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Exports in Global Markets

Volume 643: debated on Thursday 28 June 2018

Mr Speaker, before I begin, I am delighted to announce the appointment of Mark Slaughter as the Department for International Trade’s new director general for investment. Mark took up his new role this month and will lead the Department’s work on inward and outward investment.

The Department for International Trade provides support to companies in Wales and the rest of the UK through, for example, the GREAT campaign, high value campaigns, the Tradeshow Access Programme and the financial support to exporters offered by UK Export Finance.

Wrexham pharmaceutical companies, such as Wockhardt and Ipsen Biopharm, export worldwide. Does the Minister agree that it is essential to preserve regulatory alignment to allow them to continue to export and develop in new markets?

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman, who is a great champion of his local exporting businesses. We need the right arrangements going forward to support the strong export growth we have seen. He will note that, since 2010, export growth for Wales has gone up by 82%.

What direct support is being given to businesses that want to export overseas and, crucially, how is it being signposted?

The hon. Lady is right to mention the importance of ensuring that British companies know support is in place. In DIT, we have for the first time in our history a Department of State whose only job is to support international economic exports, investment and trade policy. The GREAT campaign has been very significant in promoting that and we have trade advisers throughout the country. Indeed, in Yorkshire and Humber, DIT has 33 mobile and desk-based international trade advisers, who are there explicitly to support local business and to make sure they know what we have on offer.

For the food and drink producers located in my constituency, such as the world famous Tennents brewery and Morrison Bowmore whisky distillery, international trade is an integral part of their business. Can the Minister tell us what his Department is doing to work with Scottish Development International to better promote Scottish businesses, such as the ones I have mentioned, overseas?

The hon. Gentleman is right and, along with many of his colleagues, he is a great champion of local businesses. That is why it was particularly disappointing that we saw so many of his colleagues shaking their heads in disbelief when they heard the shadow Secretary of State the other day refusing to support the EU-Canada trade deal and refusing to support the EU-Japan trade deal. He will recall that one of his colleagues said that if the Labour party is not prepared to support a deal with Trudeau’s Canada, who on earth would it support a deal with.

Although it is very welcome to see a rise in exports, Ministers know they are still coming from a relatively small proportion of British businesses. I urge him to challenge business membership bodies to ensure they put exporting at the heart of their work. We need a culture change. They have a role to play.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for all the work he does in supporting international trade. He is absolutely right. We work closely in partnership with, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State meets regularly, representative business organisations because we need to change the culture. Our assessment is that there are more British companies that could export and do not, than there are who can and do. The opportunity is there. The very welcome growth in exports over recent years is to be applauded, but there is so much more we can do by working in partnership not only with representative business organisations, but with banks.

What impact will there be on UK firms exporting around the world if the Trade Bill is not implemented before we leave the EU?

Of course, the Trade Bill is fundamental to the continuity of existing EU trade deals. It puts in place the framework to allow us to move them over from the EU to the UK. Labour failed earlier this week to support jobs, and it has repeatedly voted against the very Bill that would allow us to ensure continuation of trade.

Our exports will be more likely to prosper if reciprocal trade is not met with a common external tariff, will they not?

What my right hon. Friend is absolutely right about is that there will be real opportunities for the UK when it leaves the EU. The appetite throughout the world is first for continuity, but among so many of our existing trade partners there is also a real desire to deepen that relationship and thus support British exports in a way that, sadly, the shadow Secretary of State seems signally not to do.

It is not enough, though, simply to promote exports and global trade. They need to be facilitated, which is likely to require new trade deals with our major trading partners, such as the United States. That, however, is not without its risks. When the Minister and the Secretary of State are going about their business promoting trade and starting early discussions about a trade deal, will they make it clear from the outset that our NHS, our public services, our food hygiene rules and important geographic indicators are off limits and out of bounds?

I am happy to give those assurances, but earlier this week we saw the Scottish National party—the hon. Gentleman’s party, under his leadership in this area—vote against a deal that fully supports the continuity of existing protections. It is interesting that the Scotch Whisky Association and all the thousands who work in the Scotch whisky business strongly support that deal, whereas the SNP opposed it.

In May it was reported that the Department was to axe hundreds of jobs in trade promotion—up to 10% of the workforce. The Treasury has since hinted that additional funding is available to safeguard such jobs, but we have heard that the cuts are still happening. Surely the Secretary of State agrees that axing officials whose job is to promote British exports is not the best way to build a “global Britain”. Will he therefore confirm that his Department has not, and will not, cut those jobs?

The truth is that the Department is growing. It is less than two years old and it is building its capacity. Today I announced the appointment of a new director general for investment, we recently announced the appointment of a director general for exports, and, of course, we are soon to complete the appointments of eight HM trade commissioners around the world, who will deploy our resources to best effect.