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Environmental Protection Standards: Future Trade Agreements

Volume 679: debated on Thursday 3 September 2020

What discussions she has had with UK trade partners on maintaining environmental protection standards in future trade agreements. (905361)

What discussions she has had with UK trade partners on maintaining environmental protection standards in future trade agreements. (905363)

The Government are committed to meeting their ambitious environmental objectives. We are exploring environmental provisions in the design of our free trade agreements to ensure we continue to uphold the UK’s very high environmental standards. The precise details of each individual UK free trade agreement are a matter for the formal negotiations.

As we can see from the Extinction Rebellion protestors outside Parliament today and from our own inboxes as MPs, people hold environmental standards very close to their hearts. High climate standards are put at risk by leaving the European Union, which has the gold standard on environmental protections. What will the Government do, whether abroad with a country like Brazil or here in the UK, to protect the climate? The climate does cross borders so, whether at home or abroad, what steps will the Government take, with some energy, to protect the environment?

I thank the hon. Lady for that question, which I think was very reasonably put, but actually we are doing a huge amount right the way across the board. We guaranteed in our manifesto no compromise on environmental standards in our future free trade agreements. The UK global tariff, which we published earlier this year, goes significantly further than the EU’s common external tariff in making sure that environmental goods are low-tariff or tariff-free. There are 104 tariff lines, including steam turbines, vacuum flasks and thermostats. We are also providing export finance in areas of renewable energy, such as solar energy and wind farms in Taiwan.

The former Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, said that the major role he played in his country’s trade negotiations was ensuring

“that we weren’t sidetracked by peripheral issues such as… environmental standards”.

Does his potential appointment as a policy adviser to the Board of Trade mean that that is the Government’s new approach? How can the Government reassure us that they do not now regard the environment as a peripheral issue?

The Government’s approach on the environment, and on the environment and trade, is unchanged. No appointments have been confirmed. Personally, I welcome the fact that a former Prime Minister of Australia is willing to help this country out. I think we should welcome his interest and welcome the endeavours he has the potential to make for this country on behalf of us all.

Palm oil production is having a devastating impact on wildlife and the environment in a number of countries, including Malaysia, and there is real concern among our constituents about the threat to orangutans. Will the Minister confirm that the Government will press ahead with a ban on palm oil imports after the end of the transition period? Will he also confirm that this Government will maintain that ban if we join Malaysia in the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership?

The hon. Gentleman will remember the Prime Minister’s visit to Thailand and the region, and his speaking out about wildlife crime in that region when he was Foreign Secretary, including in relation to the pangolin, for example. You will remember, Mr Speaker, that the UK first published its statement on the sustainable production of palm oil in 2012, and the latest reports indicate that the UK achieved 75% certified sustainable palm oil importation in 2017, which compares with a figure of just 10% under the last Labour Government. We have taken the figure from just 10% to 75% in just 10 years.