At the upcoming G20 trade and digital economy ministerial meeting I will voice the UK’s continued support for the multilateral trading system. I will work with other G20 members to reduce trade tensions, support WTO reform, and advocate new rules on e-commerce and services trade liberalisation.
Relations with Japan matter enormously. Our termination of the Anglo-Japanese treaty 1923 was probably one of the worst geo-strategic mistakes we ever made, propelling that country into autarchy and nationalism. Will the Secretary of State confirm that post Brexit his priority will be to ensure a global free trade world, with us and Japan leading the way?
It is absolutely essential, particularly given the rise of protectionism globally, that we commit ourselves to a rules-based system based on the WTO. Of course, we have abilities to augment that by other regional relationships, which is why we have had the public consultation and the debate in Parliament about the potential accession to the CPTPP—the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Japanese Government have been key in encouraging the United Kingdom to seek such a membership.
Seventy per cent. of the world’s poorest people live not in the poorest countries but in the middle-income countries, and the G20 has a vital role to encourage these people to work their way out of poverty by free trade. Does the Secretary of State agree?
I do agree, but if the G20 countries are intent on doing so, they need to reverse the recent trend of increasing non-tariff barriers to trade. The largest number of new barriers to trade introduced since the financial crisis have been in G20 countries, so they do not simply have to do the preaching; they have to do the practising, too.