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Trade Opportunities

Volume 603: debated on Tuesday 15 December 2015

I chair the exports implementation taskforce, which is driving cross-Whitehall support for exports. In November, my noble Friend Lord Maude launched the five-year Exporting is GREAT campaign, which promotes real-time global export opportunities to business.

In November, I hosted an event in my constituency with the China-Britain Business Council to which I invited small businesses to come and find out more about trading with China. The all-party parliamentary group on China is aiming to help 50 Members to organise similar events. Can my right hon. Friend tell me how his Department plans to make good use of our new trading relationship with China to help small businesses expand into these vital global markets?

Let me commend my hon. Friend on her efforts to encourage businesses in her constituency to export more to China. While exports to China have doubled in the last five years, there is a lot of potential and a lot more that we can do. The recent visit by the Chinese President helped to highlight that, and the effort that my hon. Friend is making with UK Trade & Investment, the China-Britain Business Council and others provides an example to us all.

What steps has the Secretary of State taken since the steel summit to increase trade opportunities for the UK steel sector?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The more we can export of higher-value steel products, the more we can help. We have been discussing this with UKTI and steel producers. We are coming up with a plan, and this will certainly feature in the trade meetings we have in due course.

Next month, I will be jointly hosting an event with UKTI to encourage more local Cannock Chase businesses to consider exporting. Will my right hon. Friend outline what the Government are doing to encourage new businesses to export?

I can talk about a number of initiatives, including the Exporting is GREAT website and the roadshow that will visit constituencies up and down the country. There is obviously also the work that UKTI is doing. Most recently, I helped to launch the midlands engine scheme, which I know my hon. Friend will welcome. We released more money to help that region with exports, including a midlands engine roadshow.

As part of the work of the export implementation group, will the Secretary of State explore with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs all options to access new markets for all our farm produce in north America and south-east Asia?

Absolutely. The hon. Lady makes an important point. I know that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been taking this matter very seriously. One thing we have done recently is to move some of the UKTI resources into my right hon. Friend’s Department so that there is better co-ordination.

I recently talked to a senior Indian businessman and asked him how we could increase trade with India. He said that the one thing we could do was to leave the EU because of the restrictions. Will the Secretary of State, either as Secretary of State or personally, endorse his comment?

I spoke to a lot of Indian businessmen and women and many Indian students last week. There is certainly one area in respect of which we could certainly increase our exports to India, and that is education.

It is all very well, but it is not working, is it? The UK’s latest balance of trade deficit is widening. It was up to £2.4 billion in the last quarter. Exports of goods—[Interruption.] Perhaps the Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise should have a little listen to this. Exports of goods from the UK actually fell last month by £700 million. It is a pity we cannot export spin, because the Government are very good at that. The “march of the makers” was very good, and now we have the “midlands engine”. What is the Secretary of State’s excuse for the Government’s dismal record on the trade deficit?

The hon. Gentleman should not do down our world-class exporters. They are doing a fantastic job. Let me give him a few examples of what they can export. They can export wine to France, chocolate to Belgium and even boomerangs to Australia, although I fear that it is sometimes the same boomerang that keeps coming back.