Norwegian farmers fear agriculture will be sacrificed in negotiations with United Kingdom

Tractor farmerPhoto: Terje Bendiksby / NTB
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The Agrarian Association has warned the government against exchanging agriculture for fish in the negotiations with the United Kingdom on a new free trade agreement.

The Norwegian Agrarian Association (Norges Bondelag) has written a letter to the government requesting a prompt meeting with Minister of Trade and Industry Iselin Nybø (Venstre / Liberal Party) about the negotiations, which are in the final phase.

In the letter, the Association wrote that they “are aware that a direct link is being made between market access for seafood and agriculture” in the talks.

They fear that Norway will open up the Norwegian market more to British agricultural products in exchange for being allowed to sell more seafood the other way around.

“Norwegian agriculture has nothing to offer in the negotiations with the United Kingdom,” the letter warns.

“We react sharply to the fact that agriculture and fish are set up against each other,” said the Agrarian Association’s leader Lars Petter Bartnes.

“The desire to enter the British market cannot be fulfilled by making concessions in the agricultural field.”

Negotiations are give and take

Nybø told news bureau NTB that she understands the concern and that the Agrarian Association will, of course, get a meeting.

According to her, there has been no direct link between agriculture and seafood on the Norwegian side in the negotiations. But agriculture is sensitive, she stated.

“Negotiations are give and take, and it is something that is important to us, and important to the British. But it is also the case in negotiations, especially as one nears the end, that one must hold the cards close to the chest. I cannot go out in the media now and say what we are willing to give and not give,” Nybø explained.

She believes the negotiations are taking place in a completely normal way.

“Of course we want to get as much as we can without giving more than we have to. Such are all negotiations.”

In overtime

The new free trade agreement must be in place because the United Kingdom has left the EU and needs a new framework for trade with Norway.

Norway had actually set October 9 as the deadline for reaching an agreement but without success. Now the talks continue in overtime.

Precisely since the negotiations may be coming to an end, the Agrarian Association wants to take up the matter as soon as possible.

“The Norwegian Agrarian Association expects the government to defend Norwegian self-sufficiency and Norwegian jobs in the primary industry and the agricultural-based food industry in the ongoing negotiations with the United Kingdom. We have no jobs to give away,” they wrote in the letter.

They do not accept that “Norwegian farmers and the agricultural-based food industry are used as bargaining chips.”

Great confidence

Director of the international department at the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise NHO, Tore Myhre, says he has a lot of confidence in the authorities in the case.

“We reckon that, as in all free trade agreements, one will have to weigh different interests against each other. We have great confidence that the authorities will do the same in this case,” Myhre said to NTB.

“At the same time, we see that we have a unique opportunity to improve market access to seafood for a very important country,” he added.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today

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