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International Trade

Volume 701: debated on Thursday 21 October 2021

Trade Deals: Human Rights

1. What recent discussions she has had with UK trade partners on inserting clauses on human rights into future trade deals. (903681)

I and my whole team would like to associate ourselves with the tributes to Sir David Amess that have been made this week. He was listed on the Order Paper for today’s oral questions and I have no doubt that he would have championed the export opportunities for Southend, our newest city.

The Government are clear that more trade will not come at the expense of human rights. The UK will continue to show global leadership in encouraging all states to uphold international rights obligations and to hold to account those who violate those rights. By having stronger economic relationships with partners, we have the opportunity to open discussions on a range of issues.

I associate myself with the Secretary of State’s comments about our friend, Sir David. I welcome the Secretary of State to and congratulate her on her new position.

I note that the recent trade deal with New Zealand refers to indigenous people. Does the Secretary of State share my concern that when it comes to human rights it is important that we protect freedom of religion? Will she meet me to discuss further how UK trade deals can promote human rights and religious freedoms globally?

The hon. Lady is right: as we reach out, with our new ability to do free trade deals with our friends and allies, it is important to us to consider such important issues. For New Zealand, a chapter on indigenous peoples and their part in their nation’s future progress, in respect of both economic and wider issues, was very important and we were happy to work with New Zealand to include it. I would be happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss more fully the particular area of freedom of religion, which I agree is extremely important and which the UK continues to champion around the world.

I welcome the excellent Secretary of State to the Dispatch Box. Does she agree that free trade agreements enable us to influence the supply chain in the countries with which we trade freely? When I chaired the all-party parliamentary group against human trafficking, the improvement of supply chains was very much appreciated and reduced the amount of human trafficking.

My hon. Friend, who has done a great deal of work in this policy space, is absolutely right. It is important that we make sure not only that we use the power of trade to build relationships, as I said, but to give our businesses that want to work globally through supply chains the best tools and protections that they might need to ensure that they have authority with countries where the improvement of the position of the supply-chain workforce and, indeed, the protection of other human rights is critical.

With the Government’s own data showing that the vast majority of the UK public would not support a trade deal with Saudi Arabia, will the Government confirm that they will not be seeking trade agreements with countries with poor human rights records?

As I have said, we have been clear that trade never comes at the expense of human rights, but we will always make use of the many relationships we have, including a very strong and long-standing relationship with Saudi Arabia, to work with partners not only to get mutual trading benefit but to help to make improvements on the issues that we consider to be important.

British Farmers: Global Exports

4. What steps her Department has taken to help increase global export opportunities for British farmers. (903684)

10. What steps her Department has taken to help increase global export opportunities for British farmers. (903690)

16. What steps her Department has taken to help increase global export opportunities for British farmers. (903703)

Our trade agreements are lowering tariffs and unlocking new opportunities for food exporters and the farmers that supply them. The Department for International Trade supports such businesses to capitalise on those opportunities, expand into new markets and sell fantastic British produce overseas.

Our fantastic farmers in Cumbria and the wider UK produce world-class food with the highest animal welfare and environmental standards. We should be very proud of that—we can be a beacon to the rest of the world. What reassurances can my right hon. Friend give to the farmers in Penrith and The Border and throughout the UK that those high standards will be upheld in future trade deals, and that meaningful parliamentary scrutiny will be possible, not least through the urgent establishment of the new Trade and Agriculture Commission?

Just as the Cumbrian farmers are doing well, may I say how proud I am of my Northumbrian farmers who, just across the way, are similarly producing some of the finest food in the world? My hon. Friend is quite right: the new Trade and Agriculture Commission will play an important role in scrutinising trade agreements after signature. Applications are being considered and we hope to be able to announce the membership and the details very shortly. The commission will be in place to scrutinise, first of all, the free trade agreement with Australia when we sign it.

Export markets are increasing for Welsh farmers as we look to the US market for lamb opening up once more. There is also the export success of farms in my constituency of Clwyd South, such as Knolton farmhouse cheese and the increased beef exports by the Rhug estate. Will my right hon. Friend redouble her efforts to ensure that future trade deals open up even more global markets for Welsh and UK farmers?

Wales produces some of the UK’s most iconic food products and we have already unlocked new markets to increase opportunities—for example, gaining access for UK lamb, poultry and beef to Japan. We want to unlock even more opportunities for Welsh farmers and exporters and we will be working closely with the Welsh farming industry as we seek to do so.

On behalf of my constituent, Irene Fowlie, may I thank the Department, along with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, for its help in facilitating the export of high-quality pedigree Essie Suffolk sheep to Georgia earlier this year? May I ask my right hon. Friend, whom I welcome to her new role, how we can improve access to new export routes for other high-quality agricultural produce, particularly from Scotland?

