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Free Trade Agreements: Freedom of Religion or Belief

Volume 677: debated on Thursday 18 June 2020

What steps she is taking to ensure that freedom of religion or belief is included in negotiations on free trade agreements. (903434)

The freedom of religion is a universal human right. The UK has a strong record of safeguarding human rights and promoting our values globally. Our strong economic relationships with trading partners allow the Government to have open discussions on a range of difficult issues, including human rights and religious freedom. The Government will continue to encourage all states to uphold international human rights obligations.

I thank the Minister for that answer. He knows that I lead for the Government on freedom of religion or belief as the Prime Minister’s special envoy and on taking forward the Truro report. The Minister also knows, from our previous work when I was a trade envoy covering Pakistan, that there was a GSP-plus—generalised system of preference—trade clause which meant that human rights had to be respected. Around the world at the moment under covid-19, religious minorities have suffered immensely. Can we ensure that our future discussions on trade cover fully and frankly our concerns on freedom of religion or belief and wider human rights?

My hon. Friend has done superb work as the Prime Minister’s special envoy on freedom of religion and belief. He references the Truro report, which was set up by the previous Foreign Secretary. Its overall approach is very much endorsed by this Government. He also draws reference to his time as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Pakistan, when I worked with him very closely. The GSP-plus scheme will be rolled over into a UK scheme. Obviously, that will include key human rights obligations, including freedom of religion and expression.