Skip to main content

Exports (Far East)

Volume 545: debated on Thursday 24 May 2012

Through UK Trade & Investment, we are promoting exports to Asia and to the far east by campaigning for better market access and by improving market conditions for UK businesses. For example, we are lobbying for the start of formal free trade agreement negotiations between the European Union and Japan, and for the successful conclusion of an ambitious EU-Singapore free trade agreement this year. We also provide targeted support services for UK businesses.

Will the Minister join me in welcoming the exceptional work of the Prime Minister, the Trade and Investment Minister, the Foreign Secretary and all those other Ministers who are doing a great deal to promote British trade to the far east? Does the Minister agree that it will do our cause no good if senior business men in the far east, wanting to come here and take part in business exchanges, find it difficult to get a visa to do so? May I urge him to take every step to resolve that question?

I absolutely share my right hon. Friend’s comments about the incredibly valuable work undertaken by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. During the Prime Minister’s recent visit, deals worth £546 million were secured from south-east Asia, but I understand the concern that my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Nicholas Soames) raises about visas, and I will certainly look into them.

Has the Minister read last week’s pamphlet, by one of the most brilliant and prescient Members among us, which states:

“It is noteworthy that other developed countries have re-oriented their export profiles more effectively than Britain has done, raising doubts about whether we are keeping pace with our EU partners in promoting British commercial interests in the emerging economies”?

That sentence was written by the hon. Member for Orpington (Joseph Johnson), who is sitting behind the Minister. Could they swap jobs, so that we have a trade Minister who knows what to do?

I will rise above it, absolutely.

Exports to the far east are growing very significantly. UK exports to China have grown by 15% over the past year, for example, and we are working hard to secure a free trade agreement with Japan, which would deliver significant benefits to the UK.