My hon. Friend is a great champion of all the wonderful produce coming out of Scotland and I thank him for his continued efforts. He will be pleased to know that we launched the export support service on 1 October, which will be there to help existing and potentially new exporters with some of those new markets. We have also established a new team in Edinburgh, which is building great networks, and we are committed to enhancing our support for businesses across Scotland to help us showcase the amazing goods and services from every corner of that nation.

The House will be aware of the problems facing UK pig farmers; pigs are sadly being culled on farms, partly because of a shortage of labour, but also because of the closure of markets to China. Other European countries have managed to reopen those markets, but the UK has signally failed to do so. What is the Secretary of State doing to address that diplomatic failure?

I will happily pick that up and make sure that the team from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs gives the hon. Gentleman the most up-to-date information on those pork markets, but we continue to work with all our farmers to make sure that they are able to move their goods to new markets.

Let me begin by welcoming the Secretary of State to her new role. May I associate myself with the remarks that she made about the late David Amess. He was an enthusiastic and lively participant in International Trade questions, as he was with everything that he turned his mind to.

I also look forward to studying the Secretary of State’s response to the Trade and Agriculture Commission report, which I have just learned will be released with a written ministerial statement later today.

On page 54 of the International Trade Department’s June 2020 paper on the strategic approach to free trade with New Zealand, it forecast that an agreement along the lines that I understand the Government announced last night will cause

“a reduction in output and employment…in the UK agriculture sector.”

Does that remain the Secretary of State’s forecast for the impact of last night’s deal?

I will be making an oral statement to the House shortly and I am sure that we all look forward to discussing this issue in more detail. I am very confident that the deal that we struck will provide the opportunity for our wonderful food producers to continue to sell their goods across the world, and, as we make more trade deals, create new markets for them.

I thank the Secretary of State for her answer, but it does rather illustrate why we need a new Trade and Agriculture Commission to provide an independent assessment. After all, last November, the previous Secretary of State told the National Farmers’ Union in Wales:

“We have no intention of ever striking a deal that doesn’t benefit farmers, but we have provided checks and balances in the form of the Trade and Agriculture Commission.”

Can the Secretary of State confirm that the new TAC will be asked to examine the proposed deals with Australia and New Zealand and tell us simply whether these deals benefit our farmers?

The new TAC will be charged with some very clear direction, and given independence for it to be able to scrutinise both the Australian and New Zealand trade deals and all the other trade deals that we are looking to strike in the months and years ahead.

Free Trade Agreements

3. What recent progress her Department has made on securing free trade agreements with countries around the world. (903683)

13. What recent progress her Department has made on securing free trade agreements with countries around the world. (903697)

We now have trade deals with 68 countries around the world, plus the EU, covering trade worth £744 billion last year.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the trade deals we have secured, especially those with Commonwealth partners—such as the excellent deals with Australia and, more recently, New Zealand—are a shining example of global Britain in action, and that they are opening up fantastic opportunities for British businesses and consumers, be they in Rother Valley or across our great country?

Global Britain means using our expertise, resources, talents and values as a force for good in the world, and furthering not just our interests, but the interests of the whole of humanity. My hon. Friend’s part of the world is helping us to do that; last year, Yorkshire and the Humber exported more than £240 million-worth of goods to Australia alone. I want those businesses in his constituency to benefit from the removal of tariffs.

I very much welcome the trade deals that the Government have secured, particularly the most recent one with New Zealand, but trade deals are a first step and it is now for British businesses to take advantage of them. Does the Minister agree that the role of skilled, professional salespeople with business-to-business selling skills will be critical to ensuring that we get the projected value from these deals, and that we need to give those people every support?

My hon. Friend is right, and he is doing his damnedest to make sure that Rugby is at the front of the queue in that respect. To support his businesses, we are delivering an export promotion campaign that positions exporting as a route to growth, prosperity and job creation. The campaign will encourage businesses to seize the opportunities from trade deals, while directing them to our new export support services.

I also welcome the Minister for Trade Policy, the right hon. Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), to her new role.

I have already mentioned the forecast that the deal with New Zealand will cost jobs in our farming communities. Has the Minister had a chance to read that? I also want to ask her about exports and growth. Is it correct, as her Department says on page 54 of the document, that under the terms of the deal New Zealand’s exports to the UK will increase by five times as much as UK exports to New Zealand, and that, as it says on page 58, New Zealand’s GDP will grow by half a billion pounds while the UK’s GDP will not increase by a single penny? Will the Minister tell us whether those figures are right?

Missing from the right hon. Lady’s question was any timeframe. The Opposition need to appreciate that we are building and increasing these markets. Over time, the numbers will go up, because we have given our businesses and farmers the opportunity to do that, and because we have faith in those businesses and farmers to seize those opportunities that we give them. I hope that the right hon. Lady and her Opposition colleagues will be cheerleaders in that respect.

