I travelled to the US in July and had extremely productive meetings with the US trade representatives, senior White House officials, and business leaders. My message was that Britain remains open for business and that we place continued importance on the commercial relationship between the UK and the US, our largest single trading partner.
The US is the south-west’s third-largest export market with £1.59 billion-worth of goods exported in the year to March 2016, including everything from aerospace, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), to cider and cheese. We want to expand those opportunities. I have already announced that we will open three new trade offices in the US in Minneapolis, Raleigh-Durham and San Diego. We need to look at where there are markets and not simply operate on a geographical basis.
The Secretary of State will acknowledge that the most important ongoing discussions with the USA are on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Does he therefore find it strange that although the UK has voted to leave the European Union in order to reclaim parliamentary sovereignty in this country, the Government, unlike their EU counterparts, have still not made available any provision for Members of Parliament to scrutinise the secret text of the TTIP agreement, despite having promised to establish a reading room securely for this purpose in February?
While we remain in the EU, we will continue to push all free trade agreements possible, because we believe in global trade liberalisation; that includes the Government’s position of support for TTIP. It remains the United States’ clear priority to get this agreement, but I think the hon. Gentleman will accept that given the comments that have come from both France and Germany in recent weeks, and the fact that we have elections next year in both countries, the future of TTIP, at least in the immediate future, looks less than utterly secure.
There are indeed enormous opportunities with Commonwealth countries, and we will be wanting to explore with a number of those exactly how we might take forward trade working groups along the lines that we have already announced with Australia and with India. However, I point out that although we have political links with Commonwealth countries, they are not, in terms of economics and trading, homogenous. Therefore, there will be a great difference between the biggest markets and some of the smaller markets, although we will want to take a look at those that may be developing markets in the future.