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Oral Answers to Questions

Volume 681: debated on Thursday 8 October 2020

International Trade

The Secretary of State was asked—

Free Trade Agreement: Japan

What assessment she has made of the potential effect on farmers and food producers of the free trade agreement with Japan. (907219)

What steps she is taking to maintain the UK’s (a) food and (b) animal welfare standards in future free trade agreements. (907225)

What assessment she has made of the potential effect on farmers and food producers of the free trade agreement with Japan. (907229)

What steps she is taking to maintain the UK’s (a) food and (b) animal welfare standards in future free trade agreements. (907253)

The deal with Japan will go further and faster than we had under the EU, including by increasing the number of geographical indications from seven in the EU-Japan deal to up to 70 in our new agreement, from Cornish clotted cream to Scotch beef. Furthermore, Japan has guaranteed market access for UK malt exports under an existing quota, which is more generous and easier to access than the EU quota.

My right hon. Friend recently visited Grange Hill farm just outside Bishop Auckland, and John, Jane and Becky—the farmers there—are rightly very proud of the high-quality beef products that they produce. Will my right hon. Friend tell the House how this and others deals she is seeking, such as the deal with the USA, will benefit British beef farmers right across our United Kingdom?

I hugely enjoyed my visit to Grange Hill farm with my hon. Friend. Our deal means that British beef going into Japan will have lower tariffs. We also announced last week that the first beef for 24 years was shipped from Britain to the United States. In the United States trade deal, we will seek to remove the 26% tariff on British beef so that we can get even more of that great product into that market.

I have been contacted by many constituents who are concerned about the animal welfare standards in a US-UK trade deal. They ask me why the state of California can ban imports of products that do not meet its animal welfare standards but the UK Government are not willing to do the same.

We are absolutely clear that we are going to stand up for our high standards in any deal we strike, including with the United States, and make sure that the high standards our farmers operate to will not be undermined.

May I start by praising my right hon. Friend and her Department for the sterling work that she is doing in making us a global trading nation once again? As well as the wonderful beef exports of the north-east, it will come as no surprise to her that Welsh lamb is a major part of the Delyn economy. It would be remiss of me not to stand up for the agricultural sector in my constituency, so what message can she give me to take back to my local farmers to tell them that they will not only do well in the new arrangements, but thrive, prosper and grow?

Welsh lamb is some of the best in the world, and in the new Japan trade deal, Welsh lamb will be recognised as a GI for the first time. We got our first Welsh and British lamb into Japan for over 20 years last year, opening up a market worth £52 million. My next target is to get the ban on lamb removed in the United States, which would be a huge market. The US is the second largest lamb importer in the world.

I was interested to read that the members of the Trade and Agriculture Commission were calling for parliamentary scrutiny on all future trade deals. The head of the Government’s Food Commission has said the same, so can the Secretary of State show that she is listening to her advisers by guaranteeing this House of Commons a debate and a vote in Government time on any trade deal with the USA?

I can confirm that we will have a world-leading scrutiny process, comparable with Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. That will mean the International Trade Committee scrutinising a signed version of the deal and producing a report to Parliament, a debate taking place and then, through the CRaG—the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010—process, Parliament can block any trade deal if it is not happy with it.

We have spent countless hours in this House and in the other place debating the impact of imports on food standards—a debate that has captured the attention of millions of people across the country—but I would like to boil it down to asking the Secretary of State one simple question today. If it is her argument that we do not need Labour’s amendments because bans on the relevant imports are already enshrined in law, can she please tell us which law prevents the importing of pork that has been produced on American farms that continue to use sow stalls?

The right hon. Lady is talking about an animal welfare issue and, as I made very clear earlier, we will not allow the high animal welfare standards of our pig producers to be undermined.

I listened very carefully to that response, but I do not really think that it was an answer further than rhetoric. The point is that there is no import ban against pork produced on farms using sow stalls because, as the Secretary of State says, it is an issue of animal welfare, not of food safety. That means that, if the Government drop tariffs on US pork, British pork farmers will be undercut by cheap imports from American agricultural companies using practices that have been banned in our country for the past 21 years. Will she please listen to reason and write into law the protection of all UK farming standards against imports that do not meet them?

