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Export Opportunities for SMEs

Volume 727: debated on Thursday 9 February 2023

5. What steps her Department is taking to help small and medium-sized businesses export products and services to new markets. (903568)

The Department is opening new markets and creating new opportunities for exporters by agreeing new trade agreements and tackling market access barriers in countries around the world. Indeed, recently a deal was struck, worth up to £20 million, that allows Welsh lamb exports to the US.

The 2019 Conservative manifesto committed to 80% of UK trade being done under free trade terms by the end of 2022. The Government have clearly failed in their commitment to deliver free trade agreements. Does the Minister believe that free trade deals with the USA and India would help more small and medium-sized businesses to export? If so, would he care to apologise to businesses for over-promising and under-delivering yet again when it comes to these deals?

Trade agreements are clearly very important, which is why we have struck 71 agreements with countries around the world, as well as with the European Union. It would be a good thing if the Opposition were to support those free trade agreements. I just reassure the hon. Gentleman that trade with the EU, for example, is now at record levels. Last year, exports to the EU were £330 billion, compared to £298 billion in 2019.

Small and medium-sized businesses make up a large part of the huge food and drink export sector that the Minister has already discussed. Tomorrow, the Scotch whisky industry will announce full-year export results for 2022. Significant growth is expected, particularly in India, even with 150% tariffs. Will the Minister update the House on negotiations with India? Does he agree that a deal to reduce tariffs on Scotch whisky would be good not only for the distillers of Scotch whisky in Scotland but for the wider supply chain right across the UK?

I know my hon. Friend is visiting one of his distilleries next week. I agree with him that opening new markets to our whisky exporters is one of the great opportunities open to us in a post-Brexit Britain. As he knows, whisky is one of the UK’s largest food and drink exports, with £4.6 billion in 2021. We have an ambitious programme of free trade agreement negotiations to break down barriers. We are now in our sixth round of negotiations with India this very week.