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Trade Envoy Programme

Volume 636: debated on Thursday 22 February 2018

The Prime Minister’s trade envoys do a great job engaging with countries where trade and investment opportunities have been identified. Last year, trade envoys helped contribute to export wins of more than £15.5 billion in their markets. Based on an outlay of just under £250,000 for the programme over the same period, each trade envoy, on average, supported £700 million in exports.

Does my right hon. Friend plan to appoint any further trade envoys beyond those already appointed?

That is the least disguised job application that I have heard in some time. There are 30 trade envoys covering 60 markets around the world. The programme is reviewed regularly in consultation with our overseas team and any new suggestions are put to the Prime Minister. I will let my hon. Friend know as soon as possible if any vacancies occur.

Before these trade envoys do anything else, will the Secretary of State bring them all together and allow them to have the same briefing from the CBI that many Members from all parties had this week? That CBI briefing on the impact of leaving the EU says that it will be a disaster for working men and women, industry and manufacturing up and down the country.

As I often point out to the hon. Gentleman, the working men and women of his constituency had a very different view about the reasons for leaving the European Union. I make sure that our trade envoys get a much wider range of briefings than simply one—a highly suspect one in that case.

As the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Brazil, I have been immensely impressed by the UK companies already operating there, but frankly there are not enough of them. May I urge the Secretary of State to challenge business membership organisations, including the CBI, to ensure that they put exporting at the heart of their work?

First, I pay tribute to the work that my hon. Friend has done. We have a growing and increasingly improving trade relationship with Brazil, but he is absolutely right that we require business to put exporting at its heart. The positive signs in recent times are that that is happening and we will export more than 30% of our GDP this year for the first time in a considerable while.

There is cross-party ability to look at the programme. We have an International Trade Committee and questions in this House, and I have just reported to the House the value that we think the programme has.

As trade envoy to Ethiopia, last week I had a meeting at the African Union about the continental free trade area agreement, which is incredibly important for the future of all countries in Africa and for the United Kingdom. Does my right hon. Friend see roles for the trade envoy programme in engaging with these free trade areas, which cover more than one country?

I would hope that our trade envoys, along with our posts in those various African countries, would understand the value that increased intra-African trade can bring both to those countries and in increased opportunities for UK exporters.