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Trade Promotion

Volume 661: debated on Thursday 6 June 2019

As China and other developing countries have proved so much over the last decades, the real key to unlocking people’s potential and eliminating poverty is, of course, through economic development, and trade is central to that. The great benefit of trade, and of free trade in particular, is that it unlocks the potential not just for consumers and businesses in developing countries but for countries such as our own, too. That is why our programmes in Ethiopia, Bangladesh and, more recently, Jordan are heavily focused on trade.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a number of local companies in Southend are very keen to be involved in trade and development, including Borough plating and Jota Aviation? Does he see any further business opportunities once we have left the European Union?

First, I pay tribute to those businesses in my hon. Friend’s constituency. It is incredibly important that, through every bit of Government policy, we support small and medium-sized enterprises in Britain. There is huge potential around the world. I would just warn, however, when people start talking about a no-deal Brexit, that we need to be very careful in specifying what kind of tariff levels people are talking about and with whom they are negotiating, because certainly farmers in my constituency, the automotive sector and the aviation sector will suffer terribly if we end up with the wrong arrangements.

On that point, we know that Donald Trump favours a no-deal Brexit so that we turn our back on the EU market and sit at his feet—the American economy is seven times the size of ours. We know that Donald Trump does not agree with climate change, but will the Secretary of State ensure that we focus on investing in renewable technologies via overseas development, rather than continuing to subsidise fossil fuels through export credit guarantees, so that we can build a sustainable world together?

This is a very big challenge. There is huge potential for the British economy and, of course, for the world and the climate emergency in getting involved in new technologies. To take one example, I would very much like to put considerably more money from DFID into research and development in renewable technologies at British universities. If we can develop the next generation of solar film—light spectrum technology —it can convince China not to build the next generation of coal-fired stations. That will make a huge difference to the climate and the world, but also to British research.

Will the Secretary of State set out for the House why the customs union is the wrong policy choice when it comes to lifting people out of poverty in the developing world through free trade?

I strongly disagree; I think it is incredibly important that we have zero-tariff, zero-quota access to European markets, to defend the future of the British economy. We are talking about the climate, which is central to this Department. If Europe needs 300 million electric cars over the next few decades, I would like them to be manufactured in the United Kingdom. We have huge potential in battery technology; we can make the planet a better place; and we can create great jobs for British businesses, and the way to do that is to have the access to those markets.