Skip to main content

Trade: Australia and New Zealand

Volume 709: debated on Thursday 3 March 2022

The free trade agreements that the Government signed with Australia in December and with New Zealand on Monday this week will end tariffs for British exporters and slash red tape, while making it easier for smaller businesses to break into these important markets. The deals with Australia and New Zealand are expected to increase bilateral trade by 53% and 59% respectively in the medium term. These FTAs are also expected to boost the UK economy by over £3 billion.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on signing the free trade agreement with New Zealand, which is another positive step in rebuilding the bonds and historic links we have with the Commonwealth nations, but does she agree that we must do all we can to maintain the benefits secured by this deal by ensuring that any changes to alcohol duty will deliver for UK consumers and that they do not see domestic taxes on wine go up as we finally, and rightly, remove the tariffs?

Our deal with New Zealand is indeed very good news for UK consumers, increasing choice and helping to lower prices on all New Zealand products that are going to come into the UK. The deal removes all tariffs, saving up to 20p a bottle on New Zealand wine. As my hon. Friend seems keen, he will be pleased to know that the products that British consumers love, such as Marlborough sauvignon blanc, will be more affordable. The question on domestic taxation continues to be one that the Treasury looks at and decides on the basis of the health of our citizens, and I shall continue to allow the Chancellor to make those decisions.

Earlier this week, I had the privilege to meet the president of the Farmers Union of Wales, who has expressed concerns about both trade deals, specifically in relation to tonnage of imported meat and whether it will be on the bone or filleted, as this will make a significant difference to the scale of flooding of the UK market. The president tells me that he has been unable to get an answer from the Department on what he deems to be a pretty simple question. I used to be a butcher, and I know that there is a significant difference between the weight of something boned and something deboned when anyone buys it in the shops. In all seriousness, could the Secretary of State clarify this here at the Dispatch Box, or get in touch with the Farmers Union of Wales to confirm this important point in terms of supporting our farming industry?

I have learned something new about the hon. Gentleman. I did not know that that was a former career of his, and I look forward to bringing him into future trade deals to discuss the minutiae of these details. I will ensure that my officials liaise with the Farmers Union of Wales in detail, so that it has absolute clarity on what is in that very large document—a treaty is not just a couple of bits of paper—and we will of course be publishing all the paperwork and the relevant support documents for Parliament and the wider community to have a closer inspection. I will make sure that my officials pick that matter up this week.

It is welcome to see the progress the Government are making with the digital partnership with Singapore, the Australia trade agreement, the New Zealand trade agreement and the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership. This is not anti-trade but pro-trade—and free trade, for that matter. The Secretary of State has come before the International Trade Committee and told us that she would give us scrutiny. The Trade and Agriculture Commission was given eight days’ advance warning on the New Zealand deal, but the International Trade Committee was not. Can she tell us why the Committee was not given the scrutiny of the New Zealand deal that it should have had?

The Minister for Trade Policy answered a point of order yesterday setting out the detail of the communications. We always try to ensure that we are able to provide the information in as timely a manner as we can. I am looking forward to my opportunity to discuss the Australian and New Zealand trade deals in more detail with the International Trade Committee—I think it is already in the diary—and I know that it will hold me to account 100 % when I get there.

A £150 million hit to fishing, forestry, agriculture and food manufacturing from the New Zealand trade deal was described in this Government’s impact assessment as nothing more than a “process of economic adjustment” and just a

“reallocation of resources within the economy”.

This again exposes the Government’s shock-doctrine, libertarian approach to free trade and the economy. Can the Secretary of State tell us whether she is content for those sectors to just go down with the Brexit ship?

The New Zealand free trade agreement will see bilateral trade increase by almost 60%, which we expect to boost the UK economy by nearly £1 billion in the next few years and to increase wages across the UK. Red tape will be slashed for nearly 6,000 UK small and medium-sized enterprises, with nearly 250,000 people working in those supply chains. UK exporters will no longer pay tariffs on a huge range of foods, and they will now have an advantage over international rivals.

It is exciting that we will be able to offer new opportunities for our smaller businesses to discover and grow into the New Zealand market. Indeed, we will be working very closely with our New Zealand partners as we look to accede to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership later this year, which will open up enormous new markets for all our exporters across every field of opportunity.