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Trade Envoy for the Commonwealth

Volume 727: debated on Thursday 9 February 2023

9. What assessment she has made of the potential merits of establishing a trade envoy for the Commonwealth. (903574)

The countries of the Commonwealth are important trading partners. Our total trading relationship was worth more than £146 billion in the 12 months to September 2022, which is why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already appointed trade envoys to 15 Commonwealth nations. We have trade agreements with 33 Commonwealth members, and five of the 11 members of the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership are in the Commonwealth as well.

As chairman of the 1922 committee’s Back-Bench foreign affairs policy committee, I recently shared our report with ministerial colleagues. One of its recommendations was the creation of a Commonwealth-specific trade envoy post. Does my hon. Friend agree that in this post-Brexit era, increasing trade and movement between the Commonwealth and the UK should be a top priority to foster economic growth? By the way, this is not a pitch for that job.

Yes, I am afraid that those jobs are at the discretion of the Prime Minister.

I hear what my hon. Friend is saying. We already have extensive coverage through the existing network, but we review the network regularly because we are committed to working with our allies in the Commonwealth to remove the barriers to trade and strengthen trading relationships to foster economic growth. Growing exports to Commonwealth countries is a priority, and trade increased by 25% in the year to September 2022. As for movement, we have a new global immigration system which is vital in supporting trade and economic growth, and the movement of business people on a temporary basis promotes and supports trade in services and goods and investment activities. Recognition of professional qualifications and business travel are always an important part of our trade deals.