As I have said, of course in any trade deal that we strike we will take into account our high standards, to ensure that our farmers are not undermined, but if the right hon. Lady is suggesting a blanket ban on any foodstuffs that do not comply exactly with British farm regulations, she is talking about preventing developing countries from sending their foodstuffs to the United Kingdom. Is she saying—[Interruption.] She will understand that under most favoured nation rules we have to apply the same standards to every country that we deal with, so is she saying that she wants to ban Kenyans from exporting their products to us if they do not follow exactly the same farm standards as here in Britain? I want to ensure that our farmers are able to continue with their high standards, but I do not want to stop developing countries exporting their goods to us.

Let us calm it down a little with the Chair of the International Trade Committee, Angus Brendan MacNeil. There is no more calming influence than Brendan.

Tapadh leibh, Mr Speaker, and a nice calm morning in the Hebrides it is too.

In 2014, the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, promised Scotland that the choice was between independence and all options of devolution, and all indeed were possible—as well, of course, as guaranteed EU membership. Leaving that aside, the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill is expected to do the opposite of that on devolution. Given that the USA has differences across its states, can the Secretary of State guarantee that no attempt will be made to grab powers from the devolved nations to present the entire UK on an easily consumable platter for USA negotiators when it comes to a UK-USA trade deal?

I can absolutely say that we are not grabbing powers; we are using the powers that were previously in the hands of the European Union to create a strong internal market across the United Kingdom. That it is vital, because Scottish farmers need to be able to sell their lamb and beef into England, Wales and Northern Ireland without impediment.

Scotch Whisky: US Tariff

What discussions she has had with her US counterpart on that country’s imposition of a 25% tariff on single malt Scotch whisky. (907221)

The Government take very seriously the punitive US tariffs on UK goods, including on single malt Scotch whisky. We are fighting for the removal of all such tariffs and are pushing for a negotiated settlement to the underlying World Trade Organisation civil aviation cases. The Secretary of State raised these issues most recently with US trade representative Ambassador Lighthizer in September.

Exactly a year ago, the United States imposed 25% tariffs on Scotch malt whisky, devastating exports and threatening thousands of Scottish jobs. Despite the Minister’s Department making the removal of those damaging tariffs a priority, his Government have failed to move their special friend in the White House an inch on these issues. Could he explain exactly why the Scotch whisky industry, apart from being £360 million poorer, is in exactly the same place today as it was a year ago?

I thank the hon. Member for that question. We oppose these tariffs vigorously. We are stepping up talks with the US and we were pleased that in August the US did not extend the tariffs to blended whisky, and actually removed them from shortbread. The irony is that the Scottish National party are urging us to enter into direct trade talks with the US—something that we are already doing, but something that we would not be able to do if we followed its policy of rejoining the European Union. I just remark on the SNP’s chutzpah in urging us to do something to which it is fundamentally opposed: engage directly with the United States on trade policy.

Free Trade Agreement: United States

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.

Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership

We come now to Richard Graham’s question, but he is not here, so I call the Minister on this group of questions.

Pursuing accession to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership is a Government priority and a key part of our trade negotiations programme. We have engaged with all 11 member countries at both ministerial and official level to discuss UK accession, including the first ever meeting of senior officials between CPTPP members and a non-member on 9 September, and all members have welcome the UK’s interest.

I thank the Minister for the update. However, when the non-partisan Centre for Economic Policy Research assessed the United States accession to the original and similar trans-Pacific partnership trade deal, it concluded that wages might rise for the top 10% of earners but fall for everybody else. What assessment has his Department made of the impact of CPTPP accession on income levels in the UK, and what guarantees can he give that worsening income inequality would not be a consequence here?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that interesting question. I have not seen that study on the original TPP, but I will say two things. First, when the UK applies, we will be publishing a scoping assessment—an impact assessment—looking at how the deal will affect the UK economy. Secondly, liberal-minded, like-minded democracies such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand have embraced CPTPP with great enthusiasm, which gives me some encouragement in this space.

