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G7 Summit: Trade Priorities

Volume 696: debated on Thursday 10 June 2021

The UK has inaugurated the first ever G7 trade track to take forward the issue of free and fair trade. We need to make sure that the WTO is reformed to stop unfair trading practices and modernise the global trading system.

Penblwydd hapus, Mr Speaker.

Ahead of the G7, the Prime Minister has said that climate is his top priority, yet the Department for International Trade is still funnelling billions—including £3.5 billion from UK Export Finance—into overseas fossil-fuel projects and dirty projects are still being considered, despite the promise to end them. The Prime Minister himself flies into Cornwall on a private jet to talk climate. How can this Government expect to be taken seriously as a climate leader on the biggest threat facing us when they clearly do not take the issue seriously themselves?

I refute what the hon. Lady just said. We have changed the rules that govern UK Export Finance to make sure that it is focused solely on financing clean-energy projects, and that is alongside other measures that support our zero-carbon objectives. We are also working hard at the World Trade Organisation and through the G7 to make trade greener and to make sure that zero carbon is part of how the global trading system works.

Labour has backed an intellectual property waiver on vaccines to help with the pandemic in the poorest countries. The US agrees, as do the majority of world leaders, but the UK remains steadfastly against the plan. With the G7 giving us the opportunity for breakthrough this weekend, will the Secretary of State tell us why she will not support this life-saving initiative?

I am very proud that the UK Government funded research into the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is now producing 98% of the 49 million covid vaccines delivered right around the world. We have played a leading role in that. I am interested in practical measures that have real effect, such as voluntary licensing agreements. If there is any evidence that intellectual property waivers could help, I am all ears and interested to hear it, but we cannot have a regime that destroys intellectual property rights and ends up stopping future innovation.

With all due respect to the Secretary of State, boosting the overall global supply of vaccines is key to get global trade going, secure British jobs and help our allies in the Commonwealth and the developing world. In these exceptional times, why did Britain, as my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South (Stephen Morgan) said, refuse to support at the World Trade Organisation yesterday—presumably on the Secretary of State’s instruction—allies of ours such as America, India and South Africa, and many other countries, and to back a temporary waiver of patents on covid vaccines?

As I have said, the UK is always willing to listen to pragmatic suggestions about how we make the regime work better. For example, we have supported the abolition of export restrictions—many other countries have not—so that we can see goods flow around the world. The fact is that the real changes are being made by voluntary licensing, as we have enabled at the Serum Institute in India. We are part of the third-way work to roll out practical answers. There is no IP waiver proposal on the table that would actually deliver more vaccines to the poorest people in the world, which is what we want to achieve.