The UK should be prepared to relax EU rules on food standards and chemical safety as part of a new trading relationship with India, according to an unreleased report by the British and Indian governments.
Despite the UK government’s refusal to release it – spotlights a range of non-tariff barriers to trade identified by Indian businesses, including limits on fungicides in basmati rice, the enforcement of food hygiene standards for milk and dairy products such as paneer and the use of hormone-disrupting chemicals across a range of non-food products.
The list – drafted by the Indian ministry of commerce – stops short of demanding the rules be removed after Brexit, instead suggesting flexibility in how and when they are applied to meet the needs of exporters.
The review, which also focused on life sciences and information technology, was described by the British government as a key text for the new UK-India trade partnership announced in April at the Commonwealth summit.
Speaking at the event, international trade secretary Liam Fox claimed that “removing barriers to trade is a key way the UK can capitalise on the predicted growth in world markets”. He repeated the claim when speaking in India last month.
The Indian government, however, complied with a parallel right to information request.
A spokesperson for British department of international trade said: “As we leave the EU, we will forge new and ambitious trade links around the world, while also maintaining our high standards on animal welfare and food safety.
“The joint trade review’s findings underline the continued strength of the bilateral relationship between the UK and India, and we are committed to driving forward this mutually beneficial trading arrangement. This includes in the food and drink sector where we are working together on a sector-based roadmap to reduce trade barriers.”
The report will lead to an increased focus on how much flexibility the UK will now have to meet demands from India and other nations regarding chemical and food import standards.
The EU’s limits on the amount of chemical residue found in food products is clearly a source of aggravation to Indian businesses, who describe complications complying with rules on a range of exports:
- Trace amounts of fungicide in basmati rice
- Growth retarding chemicals in grapes
- Aflatoxins in chilies and spices
- Antibiotics in fish products
- Food hygiene standards at processing plants involved in milk products such as paneer