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Export Strategy

Volume 663: debated on Thursday 11 July 2019

This summer marks three years since the DIT was established and one year since the publication of the Department’s export strategy, which sets out how the Government will encourage, inform, connect and finance UK businesses to take advantage of the international demand for British goods and services. Last month, we announced a new package of financial support from UK Export Finance to help businesses, and small and medium-sized enterprises in particular, to do just that.

Does the Department’s export strategy make provision for promoting the expertise of British business in the emerging markets of offshore wind and the late-life decarbonising management and decommissioning of oil and gas fields?

Yes, the offshore wind sector deal announced earlier this year will support UK companies to seize the export opportunities generated by the rapidly expanding market. The DIT is working with markets such as Taiwan, with which I recently hosted an offshore wind roundtable last month, to support their engagement with the UK supply chain. On oil and gas production, the DIT is engaging with the industry and stakeholders on export opportunities across the full industrial lifecycle.

We have already heard that our trade agreements with the EU amount to about 11% of our trade, which is significant. Will my hon. Friend update the House on where he expects to have got with rolling over all the existing trade agreements by the time we are able to make our own independent trade policy?

Since the Department’s formation three years ago, the DIT has grown its trade negotiating capability from a standing start to a fully trained core of specialists. That has allowed us to negotiate the transition of EU free trade agreements, representing almost two thirds of trade covered by these agreements, and we continue to work intensively on the balance.

What is the Secretary of State doing in relation to manufacturing in the west midlands, which has the Jaguar Land Rover and black cab companies, to increase their exports given the market has had a slight downturn as a result of Trump’s sanctions on China?

Of course, Jaguar Land Rover remains an extraordinarily important company to the UK. It has faced some challenges recently, but the announcement of the new electrification programme in the west midlands is extremely welcome. As the hon. Gentleman might expect, the DIT has been very heavily involved in that process.

But what has the DIT been doing through its export strategy about the automotive sector in Wales and in particular in Bridgend, with the announcement that Ford will close the engine plant? What can the Department do to try to persuade Ford to change its mind about this and to ensure that we have a thriving export sector?

The hon. Gentleman will know that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been very heavily involved with Ford at Bridgend; in the end this is a matter for the company itself, but I have no doubt that BEIS has had productive conversations with it. The DIT is, along with BEIS, investing very large amounts of money across Government in electrification and the automotive market of the future. That involves huge amounts put into research and development at universities, and we believe that will put the UK car industry in a very good position for the future.