It is just not the UK that is seeking to join CPTPP; Thailand, for example, is actively investigating it. Thailand’s faculty of pharmaceutical sciences has assessed that because of the way CPTPP rules on patents and on market approval for generic drugs that impact on Government procurement and so on work, the costs of drugs would rise. Given the Bangkok Post headline that CPTPP would lead to “soaring” drugs bills, what guarantees can the Minister give that a similar rise in the cost of medicines to the NHS, for the same reasons, would not be the consequence here?

Again, I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question. Nothing in any trade deal prevents us from setting domestic pharmaceutical prices, and that would remain true in respect of CPTPP. Let me have a look at why the Scottish National party is questioning the potential to join CPTPP. I have the feeling that the SNP is just not in favour of any trade agreements; I have had a look at CPTPP members, and the SNP was against doing a deal with Canada, against doing a deal with Japan in Brussels and against doing a deal with Singapore. So I feel that whatever intricate, detailed questions he has on CPTPP, he will not support our joining it.

The Government of Malaysia are delaying ratification of CPTPP because they have become concerned, belatedly, about the impact of the treaty’s provisions on Government procurement and on investor-state dispute settlements. So before our Government go full steam ahead into negotiations to join CPTPP, will the Minister provide an assessment of those provisions for our country?

The UK is a different economy from Malaysia, and the UK has never lost a an investor dispute case through the investor-state dispute settlement. Secondly, Government procurement is a huge opportunity for this country. Just yesterday, we were delighted to see our accession to the World Trade Organisation’s Government procurement agreement, as a sure way to make sure that Government procurement remains open for UK businesses and UK procurers. A bit like the SNP, I have checked the hon. Gentleman’s record on CPTPP and he has opposed doing the deals. He voted against on Singapore, abstained on Japan and even went further than his Labour colleagues in voting against CETA—the comprehensive economic and trade agreement—taking effect. A bit like the SNP, he is trying to find fault in an agreement that he has no intention of supporting, at any point.

Human Rights: Trade Agreements

What recent discussions she has had with UK trade partners on the inclusion of human rights clauses in future trade agreements. (907226)

What recent discussions she has had with UK trade partners on the inclusion of human rights clauses in future trade agreements. (907235)

To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, what recent discussions she has had with UK trade partners on inserting clauses on human rights in future trade deals. (907261)

This Government have a strong history of promoting our values globally. Although our approach to agreements will vary between partners, our strong economic relationships allow us to have open discussions on a range of issues, including human rights. We will not compromise our high standards in trade agreements.

The Government have listed 20 countries and one trading bloc where negotiations are ongoing about rolling over existing EU trade deals beyond 31 December. Are human rights part of those discussions? Will the Minister guarantee the inclusion of human rights clauses in any eventual deals reached with those countries?

We have been absolutely clear throughout the continuity trade deal programme that there will be no diminution of UK standards, and that also applies to human rights. We will make sure that our strong, proud record on human rights—we are a world leader in ensuring and guaranteeing human rights—continues throughout all the continuity trade programme.

The UN group of experts has concluded that all parties in Yemen, including the Saudi coalition, are violating international law on an ongoing and consistent basis and that countries such as the UK, which are selling arms for use in the conflict, are showing a blatant disregard for the violations. Can the Minister explain why the independent panel of experts is wrong and he is right?

Some of this is subject to ongoing legal proceedings, but I remind the hon. Lady that we discussed this at some length last month in the House in an urgent question, which I answered. May I also remind her that, at all times, we follow the consolidated criteria, which provide a robust framework by which we assess export licence applications?

