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Volume 626: debated on Thursday 6 July 2017

3. What recent discussions he has had with the Government of Brazil on a trade agreement with that country after the UK leaves the EU. (900257)

Brazil is the UK’s largest export market in Latin America and represents significant opportunities for the UK. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State attended the UK-Brazil joint economic and trade committee last December. As I saw for myself in March in Rio, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte, both Governments are committed to deepening UK-Brazil trade and investment. UK and Brazilian officials continue to work together on proposals for reducing trade barriers, for discussion at the next joint committee.

I thank the Minister for his response and congratulate him on that work. I was in Brazil last November and have had many meetings with His Excellency the Brazilian ambassador to London, and while Brazil has not been able to achieve a trade deal with the European Union, it very much looks forward to one with the UK. So can the Minister expedite such arrangements as quickly as possible?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his work with the all-party group on Brazil in the last Parliament, and he makes the good point that we do not need to have a free trade agreement to have free trade. Indeed, as I am sure he knows, the EU has no free trade agreement with the world’s largest markets such as the US, China, India and, indeed, Brazil. So there are many trade barriers that we can address without having a formal free trade agreement. This is very much our approach in Brazil, as seen by our joint committee talks and my own visit in March.

The Minister will be aware that the barriers to trade are not simply those that would be covered in an orthodox trade deal; there is also the unfamiliarity with local customs and so on. If we are to encourage our small and medium-sized enterprises to export, what practical facilities can be given to open up markets like Brazil, potentially enormous but at present very difficult for SMEs to access?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question and welcome him back to his place; I have fond memories of working closely with him in previous Departments on trade and other issues.

There are two things to say in response to the hon. Gentleman’s question. He is right that the removal of non-tariff barriers—the grit in the system—is a key aspect of our Department’s work, and he is right to emphasise that this is about not just free trade agreements in the future, but also removing those practical barriers, which is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had those talks back in December. In terms of supporting SMEs, the portal is very good; there is good access to Brazilian deals that are coming up, and I urge all SMEs to go to that portal, in order to access that.

Of course, the Minister could have pointed out that a trade agreement can only take place with Mercosur, because Brazil is part of that bloc, and should an EU trade agreement be put in place with Mercosur prior to our leaving the EU, it would become one of the agreements the EU currently has with some 50 countries. How does the Secretary of State propose to carry out his manifesto commitment to replicate all of those existing agreements after Brexit, and specifically, what legislative instruments does he propose to introduce to that end in the trade Bill?

A lot of these matters will form part of the trade Bill which will be introduced in this Session. What is most important is that, as we seek a smooth and orderly exit from the European Union, we seek to replicate all of those existing EU free trade agreements, to provide certainty and stability for our businesses as we go forward to enable them to access both existing and future markets.