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Future Trade Deals: Workers’ Rights

Volume 699: debated on Thursday 15 July 2021

What recent discussions she has had with UK trade partners on inserting clauses on workers’ rights into future trade deals. (902796)

What recent steps she has taken to ensure that the rights of workers are protected in future trade deals. (902801)

While the detail of free trade agreements is necessarily sensitive, we have committed in our public mandates to protecting our world-leading labour standards. For example, in our agreement in principle with Australia, a commitment was made to a chapter on labour that will lock in high domestic protections for our workers.

Colombia remains the deadliest place in the world to be a trade unionist, with 22 union activists murdered in the past year alone, according to the latest global rights index. Does the Minister now regret the agreement of a trade deal with Colombia that is so utterly toothless when it comes to the protection and enforcement of workers’ rights?

The hon. Lady will know that that was originally a deal negotiated by the EU. We provided continuity to businesses in this country and in Colombia to make sure that on our exit from the European Union, businesses could continue to trade. The truth is that some of the most vulnerable people will be affected by some of the knee-jerk policies suggested by the Labour party. In all our trade deals, we will uphold Britain’s high standards for businesses, workers and consumers, and we will continue to meet our obligations under the International Labour Organisation.

The Minister has made perfectly clear the Government’s efforts to engage with Australia on the question of workers’ rights in the run-up to the trade agreement. Countries such as Australia and New Zealand already have decent workers’ rights. However, more than half—that is, 14 out of 24—of the countries where the Government are currently negotiating trade deals have very poor track records on labour rights, including Brazil, Malaysia and India. What pressure or influence will the Government bring to bear when negotiating a deal with those countries whose labour standards and rights are extremely poor, so that the trade can benefit UK workers and the workers of our trading partners too?

Again, the question seems to have been asked and answered already. The comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership has a comprehensive labour and workers’ rights chapter, and I would have thought that the people of Preston would welcome the fact that the CPTPP offers Britain access to two thirds of the world’s middle classes by 2030.