Scottish Government minister Mairi Gougeon fears a controversial proposed trade deal with Australia could “set the tone” for talks with other countries.
Farming leaders have co-signed a letter to the UK Government warning the proposals could devastate their industry with tariff and quota-free access for Australian lamb and beef.
It is feared that such an agreement would lead to Scottish producers being undercut from imports from overseas.
‘We are the smaller trading partner’
The UK Government has stressed that any trade deal will include “protections” for the agriculture industry.
However, Ms Gougeon, the Scottish Government’s rural affairs minister, told BBC Radio Scotland the agreement could also influence talks with other nations around the world.
The Angus North and Mearns MSP said: “If we were to sign this free trade agreement with Australia, that sets the tone for other trade deals to follow.
“Because if you are then dealing with the US, are they seriously going to say ‘Well, looking at what Australia has been offered?’
“We are the smaller trading partner, so we will be the ones who will lose out.”
Ms Gougeon also warned that such a free trade agreement could also increase the risk of products of “lower standards” being imported to the UK.
SNP MSP Jim Fairlie, who is a former sheep and cattle farmer, believes the industry is being treated as “collateral damage” in the negotiations.
Deal could be ‘huge opportunity’
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack told the BBC at the weekend that a deal was close to being signed, explaining he believed it was a “huge opportunity” for the country’s food and drink industry.
A Department for International Trade spokesman said: “A deal with Australia will boost the UK’s bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), providing a gateway into the fast-growing Indo-Pacific region, where there is growing demand for our products.
“We seek a wide range of views before, during and after negotiations to ensure all voices are heard, and consult widely before we launch talks.
“We have some of the most robust and transparent scrutiny arrangements in the world.”