I am just reading the figures from the Minister’s Department and there is a real problem: this is now the third Asia-Pacific agreement in a row—Japan, Australia and now New Zealand—where more than 80% of the growth in trade projected by her own Department has gone to exporters in those other countries and less than 20% has gone to exporters in the UK. The Government say that they are tilting to Asia. I have to say, I think that Asia is taking us to the cleaners. While the Minister is still relatively new, will she sit down with her new boss and tell the Department that enough is enough—that we need trade deals that deliver for Britain, and we need jobs, exports and growth?

Nine trillion pounds—that is what these deals, and ultimately the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, will mean to this country. Yes, we have three deals, and we are going to get more. That is what we want to do. We are going to grow these markets. That is the whole point of our leaving the EU and formulating this plan for global Britain. These deals will increase growth and prosperity in this country, which will fund everything that matters to all Members of this House.

Export of Financial Services

My hon. Friend will know that the UK is a global financial services hub. The Government’s ambition is to champion this success and promote further growth in financial services through supporting UK businesses to set up shop in markets around the world and striking ambitious progressive trade agreements to open up new markets for our financial services exporters.

We are already one of the world’s largest net exporters of financial services, but does my hon. Friend agree that if we are to expand financial services trade even further, we need the regulator to be as energetic and committed as this Government are to expanding that trade?

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. As someone who has come from a financial services background, I have felt the regulator’s hand on my shoulder, so I do understand that regulation can be good, but equally our regulators need to be entirely in tune with our export policy. My colleagues in the Treasury who lead on regulation will be ensuring that our regulator works closely with our export strategy. Specifically, I refer my hon. Friend to some of the annexes particularly in our trade deal with Japan where the benefits of that work can already been seen.

Trade Negotiations: Welsh Government

6. What recent discussions she has had with the Welsh Government on her Department’s ongoing trade negotiations. (903686)

The Department for International Trade has established structures to engage very constructively with devolved Administrations across the United Kingdom, including the Welsh Government. I and my fellow Ministers will be speaking with Welsh Government counterparts in due course, as we always have done.

The Welsh Government, Hybu Cig Cymru and the farmers unions have all expressed concerns about the direction of UK trade policy, especially with regard to food—fears, I suspect, that will be heightened by today’s announcement about the deal with New Zealand. On the eve of COP26, can the Minister explain the environmental sense of undercutting domestic food production with imports from the other side of the world?

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman slightly misses the point about trade. The opportunity for trade is for us to be able to sell all over the world too. The Welsh farmers, along with British farmers across our country, I am sure, will be seeking these opportunities to trade not only with the 68 countries around the world with whom we have trade deals, plus the EU, but more to come—with the Gulf, with India, and much more in future. In respect of the opportunities regarding our friends in New Zealand and Australia, they sell much more of their products to Asia, where prices are higher, so our farmers need not be concerned.

UK Trade with the EU

It is interesting that Ministers are talking about growing trade when it is actually going in the other direction. Trade with Germany is worth eight times our trade with Australia, so we must all be concerned to hear that UK exports to Germany are down by 11% so far this year. We have also fallen outside Germany’s top 10 trading partners for the first time in 71 years. The Minister must share these concerns, so what is she going to do about it?

UK trade in goods with the EU has been steadily increasing this year and is now above average levels for 2020, and exports are increasing faster than imports. However, we recognise that there are difficulties, which is why, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, we have stood up the export support service, which launched on 1 October. That is primarily focused on trade with the EU, but will, over time, be expanded to rest of world. There will be a briefing for all parliamentary staff on the export support service, and I can tell the hon. Gentleman from my own constituents’ experience that it is already making a difference.

Last month, the previous Secretary of State said that it had been a mistake to focus

“too much on trade with the EU despite the richest opportunities being in the Asia-Pacific.”

Are the Government now making the reverse mistake by focusing too much on small gains in Asia despite the far bigger losses we are facing in Europe?

The issue is that as part of the EU we had to focus on trade with the EU and we were hampered in setting our own agreements and policies with the rest of the world. Now we can trade with the rest of the world as well as the EU. We have had difficulties with covid and with all sorts of things that global trade has had to cope with, but we will recover, as will the rest of the world. When the numbers start going the right way, as they already are, and exceed previous years, I hope that Opposition Members will start to talk this country up rather than down.

It is fantastic that the UK has already agreed trade deals with almost 70 countries, plus the EU, that accounted for £744 billion-worth of UK bilateral trade in 2020. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is firm evidence of our striking out into the world and seizing the new opportunities that we now have ahead of us outside of the EU that will benefit Teesside businesses in the long run?

I thank my hon. Friend for all the work he is doing to ensure that businesses can capitalise on these new opportunities. We need to give them the tools to do the job and help them to break into new markets, but the opportunities are immense, and I thank all colleagues who are helping us to achieve those ambitions and supporting businesses, particularly small businesses, in their constituencies.

Trade Deals: Environmental Standards

8. What recent discussions she has had with UK trade partners on inserting clauses on environmental standards into future trade deals. (903688)

The UK is seeking ambitious environmental provisions in all future trade deals, including those which preserve our high levels of environmental protection and ensure our trade and environment policies are mutually supportive. Negotiations, including with both Australia and New Zealand, are progressing and the UK is also preparing for the next phase of negotiations, including with India, Mexico and Canada.

Last week, a leaked document drawn up by departmental officials revealed that it was the Government’s policy to prioritise economic growth over climate protection in the UK’s trade deals. If the Minister says that is not a true reflection of the Department’s negotiating priorities, can she explain why it was written by departmental officials and distributed across Whitehall just days ago?

Our ambitious trade deal with Australia, for instance, includes a substantive article that affirms both parties’ commitments to address climate change, making clear our commitments mutually to the United Nations framework convention on climate change, the Paris agreement and the achievement of all those goals. We will continue to have that and more detail as we make new trade deals.

I add my welcome to the Secretary of State. She was asked in the previous question about a leaked document, which suggests that economic growth is a higher priority for this Government in trade negotiations than climate protection. I know that must be embarrassing for her, given that the Government are supposed to be showing leadership in addressing the climate crisis ahead of COP26, but she can confirm the Government’s priority once and for all by making a definitive statement now about whether the Government and her Department will rule out trade deals with countries such as Brazil and Malaysia so long as they continue to destroy their rainforests. Will she make that commitment today?

Economic growth and the UK’s world-leading commitment to the climate challenges that the planet faces are not mutually exclusive; they go hand in hand. The environment and climate change will continue to be a key priority for the UK. Our ambition and leadership in that and helping our UK businesses that are driving the green agenda and providing the clean technologies of the future will be a critical part of making sure that our trade deals are very good for those British producers.

Trade Envoys

9. What progress her Department’s newly appointed trade envoys have made on promoting British exports and investment. (903689)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on her appointment as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Iceland and Norway. Our new trade envoys are strengthening commercial ties in their designated markets and assisting UK businesses to take full advantage of opportunities arising from our global trade and investment agenda.

I was delighted to be appointed the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Norway and Iceland, following the signing of free trade agreements with those countries. Can my hon. Friend update the House as to how his Department is looking to deepen the relationship between the UK and Norway and Iceland?

I am pleased to say that on 8 July, the UK signed the new, improved trade deal with Norway and Iceland. It is the most advanced trade deal that both countries have ever signed, with gold-stamped provisions in digital trade, mobile roaming and business travel. It will cut tariffs and support jobs in every corner of our country, and I look forward to working with my hon. Friend to exploit those opportunities.

I also welcome the ministerial team to their place, and I echo the comments over the tragic loss of our parliamentary friend and colleague, Sir David Amess. It was a senseless act.

Far from promoting Scottish exports, new documents from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs show that for the period ending June 2021, Scottish exports had decreased by 14% from the previous year. That is not a covid blip, but a result of the UK Government’s decisions over Brexit. The report contains damning charts highlighting the cliff edge that Scottish trade is being pushed over. It is long-term economic vandalism. All the tiny free trade agreements that the Government are willing to sell out for cannot move the dial on the shortfall. Will the Government apologise to Scottish businesses and offer compensation?

I have to say this is week six in the role, so I will admit to being rather new to some of the challenges, but I did think—[Interruption.] At least be gentle with me today. I did think that the Scottish Government had their own exports Department—[Interruption.] Hang on a minute. My understanding of my brief is that one of my roles is to work closely with the Scottish Government on their exports policies. If the hon. Gentleman will let me work with the Administration and our new office that we have opened to boost co-operation and exports from Scotland, that should address the problem. I accept his criticism, but ask him to allow me some time to work with him and his colleagues so we can reverse that trend.

Mr Speaker, I think anybody listening to that would be a bit stunned. I will cut the Minister some slack for being new in the job, but not knowing the basics is something he will have to polish up on. That answer is simply unacceptable to businesses pushed into crisis by this Government.

Let us take food and drink as an example. Food and drink manufacture is twice as important to the Scottish economy as to that of the UK as a whole, and the food and drink export trade is four times as important to the Scottish economy. Once again, Scottish interests are being treated as expendable.

The UK Government have failed to look for solutions to the Brexit trading barriers that are inflicting serious and lasting harm on Scotland. I have an offer for the new Minister: will he hold immediate cross-party talks to find new measures and solutions, or will he once again simply prove that the only way to protect Scotland’s interest is through independence?

I reassure the hon. Gentleman that the food and drink sector across the whole of the UK, and in Scotland, is a priority for this team. I can honestly tell him that I am more than happy to sit down with him and his colleagues to work through some of the challenges that we both share, but I also want him to recognise the opportunities that our new trade deals will offer. When we deliver on those trade opportunities, I hope he will give credit to the UK Government.

As the recently appointed trade envoy to Brazil, it would be remiss of me not to point out just one of the huge opportunities we have in building a positive relationship with Brazil. At 212 million, its population is seven times the combined populations of New Zealand and Australia. Some 65 million people in Brazil do not have a bank account. To build on the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Gareth Davies), does the Minister agree that financial services represent a fantastic opportunity, not just for this country but to support Brazil in bringing in its own revenues, as it should be?

I am going to be generous—I think it was stretching the original question—but the Minister will pick it up.

Financial services are a huge part of the UK economy. We recognise that they are a huge opportunity for this country to work with our partners, especially Brazil, to ensure that we can share the benefits and expertise that we have with them.

UK Pork: Trade with China

11. What recent assessment she has made of the potential effect on trade of the suspension of export licences for UK pork processing plants trading with China. (903694)

I am grateful for the question. This issue has affected pork exporters in many countries. To my knowledge, three British businesses are affected. In the 12 months to August 2021, British pig meat exports to China decreased by 3,642 tonnes, which is down 2.1%. The value of pig meat exported to China over the same period increased by £12.6 million, however, which is up 4.6%.

I am afraid it does appear that almost every single UK Government Department is trying to undermine the UK pig sector, and nowhere is that more keenly felt than in Brechin in my constituency. The Secretary of State said earlier to the hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) that DEFRA will be supplying us with an answer to the China exports crisis. DEFRA is impotent; this is a trade issue. What is the Department for International Trade going to do about the crisis in exports to China?

I appreciate the strength of the hon. Member’s conviction in this area, but I come back to the core answer, which is that Her Majesty’s Government will work in every possible way we can to resolve such issues. Ministers have raised this issue with Chinese counterparts, and this Department continues to press the Chinese authorities for a swift resolution. We are working very closely with affected British pork processing plants. I would just make the point to him that we are very clear-eyed on our trade relationship with China. We have no plans to negotiate a trade deal, but we believe that more trade with our trading partners around the world, including China, is important, so we are working very closely on this.

Free Trade Agreement: India

I met my Indian counterpart, Minister Goyal, at the G20 in Italy last week to discuss final preparations for the launch of negotiations before the end of this year. My officials have concluded a series of bilateral working groups with Indian colleagues, and we will publish our negotiating aims, the response to the public consultation and an economic assessment of the FTA in the coming weeks.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her new job. The EU has been trying, unsuccessfully, to do a trade deal with India for 24 years, but we have an advantage. India is the third biggest investor in the UK, and we used to be the third biggest investor in India, but we have slipped down the league table. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that, now that we are free from the shackles of Brussels, we have the ideal opportunity to negotiate a free trade deal, which would be good for our two great countries?

I thank my hon. Friend for his passionate presentation. I know about his relationship with India, and I hope very much that we will be able to harness all his knowledge and passion as we pull this together. We are in the final phase of preparations for the launch of negotiations very shortly, and I look forward to updating the House on our negotiating aims very soon.

Businesses in Wednesbury, Oldbury and Tipton are excited about the prospect of a trade deal with India. Can I ask my right hon. Friend what work she is doing with businesses with existing links to India to ensure that we can really leverage those connections and make sure that areas such as the Black Country—which I know my right hon. Friend is going to visit very soon to see some of those businesses—make the most out of a trade deal with India?

I thank my hon. Friend, and I am always happy to stop in and meet some of the amazing businesses in his constituency, for which he is such a great champion. All UK sectors and regions stand to benefit from a trade deal with India, improving access to one of the fastest growing and most dynamic markets in the world. Its GDP is predicted to grow by 8.5% next year and imports into the UK by 8.2%. I want to make sure that, as the trade deal comes together, we are providing both the tools and the liberalising opportunities for all our great businesses.

India, like many other countries, is lagging on vaccination—fewer than half there have had their first jab—so does the Secretary of State support her US counterpart’s call for a temporary waiver of the patents on covid vaccines?

The hon. Member’s question is timely. The G7 trade talks will be taking place tomorrow here in London, and that question and many of the issues—we will be discussing those questions at the WTO in December—will be raised. I am sure he will be pleased to see the communiqué outcomes.

May I welcome the Secretary of State to her place and wish her well? I endorse the need for a trade agreement with India, but, as the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith) said earlier, I caution, in relation to any trade agreement, about the rights of those of a different religious persuasion, including those of a Christian persuasion. I met the high commissioner for India in Northern Ireland some four weeks ago, and pushed the point with her about how important it is, within a trade agreement, to have freedom of religious belief for all. Unfortunately, that does not happen in India. When the Secretary of State has talks with the Indian Government about a trade agreement will she ensure that it benefits those with different religious beliefs and other persecuted minorities?

As I said to the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith), I am happy to discuss that area. As colleagues will be aware, the FCDO is always at the forefront of such discussions, ensuring that where we have lines of communication we are robust and firm friends on issues that we consider to be values, and that we continue to trade with others and have good relationships. We will continue to work in that area.

Trade Strategy: Climate Change

The Department for International Trade is pursuing a range of objectives to put climate and environment at the centre of our departmental ambitions, and we are committed to maximising the economic value of the net zero transition. In addition, UK Export Finance recently published its climate change strategy, setting out its support for green exports and its commitment to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Climate change continues to be the dominant issue that affects people and Governments all over the world, and COP26 needs to show that it has co-ordinated efforts with countries that can help. Would my right hon. Friend ever consider trade sanctions against countries that wilfully ignore their responsibilities, and would a carbon border adjustment be a mechanism she would consider?

As hosts of COP26 and the G7 this year we are determined to promote transformational actions to deliver on the Paris agreement. The UK is building international consensus for ambitious collective action on mitigating those emissions, and promoting policies such as carbon pricing to ensure that private sector incentives are aligned with our goals for an ambitious outcome at COP26. From a trade perspective, any policy option we pursue should be market oriented, World Trade Organisation compliant, evidence based, proportionate, and forward looking.

Topical Questions

Last week I attended the G20 trade and investment ministerial meeting, where I made the case for fair and open markets, ahead of the upcoming meeting of the World Trade Organisation. Tomorrow I will be hosting the G7 trade Ministers meeting, where I will make that case again. This week the UK hosted the first global investment summit, where £9.7 billion of investment was secured. Those deals will support green growth and create more than 30,000 jobs across the country. That will deliver for families, workers and businesses across Britain, and set the stage for greater co-operation between the UK Government and businesses around the world on global challenges such as digital trade and climate change. Last night we secured our agreement in principle with New Zealand for our free trade agreement. Trade is a vital part of our plan to level up our country, slashing costs and red tape for exporters, building new trade routes for our services companies, and refocusing Britain on the dynamic economies of Asia-Pacific. With COP26 fast approaching, I will continue to drive forward the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan, using our global networks to drive up green business ambitions, and attracting investment to the UK’s green sectors.

Every mile that every product travels grows its carbon footprint, and the Secretary of State has not denied her Department’s leaked document that states that it prioritises economic growth over climate protection. How will she make representation at COP26 when we hear that we are way off our 1.5 °C target, and place the climate emergency—and it is an emergency—at the top of her priorities, as opposed to being something she does not really believe in?

As I said earlier, economic growth and tackling the challenge of climate change go hand in hand. Finding solutions to those polluting methods of travel is a key area where the UK is leading with innovative businesses, and coming up with solutions regarding aviation fuel, or looking at clean shipping. We have brought international aviation and shipping challenges into carbon budget 6, and we are leading the way in ensuring that, economically as well as being part of the planet’s requirements, we find solutions that mean we can continue to trade, ensuing that those journeys involve clean energy users.

T2. I have a number of livestock, cattle and sheep farmers in my beautiful Hastings and Rye constituency in East Sussex, of which I am very proud. On global export opportunities for my farmers, what steps is my right hon. Friend taking to differentiate UK lamb or beef from that from other parts of the world, for example by establishing a UK brand? Is she developing an export strategy specifically for that purpose? (903637)

Our fantastic beef and lamb are world renowned for high welfare and environmental standards, and indeed for excellent flavour. The cross-Government GREAT Britain and Northern Ireland campaign gives global brand recognition to the UK’s offer, including our world-class food and drink, which we are proud to promote around the world. Our agricultural food and drink Open Doors campaign, launched earlier this year, is helping UK agribusinesses seize the opportunities presented by our new trade agreements.

T3. I welcome the Secretary of State to her place and the two new Ministers to the team. I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment yesterday to bringing forward the long-overdue online harms Bill. The Secretary of State will know that I have spent many years campaigning on that Bill and trying to ensure that it is brought forward in better time. I know that Ministers will agree that there can be no loopholes in our trade agreements when it comes to the liability of online service providers. Have Ministers commissioned legal advice on the compatibility of the draft online safety legislation with chapter 14 of the provisions of the trans-Pacific partnership in relation to electronic commerce? We really cannot allow platforms to get away from culpability for not tackling the abuses that everyone receives through their platforms. (903638)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the work that he has done in this area. Clearly, in addition to being compatible with UK law, we have an ambition that the UK will be the safest place in the world to do business. In addition to the legal advice that we commission, we are consulting widely with stakeholders in this sector and in other sectors that are emerging markets. We want to ensure that we are able to expand digital services but also to support the values that need to underpin that sector if it is going to thrive and be successful.

T5. One of the UK’s greatest exports is Stoke-on-Trent’s world-leading ceramics, which I am sure my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has heard much about from her newly appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton). Ceramics manufacturers in Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke are delighted that our new free trade agreement with Australia will bring opportunities to export more of our outstanding products. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is a fantastic boost for this iconic British industry and the world capital of ceramics, Stoke-on-Trent? (903640)

I thank my hon. Friend for being such a champion for his constituency and for this sector in particular. He is right that these deals will make it less costly and much easier to sell those iconic products. I know that he will be encouraging pottery firms in his constituency to ship to Australia and New Zealand, benefiting from the removal of the 5% tariff.

T4.   During recess, I visited a constituent on his farm. We discussed how farmers want a level playing field when it comes to trade, and their concerns about the Government’s trade agreements undercutting UK food standards. Will the proposed deal with Australia reduce tariffs on meat produced using growth-promoting antibiotics, which UK farmers are banned from using? If so, how is it consistent with the repeated promises made to our farmers that they would not be undermined by food produced to lower standards than they are required to meet? (903639)

We have been crystal clear on this. We will not compromise our high environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards. That is non-negotiable.

T6. The port of Southampton is one of the busiest container ports in the UK. Between 80% and 90% of containers arriving at the port are from the far east. Now that we are free to negotiate and sign our own trade deals, will my right hon. Friend update the House on what progress she has made on securing deals with countries in the far east and how that will help to ensure that the port of Southampton thrives into the future? (903641)

The agreement in principle that we have just secured with New Zealand, in addition to being good in itself, helps pave the way towards the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, which will be hugely beneficial to my hon. Friend’s constituency. I thank him for the work that he has been doing in championing the Solent freeport, which will benefit Southampton but also another port just slightly further along the coast in which I have more than a passing interest.

T8. The former Secretary of State allowed the steel sector an additional year to appeal against the Trade Remedies Authority’s wrong-headed recommendations to remove safeguards. Do current Ministers share the sector’s concerns that without an extension of the safeguards, we risk becoming a magnet for imported steel, putting at risk thousands of high-paid, high-skilled jobs and millions of pounds of economic value? (903644)

We took a very careful and measured approach to this difficult issue. We are determined to back the steel sector, but we will do so in a WTO-compliant way. The Trade Remedies Authority is working very hard on this issue.

T7. With almost all my immediate family living in New Zealand and as a regular visitor there in more normal times, may I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the work she has done to secure the free trade agreement, and provide my assurance that there is a market there for British businesses that is very keen to grow? How, during the course of the development of free trade agreements, do she and her Department engage with the Crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, which are also very keen to benefit from the advantages of our new-found freedoms now we are no longer in the EU? (903642)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for all that he says. He is right that we should be ambitious not only for the United Kingdom herself, but for the Crown dependencies. The Crown dependencies are an important part of our family and the Department for International Trade has developed a very strong working relationship with both officials and Ministers from their Governments. They are consulted prior to the launching of FTAs and consistently engage with us as the agreements progress towards signature and implementation.

T9. Ministers have repeatedly told this House that trade does not need to come at the expense of human rights, yet in Colombia this year alone 43 people were killed by police during protests in April and May. More than 100 social leaders have been murdered and former FARC combatants continue to be targeted at an appalling rate. Does the Secretary of State not agree that those are grounds to follow recent calls from Colombian trade unions and the TUC to suspend Colombia’s membership of the UK-Andean trade agreement by invoking its human rights clause? (903645)

We will always look very closely at any abuses of rights and responsibilities around the world. The agreement the hon. Lady refers to is based on an EU agreement, which provided us and businesses across the country with continuity. It is important that we ensure we balance the objectives across our trade agreements to deliver benefits for British businesses. I know that British businesses across the north-east value greatly that agreement.

What progress has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the team made on increasing trade with Israel, our good friend and partner, particularly in the pharmaceutical and high-tech industries?

Trade with Israel is going from strength to strength. My hon. Friend is right to raise the opportunities in tech in particular for the future. We are probing and scoping for better and deeper trade relations, including a future revised trade agreement that will allow us to do much more in the years ahead.

Because of poorly negotiated ideology-driven free trade deals, farmers will have no choice, if their businesses are to survive, but to resort to more intensive, less climate-friendly farming to compete with cheaper imports from such places as Australia—pretty shameful in the year that the UK hosts COP. Has the Department for International Trade, alongside colleagues in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, analysed how this shift will impact on local pollution levels and our wider greenhouse gas footprint?

I am sorry to hear that very pessimistic question. I do not think our farmers in the UK are going to do that at all. I think they care deeply about animal welfare and I think they care deeply about the environment. I look forward to the press release from the Scottish Government championing the benefits to Scottish businesses that come from the New Zealand trade deal that we talked through with them yesterday. They are considerable and they ought to start talking up their businesses, their farmers and their food and drink sector, rather than doing it down.

May I first welcome the new ministerial team and of course the new parliamentary private secretaries, who I am sure will do as good a job as the previous ones? [Laughter.] I welcome the announcement today of an agreement in principle on the free trade deal with New Zealand. Can my right hon. Friend please confirm that the new free trade deals, such as the one that has been agreed today, are good for consumers and also open up export markets for our farmers?

I thank my hon. Friend for his efforts when he was a PPS, sitting behind the previous team, and I know that he will continue to champion all that is good and exciting and the future benefit for our businesses as we look forward to future trade deals. The opportunities to slash tariffs, create new markets and build preferential relationships with our friends and allies through new trade deals will continue to be something that we see our businesses champion and come to talk to us about. I challenge all colleagues to share with us, as the team, the areas of interest for their businesses and constituencies, so that we know that we are pushing in all those areas— many of which we have discussed today—that are important to our great UK businesses.

Sir David Amess was due to ask a question today and I suspect that, as chair of the all-party British-Maldives parliamentary group, he would have reiterated previous questions about support for the very sustainable fishing industry there. As part of the all-party group on small island developing states, which includes the Maldives, I therefore feel honour-bound to pursue that cause on his behalf. Why are we requiring 20% import tariffs on tuna from the Maldives? It is a highly sustainable sector and other SIDS do not have the same tariffs. What progress is being made on negotiating an economic partnership agreement or finding some other way to remove this unfair barrier?

The hon. Lady rightly refers to our late colleague, Sir David Amess, and his brilliance in championing the issues of people not only across our country, but across the world. His representations on behalf of the Maldives remain firmly lodged in my mind. Along with the Secretary of State, I will certainly continue to be committed to working with our friends and allies across the Commonwealth, including in the Maldives. The Maldives does not benefit from an agreement because the EU had not secured an agreement with the Maldives. I am looking very closely at what we can do now that we have taken back control of our trade policy—[Interruption.] Although Opposition Members do not wish to listen to my answer, I refer to my answer from the last International Trade questions, when I said that we would look very closely at what we could do in that regard.

With nearly 70 free trade deals now signed and the fact that the British people voted to leave political union with the European Union, does the Secretary of State agree that Opposition Members would have kept us in the single market and in the customs union, and we would not have been able to negotiate the free trade deals that we now have around the country, including the one announced with New Zealand? This now puts us in pole position to be the global leader that we are.

As we have heard, human rights are too often forgotten in our trade deals. I believe that the Foreign Secretary is now courting Saudi Arabia even more, to name just one of the countries that has a dubious record. When will the Government start getting serious about human rights and make it clear to countries around the world that until they get their human rights records sorted out, they are not going to get trade deals with the UK?

The hon. Gentleman does not seem to value trade around the world as a force for good. By having strong economic relationships, we can have honest and open conversations with trading partners, and we will continue to do so. In the Gulf, we have the opportunity to trade with a market of 50 million people, 30 million of whom, I believe, are in Saudi Arabia. The opportunities for trade are great and we will not let that sentiment from the Labour party get in the way of more trade for the benefit of our people. At the same time, if he had listened to the Secretary of State earlier, he would have heard that more trade will never come at the expense of our values.

The UK is already one of the most attractive investment destinations in the world and this investment is vital to levelling up the country, particularly investment in new technologies and green innovation. Will the Secretary of State confirm that she is working to encourage this type of investment to help us to progress to net zero emissions and deliver on the Prime Minister’s excellent 10-point plan?

Absolutely. The Global Investment Summit, which we hosted earlier this week in London, saw 200 of the world’s most important investors coming to London to hear how they could be part of the UK’s world leadership in green technologies; £6 billion of investment was committed to offshore wind and millions to many, many different new technologies. We had the opportunity to showcase many of the UK’s leading future solutions to our green challenge and we look forward to continuing to increase that inward investment to help us to deliver them.

Will the Department agree to consider evidence gathered by the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into carbon border taxes or, better still, initiate an inquiry of its own?

This is an important area of policy. I would be very happy to sit down and discuss the Committee’s findings. It will continue to be a key area post COP26 as through the UNFCCC system we try to find something that can work across the planet, to make sure that we can be as effective as possible in using carbon pricing to help drive the green solutions that we all need.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the news that she has begun discussions on a new export and investment partnership between the UK and Italy. Does she agree that enhancing our bilateral relationship with Italy will boost export opportunities and investment promotion for our businesses?

I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting an important G20 discussion that I had last week with the Italian Trade Minister. We launched a UK-Italy dialogue, which will be an opportunity to continue to grow the already substantial £14 billion in exports that we have with Italy and the £30 billion in overall bilateral trade so that we can build those relationships with one of our close European allies. We look to do more in bilateral relationships with many of our European neighbours.