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Free Trade Agreements: Scrutiny

Volume 718: debated on Thursday 21 July 2022

17. What assessment her Department has made of the adequacy of scrutiny mechanisms for future UK free trade agreements. (901239)

The Government are committed to effective scrutiny of trade agreements. We have put in place enhanced transparency and scrutiny arrangements for every stage of FTA negotiations. That includes publishing our objectives prior to talks, providing additional time for scrutiny at the end of the process and putting in place the independent Trade and Agriculture Commission to report on new agreements. We are delivering on those agreements. The Australia FTA has been available for scrutiny for seven months, enabling three Select Committees to take evidence and to report on the agreement prior to ratification.

We all know what Government undertakings in relation to trade agreements are worth, and it is not an awful lot. If the Secretary of State does not believe me, she can ask the farmers and crofters in my constituency. Is the breach of the undertaking on the trade agreement with Australia to be a one-off, or is it the start of a course of conduct?

As I set out, we have followed a broad and open process. There is no breach of any situation such as the right hon. Member suggests. The arrangements in place are robust. We want to make sure that as we go through the process—there will be enabling legislation for the Australia and New Zealand trade deals in the autumn—there will be an opportunity for colleagues who wish to raise issues. We know that this process is effective. I talk to fellow Trade Ministers around the world who work with us and it is interesting that they consider our process to be very robust and very inclusive, both at a parliamentary level and with the business community.