting around for Brexit to happen we have to take action now. We hope the UK government will welcome our initiative.”

The WSTA said nearly 70% of all Australian wine which ends up in the EU, around 69% by volume came via the UK first, or 66% by value, while the figure for New Zealand was even higher, with 76% by volume and 77% value coming to the UK first.

Beale pointed out that “unnecessary barriers to trade” would hit both sides, as the UK spirits industry exports around £140m to Australia a year, while Australia sells around £1.5bn in the UK, a rise of 3%.

He is advocating “sector-specific arrangements” to progress free-trade, looking at standalone agreements, or agreements that form part of a broader trade deal.

Beale said it was “essential” that the UK maintains its pole position in the global drinks market, not only as a major destination market, but also as a key hub for international trade.

“While the UK cannot formally negotiate with the New Zealand and Australian governments yet, the industry can prepare most of the ground in advance. That is precisely what the WSTA intends doing,” he said.

“The wine and spirit industry is a huge contributor to our economy, worth £21.1bn annually and the concern is that leaving the EU could lead to businesses looking to relocate.”

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