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International Business

Volume 622: debated on Wednesday 8 March 2017

4. What assessment he has made of the strength of Wales’s international business links since the UK’s decision to leave the EU. (909074)

Wales is an exporting nation. Welsh lamb, Penderyn whisky and Anglesey sea salt are all known well beyond our own borders, but we can do more. On Monday I hosted a business export summit in Cardiff to ensure that businesses in Wales have full access to UK Government business support for exports.

What steps is the Secretary of State taking to engage with and understand the needs of smaller businesses in Wales as we negotiate to leave the European Union?

My hon. Friend recognises this Government’s global trading ambition. There are 1,200 staff in the Department for International Trade, across 109 countries. Any businesses based in Swansea are as entitled to the same sort of support as businesses based in Swindon, and I encourage them to use the Department for International Trade.

Some 44% of trade goes to the EU, but the amount from Wales is 70%. Last week in Swansea, the CBI and producers told me that it is imperative that we retain access to the single market and the customs union. The people of Wales did not vote to leave them. Will the Secretary of State assure us that he will do everything he can to keep that going so that our exports are free to continue?

I remind the hon. Gentleman that on Monday I held an event to promote exports to not only Europe but all parts of the globe. Clearly there are great opportunities, and last year 4,000 Welsh companies took their first steps towards exporting. Europe is an important market. We want frictionless trade with Europe, and we also want to look to the great opportunities that exiting the European Union will bring to not only Welsh businesses but businesses across the whole United Kingdom. [Interruption.]

Order. An excessive number of rather noisy private conversations are taking place. I understand the sense of anticipation, but it is very unfair on Members asking questions and the Minister answering. Let us have a decent audience for Mr Stephen Crabb.

Despite Wales having world-leading companies that contribute to humanitarian efforts in some of the poorest nations on earth, no Welsh company has been able to secure a contract with the Department for International Development. Will my right hon. Friend look into that and work with the excellent International Development Secretary to make DFID not only more pro-business, but more pro-Welsh business?

My right hon. Friend raises an extremely important point. Not only has he been a strong champion for Wales over many years, but he has shown a strong interest in overseas development. I will happily work with him and my right hon. Friend the International Development Secretary on overseas aid to ensure that Welsh businesses get the same opportunity as any other UK business to win contracts to help to support and develop those nations.

At a St David’s day celebration, Wales’s First Minister, Carwyn Jones, declared that Wales is open for business. Last week he spent four days in America, boosting post-Brexit trade between the USA and Wales. Does the Secretary of State plan to visit the USA and recruit more business for Wales?

May I welcome the hon. Lady to the Dispatch Box for her first Welsh questions? Last week GE Aviation announced a £20 million investment in Nantgarw. The UK and Welsh Governments worked together to land that significant employment opportunity, which will secure 1,200 jobs for more than two decades. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade always rightly underlines that every business in Wales is entitled to the same support as any business in England, and I am working closely with him on not only that but trade missions.