FREE trade with the United States could lead to millions of pounds of exports to other parts of the world, according to Eblex.

Peter Hardwick, head of trade development, highlighted the potential wider benefits an EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) could bring to the beef and lamb sector at a meeting chaired by David Heath, Food and Farming Minister, and Kenneth Clarke, Cabinet minister. The UK currently has no US Department of Agriculture-approved beef plants for export.

Negotiations on the EUUS TTIP will include tackling differences in certification – issues central to the future export of beef and lamb to the US from the UK.

It has been estimated that an agreement could enable EU companies to sell an extra 187bn euros-worth of goods and services a year to the US.

It has also been suggested that a free trade deal could lead to a 28 per cent increase in EU exports to the US, with the Government anticipating that an agreement could add £10bn annually to the UK economy.

Eliminating current trade barriers to the US could boost the UK’s agri-food sectors by roughly £285m.

The first round of talks took place in Washington in July. The second round of negotiations is due to take place in Brussels this month.

Mr Hardwick said: “The EU-US TTIP is a potentially positive move for the sector and we were delighted to be invited by Mr Heath and Mr Clarke to discuss the opportunities that the partnership could present, ahead of the second round of negotiations.

“At the same time, we need to highlight the risks of significantly- reduced tariffs and increased access to the EU without full regard to the effect this might have on our own producers who operate with higher regulatory costs in areas such as animal welfare, the use of hormones, GM and environmental legislation.

While there are highvalue opportunities for beef and lamb in the US market, there are also wider implications of what a future agreement could bring for our trade relationships with other third country markets.

“These countries often take their lead from what the US does.

“Although it is by no means guaranteed, an agreement between the EU and US would almost certainly pave the way for positive outcomes when we negotiate on market access for our products with these other countries.”

Mr Heath said a new trade and investment partnership between Europe and the US was immensely important for the UK food and drink industry. “With almost two billion euros traded between us every day already, it could be the biggest trade deal in history,” he said.

“A new deal needs to keep regulations to a minimum and remove the barriers that prevent our farmers and producers from tapping into the huge US market.”