International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has insisted she would “never sign a trade deal that is bad for British farming” as she launched a new campaign to boost exports of food and drink, writes Emily Beament of the Press Association.

The Open Doors campaign by the government, with the NFU, Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, aims to target the growing middle classes in places such as Asia.

Speaking at the NFU annual conference, Ms Truss said the high quality of UK produce made it highly competitive and appealing to middle class consumers abroad.

But only a fifth of food manufacturers export their produce, she said.

The scheme – which involves £2million funding – will include advertising to encourage businesses to increase their overseas sales, practical help from the government including exporting masterclasses and a new mentoring programme to help firms export.

The move comes in the wake of some UK producers struggling to export food products to Europe under the post-Brexit regime.

There are also ongoing concerns, despite government reassurances, that trade deals with other countries could undermine high British standards and UK producers, who could be undercut by lower standard imports.

Quizzed about the threat to standards and farmers, Ms Truss said: “I want to be very clear, we are not going to lower our food standards in any future trade deals we sign, and I will never sign a deal that is bad for British farming.

“We are not going to lower our standards to secure a deal from the United States or any other trading partner.”

She said there were huge opportunities to work with the US, for example to end the ban on British lamb and to reduce whisky tariffs.

But she said: “In the same way we’re not going to allow the EU to dictate our standards, we’re not going to allow the US to dictate our standards either.”

In her speech to the NFU conference announcing the new export campaign, Ms Truss said: “Our farmers need access to new markets around the world, but we need to get rid of the barriers holding them back. We will help you get out into the global market.

“Exporting supports higher wages, productivity, and high-quality jobs, but one in five of our food manufacturers export.

“We want to unleash the potential of many more businesses, which is why I am glad today to announce a new export campaign for British food and drink.

“We are dubbing this our Open Doors campaign, reflecting the work we are doing to open new doors for farmers and food producers to unprecedented opportunities across the world.”

She added: “We need to look beyond our shores. By the end of this decade, 66 per cent of the world’s middle class consumers are expected to be found in Asia.

“They are hungry for top-quality food and drink, where they know – from farm to fork – that high standards have been at the heart.”

Her speech came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the conference via a video message that he wanted people to buy more British food, and for more to be sold abroad.

“I’m delighted that already we’ve got back on the shelves around the world, we’ve got British beef back on American plates, pork trotters on Chinese tables and cheese on supermarket shelves across the Gulf,” he said.

And he added: “I can assure you that we are pulling out all the stops, while making clear that in all our trade negotiations we won’t compromise on high environmental protection and animal welfare standards.”