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Free Trade Agreement with the US

Volume 727: debated on Thursday 9 February 2023

We recognise that the US is not currently focused on FTAs. However, we stand ready to resume negotiations when they are ready. In the meantime, we are working to improve the trading landscape, including by removing US steel and aluminium tariffs and lifting the US ban on British lamb and beef. We are also working with the US on areas of shared interest that include digital trade, small and medium-sized enterprise support and supply chain security.

The reality is that there has been no real progress and, despite all the previous rhetoric, there remains no free trade agreement with the US. Does the Minister think his suggestion that this is the fault of the US President will help or hinder future negotiations?

As I said, the US is not currently negotiating FTAs, not just with us but with any other country. We are working and we have very good dialogue with one of our closest allies in so many areas, including economically, culturally and militarily, and that dialogue will of course continue. As I said in my previous answer, we are working in many areas, including steel and food, to create opportunities, alongside work in respect of the memorandum of understanding. Considerable progress can be and will continue to be made, even without an FTA.

Global free trade is and always has been the greatest motor for global prosperity, which is why many of us voted for Brexit. A free trade deal with America is the greatest prize of all. Will the Minister confirm that, as far as we are concerned, there are no barriers at all—whether it be chlorinated chicken or whatever—to trying to conclude an agreement? We want this deal with the US. Does the Minister think that it will happen?

We are very keen to conclude a deal with the US, but, at the moment, it is not able to enter into those negotiations. However, that will not prohibit us from continuing to find opportunities and to remove barriers where and when we can, as well as seeking those opportunities across the world. I appreciate what the right hon. Member said at the beginning of his question about how we, on the Conservative Benches, are firm proponents of free trade. It is good for the UK economy and good for the world economy, and we need to continue to make sure that that message is heard loud and clear.

Had the Conservative party negotiated a free trade agreement with the US, as it promised at the general election, British firms would have been protected from new market barriers to green trade that are being introduced by the US Inflation Reduction Act 2022. That means that new investment and jobs here in Britain in green energy, electric vehicles and new technology are at risk. Is it not the truth that the infighting in the Conservative party last year meant that Ministers woke up much too late to the threat and that they have done far too little since to try to ameliorate the damage?

As I said, the US is not focused on free trade agreements at the moment, and we are disappointed that the US has opted to pursue policies in the Inflation Reduction Act that will harm British businesses and impact global supply chains. The UK expects to be and, as the closest ally of the US, should be part of any flexibilities in the implementation of the IRA, and we will continue closely engaging with the US Administration to ensure that UK concerns are addressed.