Claims by Liz Truss’ Department for International Trade that soy sauce has been “made cheaper” by the UK-Japan trade deal have been ridiculed.
The government tweeted during Channel 4′s Great British Bake Off show on Tuesday night, remarking how contestants “used a lot of soya sauce”, and it was “a good thing it will be made cheaper”.
As it stands, soy sauce is not subject to any tariffs as the UK continues to benefit from some EU trade deals, at least until December 31, and is seeking an agreement with the bloc.
The department later clarified it was referring to tariffs the UK could be paying – 6% – under a no-deal scenario, which would push the country on to World Trade Organisation terms.
Trade expert David Henig was among those who challenged the department over the claims, saying it was “not a good look when you can’t trust a government social media account to tell the truth.
Truss negotiated the deal with the Japanese government last month.
It will mean nearly all the UK’s exports to Japan will be tariff free and remove British tariffs on Japanese cars by 2026.
Truss has celebrated the deal as “ground-breaking, British-shaped deal” but critics counter it will boost UK GDP by only 0.07%, and cover a fraction of lost trade should the UK fail to strike an agreement with Brussels.
Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow trade secretary, told HuffPost UK: “The reality is that for the last four years, Liz Truss and other trade ministers have been massively over-promising and massively under-delivering when it comes to our trade deals, then constantly trying to fill the gap by exaggerating and misrepresenting what they’ve achieved.
“That’s been especially true of this recent Japan agreement, and – to continue the Bake Off theme – last night’s Twitter debacle was just the icing on that much bigger cake.”
Nick Dearden, director of campaign group Global Justice Now, meanwhile, said the price of soy sauce could go up, regardless of the UK-Japan deal.
He said: “It’s difficult to know whether Liz Truss’ department is deliberately lying to the public, or they don’t understand how trade works, but either way we need to take their assertions with a pinch of salt – or maybe a teaspoon of soy sauce in this case.
“It is not true, given where we are, that the price of soy sauce will fall; in fact the price is very likely to increase. All the government has done is ensure tariffs on some soy sauce will not increase beyond current levels.
“The problem is we’re through Brexit looking glass here, where it takes all the running we can do, to keep in the same place. If we want to get somewhere else, we need to run at least twice as fast as that.”
A DIT spokesperson said: “Currently the UK global tariff on soya sauce is 6%, therefore if we had not secured a UK-Japan trade deal, soya sauce would cost consumers more come the 1 January 2021.”