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Trade Strategy

Volume 672: debated on Thursday 5 March 2020

15. What recent assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the Government’s trade strategy. (901134)

UK exports are at a record high, with the latest figures showing exports of £689 billion—up 5% on 2018. We are committed to doing even more, building on the measures in our export strategy. Just last month, we launched a new business support campaign, helping businesses of all sizes to fulfil their exporting potential.

Over the last few weeks, the good residents of Ilford South have been writing to me in greater and greater numbers because they are concerned about the sectarian violence we are seeing in some of our Commonwealth partners in certain regions of the world. Can the Minister reassure me and the residents of Ilford South by telling us what steps he will take to ensure that the Government’s trade strategy always promotes human rights abroad and does not embolden or reward regimes or Governments who oppress communities that are a minority in number?

The hon. Gentleman is quite right to highlight the issue of trade’s role in parts of the world where human rights are being breached. Right across the Department, we seek to ensure that all such considerations are taken into account, while recognising the need to engage with regimes that may have less than perfect Governments, for the benefit of the people there. It is a balance that we take very seriously, and I look forward to further discussion with him to get it right.

There are lessons for our strategy arising from Japan’s rather unsatisfactory negotiations with the EU, are there not?

We could look at Japan, or we could look at Mercosur, which took 20 years of negotiation. Some say that the UK shorn of the heft of the EU will be less able to do deals. There are ways in which that would be true, but fundamentally, with agility, as many countries have shown, we can do more deals more quickly and, most importantly, bring greater prosperity, employment and opportunity to my right hon. Friend’s constituents and mine as a result of the UK having its own independent trade policy for the first time in 40-odd years.