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Fair Trade

Volume 621: debated on Thursday 9 February 2017

The Government will lead the way in ensuring that developing countries have the opportunity to trade their way out of poverty. While the UK is a member of the European Union, we remain committed to development through the EU, including economic partnership agreements, the generalised scheme of preferences and “Everything But Arms”. We are working closely with the Department for International Development to ensure that the global trading system of the future is as fair and as free as possible.

Trade with developing countries is crucial to ensuring jobs and livelihoods, and our commitment to the sustainable development goals. Will the Secretary of State commit to fair trade principles in relation to future trade deals with developing countries to ensure that local populations can benefit sustainably and to complement the work of the DFID staff in my constituency and beyond?

Let me join the hon. Lady in paying tribute to the fair trade campaign. It is very important in ensuring that farmers receive a fair price for their products, that agricultural workers receive better wages and that agricultural practices are made more sustainable. As Britain leaves the European Union, we will actually have greater freedom outside the common external tariff to be able to do some of the things she recommends.

Whether we look at west African cocoa, east African coffee or Tunisian olives, time and again we find that the cause of unfair trade policy is the European Union. Does the Secretary of State agree with me that once we can set our own tariffs outside the common external tariff of the EU, we will be able to help those countries to trade their way out of poverty?

This Government are committed to an open and liberal trading system. One of the best ways to help poor countries is to have even greater liberalisation than we have today. When we are outside the common external tariff of the European Union, Britain will have the opportunity to act unilaterally, which will give us new opportunities, as my hon. Friend rightly suggests.

The 21st century offers us an opportunity to build on our pride and identity as a nation that promotes human rights, workers’ rights and environmental protection—all part of fair trade principles. How will the Government build on this part of our national identity in trade negotiations?

We are already playing a full part in that. Britain played a major role in the World Trade Organisation’s arrangement that is going to come into effect in just a short time—the trade facilitation agreement. It will be worth about £70 billion to the global economy, and for some of the poorest countries, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa, it will be worth about £10 billion. We made a major contribution to that, and we should be very proud of it.

I have a role as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Nigeria. In the context of fair trade, will the Secretary of State join me in encouraging the Nigerian Government to share the benefits of trade more widely with their people?

That is a message I will be taking with me when I make a visit to Nigeria in the not-too-distant future.