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UK Trading Relations: Pacific Countries

Volume 636: debated on Thursday 22 February 2018

4. What steps he is taking to strengthen UK trading relations with Australia, New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries in the Pacific. (903862)

We have the opportunity to enhance our global trading relationships, including those with the countries with which we share bonds of history and friendship. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State travelled to Australia and New Zealand in November to promote free trade and deepen those trading relationships. The April Commonwealth summit here in London will provide an opportunity for us to continue that work with all member states.

Has my right hon. Friend considered how UK agriculture will compete with our Commonwealth cousins when we agree a free trade deal after leaving the customs union?

I praise my hon. Friend for his distinguished business career in the sector before coming to this House; it means he brings real expertise to the House. He will know that we have established trade working groups with both Australia and New Zealand to explore possibilities in trade and investment. They will include agriculture, but it is too early to be sure how it will be covered in those and other future trading arrangements. The New Zealanders are very interested in this—the New Zealand High Commission recently wrote to the International Trade Committee saying:

“Given the complementarity of our two economies and our deep bilateral ties,”

they want to do something with us, and we very much agree.

On negotiations with New Zealand, the Minister will be aware that Wales has a large lamb industry—it is one of the great prides of the United Kingdom—so can he give an absolute assurance that in his negotiations with New Zealand he will not put any Welsh farms and the Welsh lamb industry at risk?

I am keenly aware, as are my right hon. Friend the Secretaries of State for International Trade and for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, of the importance of British agriculture in all parts of the United Kingdom and of making sure we have the necessary protections in place on animal welfare standards and so on, and also of promoting the opportunity to export our excellent British goods. Food and drink is one of our fastest-growing export sectors, and we want people to take advantage of opportunities across the UK.

What importance does the Minister attach to deepening and broadening our trade relationships with countries such as India, which has a widening middle class among its population of 1.25 billion?

The Prime Minister’s first bilateral trade visit in November 2016 was to India, accompanied by the Secretary of State and myself. We have recently completed a trade audit with India that looks at all the barriers. India is at times a difficult market for British exporters to crack. We have a lot of advantages in doing business there, and the trade audit and the joint economic trade committee talks led by the Secretary of State last month are taking us in the right direction.