At a press conference, Canada’s trade minister argued its beef – which, as in the US and Australia, is given the synthetic treatment to boost growth – is “second to none”.
Confirming she wanted “access to the British market” for that meat, Mary Ng added: “I am here to sell brand Canada, boy-oh-boy, and I’m going to keep doing that.”
The comments confirm the contents of a leaked government memo, last month, which suggested Ottawa would seek to include hormone-treated beef in any deal.
Its negotiators were asking “probing questions” about the controversial issue – despite London insisting its ban on such imports will survive leaving the EU, the document admitted.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the UK’s international trade secretary, standing alongside Ms Ng in the Canadian capital, did not respond to the pledge made about exporting beef with hormones.
She hailed the opening of talks and said the two countries will be “working at pace to get to a transformational trade deal” – with the aim of reaching agreement within two years.
However, in reality, the economic benefits are likely to be tiny, because 98 per cent of goods exports are already tariff-free under an existing agreement rolled over from EU membership.
Ministers are under increasing pressure over a collapse in trade since Brexit, which has fallen by 15 per cent with the EU because of substantial new red tape.
The Treasury watchdog is warning that no mooted new trade deal will make any “material difference” – with the new Australia agreement adding just 0.1 per cent to GDP over 15 years.
And the United States has all-but ruled out a free trade agreement, suggesting the approach is archaic and that new ideas are needed.
The UK hopes to agree new digital terms with Canada to boost trade, while arguing the its data-protection standards can be protected.
It also wants greater recognition of qualifications such as architecture to boost trade in services, which already account for 48 per cent of current exports to Canada.
The leaked memo warned that Canada could threaten UK hopes of being admitted to the 11-nation Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
“On hormone treated beef Canada asked some probing questions and stated this will be an important issue for Canada in judging the UK’s compliance with CPTPP,” it read.
Questioned about Canada’s stance, Ms Ng told reporters: “What I would say is that these negotiations are beginning.
“And what I would say to all markets across the world, including the United States, is that the high quality of our beef and of our products and of our producers is second to none.”
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies