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Free Trade Agreements

Volume 704: debated on Thursday 2 December 2021

For the first time in 50 years, we are an independent trading nation, able to strike deals around the world. We have already secured trade deals with 70 countries, plus the EU, covering trade worth £766 billion last year, and we are just getting started. We have secured an agreement-in-principle with Australia and New Zealand, and we continue to work on a deal with the US. We are preparing for negotiations with India, Canada, and Mexico, and we have also launched a public consultation on a deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council. As we have heard from the Secretary of State, we are due to begin work early next year on an enhanced and improved free trade agreement with Israel.

Warner’s Distillery, based in the village of Harrington in the Kettering constituency is the largest independent craft-based gin distillery in the country, and it is seeking to export even more of its wonderful product. Is it not the case that businesses that export are more profitable, productive and resilient, and is it not exciting for businesses such as Warner’s Distillery, and other businesses in Kettering, that more free trade agreements are coming down the track?

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. Across north Northamptonshire, businesses such as Warner’s Distillery are exporting some £1.5 billion of goods around the world, as measured in 2019. I am confident that the trade deals we are signing globally will benefit more businesses just like Warner’s, to create opportunities and support jobs in my hon. Friend’s corner of the country, and beyond.

The Minister will know that the ratio between damage from Brexit and the trade deals is substantial. Indeed, in terms of pounds, there is £490 of Brexit damage for a £1 gain from the New Zealand deal, £2 gain from Australia, £8 gain from the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, and £20 gain from America, if that comes together. If all that happens, it comes to about £31. Where will the Minister find the £459 of Brexit damage that the trade deals cannot make up?

We are working for every corner of our United Kingdom, backing British businesses. We are supporting Scottish jobs as much as those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, at a time when the SNP wants to cut itself off from its largest market, the British internal market. The truth is that the SNP is anti-trade. Not only does it want to cut itself off from the United Kingdom, but it does not back any trade deal with anyone.

The point and purpose of trade deals—I hope the Minister will agree—is that they are not static, and the forecasts are just an indication of what will come; they will be able to grow and develop. Can the Minister reassure the House that the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership offers an opportunity for the UK to expand its businesses and its exports across the country?

My hon. Friend is of course right; the TPP offers a great opportunity to access a fast-growing part of the world as part of our Indo-Pacific tilt, as detailed in our integrated review. The opportunity to engage with this part of the world, where there is a growing middle class and increased demand for our products, goods and services, is one that we should seize.

Free trade negotiations with the US are vital to lifting Donald Trump’s tariffs on British steel and aluminium exports, which in turn are crucial to protecting jobs and businesses in communities across our country. Given that the US has already agreed to lift tariffs on many EU steel products, if we are to get a level playing field for our firms and our workers, might it not be time for Lord Frost to be given a little help to stop bungling discussions with the EU so that this vital US-UK trade deal can be sorted?

We will always stand up for the British national interest, and that includes with the European Union. We will make sure that our United Kingdom remains strong and can trade with the world. The truth is that America’s unjustified tariffs on UK steel, aluminium and derivatives are unfair and unnecessary as those imports do not harm US national security, so we will continue to make representations to back British businesses.