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Free Trade Agreement: United States

Volume 681: debated on Thursday 8 October 2020

We are making good progress on a deal with the United States. We have just finished round 4 of the negotiations and we are discussing detailed tariffs and texts. We will carry on working right up until 30 October, just before the presidential election.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, and I also congratulate her on the excellent work her Department is doing to help to secure our independent trading status once we have fully left the EU. Does she agree that it is really important that, whatever the outcome of the US presidential election, we continue to work with the parties on both sides of the aisle to ensure we get the best possible deal for the UK?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right—[Interruption.] The Opposition are laughing at our largest single country trading partner, because they frankly do not care about the jobs generated or about the opportunities from expanding our relationship with the US. We are in discussions with senior Republicans and senior Democrats to ensure that there is full support for a US-UK trade deal right across the United States political spectrum.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has warned that there will be absolutely no chance of a trade deal should the UK Government override the Brexit withdrawal agreement. Does the Secretary of State agree that US trade talks will be dead in the water if the UK Internal Market Bill passes into law, because such a deal would never pass Congress, even with the support of the probably outgoing President Trump?

We have been absolutely clear with all our trading partners and, indeed, with the EU that we are committed to the Good Friday agreement. We are committed to having no hard border on the island of Ireland, and on that basis we are progressing talks with the United States.

Hormone-injected beef should never have been part of the trade talks with the United States. Can the Trade Secretary confirm that she told her US counterparts that the UK would drop the digital services tax if the US dropped its insistence on market access for its hormone-injected beef? If she has not made such an offer, can she tell us why The Mail on Sunday says she has? After all, it would not invent such a story, would it?

I would caution the hon. Gentleman that not absolutely everything published in The Mail on Sunday is the gospel truth. I hope that, over time, he learns that. Let us be clear that the digital services tax is a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this country, not a matter for the trade talks, and that food safety regulations are a matter for the Food Standards Agency in this country, and not part of the trade talks.

As my right hon. Friend may be aware, Willis Asset Management, a large US aircraft manufacturing and maintenance firm, is already based at Teesside international airport. What assessment has she made of the opportunity that a free trade corridor between a free port on the River Tees and our local airport would provide for US-UK trade and regional growth?

I know that my hon. Friend is a staunch advocate of free ports, especially one in Teesside, and I know he will have been delighted by the announcement yesterday from the Chancellor that there will be 10 new free ports across the United Kingdom by the end of 2021, bringing more trade, more opportunities and more growth to areas right across the nation.