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Barriers to Global Trade

Volume 707: debated on Thursday 20 January 2022

15. What steps her Department has taken to reduce barriers to global trade for British businesses. (905121)

In addition to negotiating FTAs, as I have said, we are cutting through red tape and opening markets for British business around the world. Last year, we resolved over 200 barriers across 74 countries, which was an increase of 20% on the previous year—[Interruption.] I am delighted that the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil) is getting so excited about that success. We have secured British poultry market access in Japan, estimated by industry to be worth up to £13 million a year, and we have lifted the decades-long ban on British lamb exports to the United States, estimated by industry to be worth £37 million over the next five years.

Since being appointed the trade envoy to Pakistan, I have encountered a number of issues that hinder potential trade opportunities such as exporting meat and poultry to help our farmers and importing high quality granite and marble that is important to the UK burial industry, and difficulties for businesses gaining access to UK Export Finance. Will the Minister outline what he is doing to overcome those and other barriers so that trade can be open not just to Pakistan but across the globe?

I thank my hon. Friend for his great work as trade envoy to Pakistan. We are very aware of the challenges to exports in the farming sector posed by costly market access barriers around the world, which is why we are working closely with our counterparts in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and engaging trading partners to remove them where possible, as I have outlined, so that Great British meat and produce can be enjoyed all around the world.

My hon. Friend mentioned UKEF, which has a £1.5 billion risk appetite to support exports in Pakistan with a specialist team on hand to discuss options available to British businesses of all sizes. He will also know that we will soon launch our developing countries trading scheme, which will look to further simplify trading arrangements with developing countries, including Pakistan.

In the interests of peace and harmony, I shall refrain from dwelling on the Ashes cricket series.

Small businesses are simply less likely to be able to afford the consultants, lawyers, trade experts and advisers necessary to navigate the complexities of the hard Brexit customs checks that this Government insisted on. Despite that, the Government have now closed the SME Brexit support fund and not replaced it, although a Channel 4 investigation found that 26% of SMEs that trade with the EU are now considering moving some of their European operations outside the UK, while 16% said they had already done so. A Lords report published in December said it is absolutely vital that it is reopened with wider eligibility criteria, and the Federation of Small Businesses has also been calling for that for months. Will the Minister listen to the small business experts?

First, I am sure the hon. Member would want to direct all businesses to our export support service, which will help British businesses get the answers to the practical questions they may have about exporting to Europe, accessing cross-Government information and support all in one place. She will be pleased to know that the statistics actually show that monthly exports to the EU are now £13.6 billion, which is 12% higher than average exports in 2020. That shows that significant progress is being made in our exports from businesses of all sizes up and down our country.