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South Korea: FTA Negotiations

Volume 749: debated on Thursday 2 May 2024

5. What recent progress her Department has made on negotiating a free trade agreement with South Korea. (902616)

I thank my right hon. Friend for the valuable work he is doing as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to the Republic of Korea. I look forward to his upcoming visit there. He is famous for his timely interventions. Detailed round 2 discussions on an upgraded FTA took place in London from 18 to 22 March, which provided an opportunity to conclude the exploratory phase of negotiations. We now look forward to text-based negotiations in round 3, which is due to take place in Seoul from 24 June.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer ahead of my visit to Korea next week. Does he agree that the Indo-Pacific region offers huge opportunities for global growth, particularly as it will be home to something like half the world’s middle-class consumers over the coming decades, and therefore that upgrading this agreement is likely to bring huge benefits to the UK?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Indo-Pacific is a vital part of the world for the UK and forms the centrepiece of our strategy going forward diplomatically and on trading ties. He is right that the Republic of Korea will play a vital role in that. The recently signed Downing Street accord with Korea outlines the breadth and depth of the ongoing relationship. We look forward to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership coming into effect later this year, and we look forward to seeing if the Republic of Korea will apply.

I am sure the right hon. Member for Maldon (Sir John Whittingdale) does a very effective job in South Korea. I visited myself with the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee a couple of years ago and saw those opportunities. However, there is some concern about transparency around the use of trade envoys. Will the Minister confirm to the House that under this Government no trade envoy has ever demanded and been given the use of a house for their exclusive use?

The hon. Gentleman has slightly jumped the gun, as the next question on the Order Paper relates to trade envoys. May I say how proud we are of the cross-party trade envoy programme, which I think he will hear about in a moment? We think they do an excellent, good value-for-money job for the United Kingdom in promoting trade in a number of key markets.