Skip to main content

Trade: Indo-Pacific

Volume 730: debated on Thursday 23 March 2023

18. What steps her Department is taking to help businesses increase their level of trade in the Indo-Pacific region. (904262)

20. What steps her Department is taking to help businesses increase their level of trade in the Indo-Pacific region. (904264)

We are currently negotiating accession to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, a bloc worth £9 trillion of global GDP in 2021. As part of that, our businesses will get enhanced access to the Malaysian market for the first time. Beyond CPTPP, we are continuing negotiations on the UK-India free trade agreement and working to implement FTAs with Australia and New Zealand, in addition to existing trade dialogues with Indo-Pacific partners.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the assistance that her Department gives me in my role as trade envoy to the Republic of Korea. Does she agree that the forthcoming negotiations for an enhanced trade agreement with Korea offer real opportunities for British businesses?

I do agree, and I would like to thank my right hon. Friend for his tireless work as the trade envoy to promote closer trade links with the Republic of Korea. Our trade relationship with Korea is thriving, no doubt thanks to all his hard work. It amounted to about £14 billion in 2021, much of which is in critical goods such as microchips, cars and pharmaceuticals. It is currently supported by our 2019 FTA, so we are going to start discussions with Korea to review how we can make the FTA even stronger, ensuring it continues to support existing trade and create new opportunities for British business.

Further to my right hon. Friend’s reply, what more specifically can she say about what help His Majesty’s Government is giving to South Derbyshire and British businesses as a whole to take advantage of trade opportunities in Cambodia and Laos?

I thank my hon. Friend for her question. We have increased the tempo of trade missions in Cambodia, and we are actively supporting British companies to expand operations in the education, infrastructure and sustainable energy sectors. In May 2022 the Department appointed a new export support service trade officer to help British companies, including those in her constituency, that wish to export to Laos. It is also eligible for preferential treatment under the developing countries trading scheme. Both initiatives will help boost the UK’s trade with Laos, and I look forward to working with my hon. Friend on improving relations with that country.

A Canadian company sponsored by several Pacific island states is poised to begin deep-sea mining at the bottom of the Pacific ocean next year unless we manage to secure a precautionary pause at the International Seabed Authority meetings that are going on at the moment. Will the UK be joining France, Germany, Spain, Chile, New Zealand and some Pacific nations in calling for that precautionary pause, and in what way can we support the economies of Pacific island states without them having to resort to sponsoring such environmentally damaging activities?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question, and this is a serious matter. The Minister responsible for industry and economic security—the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani) —has been dealing with this issue, and she will get in touch if the hon. Lady writes to her.

Here in the UK, we are rightly proud of our high food standards, which include very low allowable levels of pesticide residues in the food we eat. However, organisations such as the Pesticide Action Network have warned that the Government could weaken standards on pesticides and other factors in a rush to sign free trade agreements in the Indo-Pacific region. Can the Government therefore confirm that new FTAs will not lead to a weakening of standards such as those on pesticide residues in food entering the UK?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. We have repeatedly said that we are not lowering food standards at all for any free trade agreements that we are signing. That is something we have committed to, and we would want to reassure all of those who lobby on this issue that our trade negotiators have it very much at the forefront of their minds.