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British Businesses Investing Overseas

Volume 654: debated on Thursday 7 February 2019

Supporting UK-based companies to invest and operate overseas is a key pillar of the Department’s work. In 2017, UK companies brought home £86 billion as a result of those investments. The Department provides market information and identifies investment opportunities and potential partners. We have developed a new suite of products to help UK businesses as a result of outward direct investment pilots in New York, China, Turkey, Brazil, South Africa and Ethiopia.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but people are quite rightly concerned that setting up overseas subsidiaries or acquiring foreign enterprises could lead to job losses or relocations. Will the Minister confirm the net number of jobs created in the UK as a result of his Department’s support for outward direct investment?

This Government’s job creation record speaks for itself. It is the protectionist instincts that run throughout the Labour party that so threaten the jobs miracles that my constituents and the hon. Lady’s have enjoyed over recent years.

I do not know whether the hon. Member for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti) has observed that there is an opportunity for him now. He takes a grave risk if he waits for question 10, because we might not reach it.

10. I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker. With regard to investment in the United Kingdom, having recently attended the opening session of the 116th United States Congress, it was clear that the US wants a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom. However, the US has legitimate concerns about whether the UK would be able to do that if it is tied into EU regulations in goods and services. What does the Minister have to say on that? (909094)

The Secretary of State recently led more than 100 innovative tech companies to CES, the world’s biggest trade show. The US is of course our largest trading partner and our largest overseas investor. As my hon. Friend rightly points out, there are real opportunities, which is why one of the first priorities on free trade agreements is one with the US.

The Environmental Audit Committee has just started an inquiry into the role of UK Export Finance. We pledge to meet climate change targets at home, so why is it that nearly every penny of support for energy projects overseas goes on fossil fuels?

I do not think that that is accurate, but I do not have the exact numbers to hand. UK Export Finance is there to support UK business in meeting demands and needs as requested by overseas companies and, indeed, countries. I make no apology for saying that UKEF is there to try to promote that, and it has played a role in funding renewable technologies. Our record on that front is good worldwide.

With UK Export Finance reaching its centenary later this year, what difference has UKEF made to exports? How does my hon. Friend intend to mark the occasion?

UKEF is yet another example of how this country has led the way when it comes to exporting. It was the world’s first export credit agency, and we should all be proud of its work to support British exports over the last 100 years. We will celebrate the centenary throughout this year, notably at the UK trade and export finance forum in June, and we will continue to promote UKEF’s world-class support so that even more UK companies can succeed abroad.