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UK Economy

Volume 543: debated on Tuesday 17 April 2012

4. What steps his Department is taking to support the UK economy; and if he will make a statement. (102854)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office works to boost trade and support the United Kingdom economy by lobbying the Governments of other countries to open markets, reduce barriers to trade, and make progress with multilateral and EU bilateral trade agreements. To support that work and promote Britain’s future prosperity, we are adding more than 100 new positions in our posts in the fastest-growing cities and regions throughout the world.

Last week, during the Prime Minister’s successful visits to Japan and Indonesia, and elsewhere in south-east Asia, he was able to welcome major deals involving 11 Airbuses for Indonesia and 1,500 new jobs in Nissan in the UK. Given the success of that visit, what steps is the Foreign Office taking to build on the trade relationships that are being fostered in those vitally important export markets?

I strongly endorse the sentiment expressed by my hon. Friend. Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world. Its economy is growing by 6% or 7% a year, and it is the only G20 country in south-east Asia. There are big opportunities for us—political, diplomatic and economic—in countries such as Indonesia. I am delighted that the Prime Minister’s tour of Asia was so successful, and we are working in posts and across Government to build on that success.

Britain has some of the toughest arms export rules in the world, and the Prime Minister’s recent efforts to promote the defence industry on his overseas visits will have been made within those parameters. Did he also take the opportunity to push for a strong international arms trade treaty, and what steps are the Government taking to bring that about?

In a sense, the hon. Lady has answered her own question. We have extremely tough rules on arms exports, and we are keen to promote an arms treaty. However, as is widely recognised throughout the House, it is legitimate to sell arms to people who comply with the regulations, and that is what we will do when it is appropriate.