China is the largest cotton producer in the world, with 84% of the cotton coming from the Xinjiang region. The entire global clothing industry is tainted with forced Uyghur labour, and the UK is no exception. In the light of that, does the Minister agree that we cannot put trade above human rights, and will he outline what steps his Department is taking to ensure that human rights concerns are considered during bilateral trade negotiations between the UK and China?

We are absolutely clear that more trade does not have to come at the expense of human rights. Indeed, there is a very strong positive correlation between free trade and human rights through the world. On Xinjiang, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been absolutely robust in our criticism, our condemnation, of what has been happening to the Uyghurs in the province. I reiterate that today, while reminding the hon. Gentleman that we are not negotiating a trade deal with China.

I am sure that the whole House has been encouraged by the Minister’s warm words on human rights, but let us test them with a specific example. I understand from the high commissioner of Cameroon that virtual negotiations on UK’s roll-over agreement are taking place as we speak, the first such negotiations in more than a year. Perhaps the Minister will update us on those talks and on any side discussions on the attendee development. For the purposes of this question, can he tell us whether his intention going into those negotiations is to assert a full essential elements human rights clause into the roll-over agreement with Cameroon rather than the current obsolete cross-reference to Cotonou? If so, how does he plan to enforce that clause effectively? Is it by penalising the Biya Government for their continued human rights abuses or, preferably, to persuade them to stop those abuses in future?

I thank the right hon. Lady for that question. She is referring, of course, to the Cotonou agreement, which is shortly to expire. There are two things to take away from this. The first is the importance of keeping the continuity of our trading relations with Cameroon. That is very important for the Cameroon economy overall. Secondly, we continue to raise at every level with Cameroon our concern about human rights, both across the country in general and those affecting the anglophone community in the south-west of the country. On the deal itself, there will be no diminution in the human rights clauses of the existing EU deal, which I think is what she is seeking to criticise.

Free Trade Agreement: Australia

Australia is a key and proud ally of the United Kingdom, a country with shared beliefs in democracy and free trade. We are working closely at pace with our Australian friends to secure a deal that will benefit both countries, and we will reach a gold standard agreement to lead the world in free trade.

My right hon. Friend knows that Teesside has a long history of exporting to Australia, including a small project known as the Sydney harbour bridge. Can she assure me that, as we leave the EU, Redcar and Cleveland, particularly the steel and chemical industry, will be at the forefront of her mind in future trade talks?

Redcar and Cleveland are a key priority as we negotiate the Australia deal. There are 13,000 small and medium-sized enterprises in the United Kingdom that already export to Australia, and I see lots of opportunities for them to benefit from our close trading relationship, including in the areas of steel and chemicals, food and drink and digital and data.

Technology Sector Exports

Technology is an important and growing sector. In fact, sales of our digital tech exports totalled £23 billion last year, and Oxford Economics thinks they will be worth up to £31 billion by 2025. Our ambitious approach to digital trade in free trade agreements will boost exports, and support economic growth, job creation and prosperity. We have negotiated strong measures, not least in Japan, and will seek similar outcomes in our talks with the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership.

Will the Minister tell us a little bit more about the UK-Japan free trade agreement, and particularly how it will help businesses in Warrington South and the north-west to do more business with Japan?

There are specific issues including not having to worry about the added cost of setting up data servers in Japan because of the elements that look at data transfer; a guarantee that the trade secrets underpinning innovations of entrepreneurs in my hon. Friend’s constituency are protected and do not have to be shared across borders; and a clear commitment that entrepreneurs on both sides of the agreement will be able to operate in an open, secure and trustworthy online environment.

The deal with Japan includes some very ambitious chapters on digital and data, and a deal with the United States is set to benefit tech firms. Will my hon. Friend advise how Black Country firms can make the best of these future opportunities?

Tech firms in my hon. Friend’s constituency and across the UK will benefit from the opening of markets and the minimisation of barriers to trade, which will allow them to expand internationally, not least in the Asia-Pacific region. The joint DIT and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport digital trade network, which was launched by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in June, will significantly improve our support for businesses from my hon. Friend’s constituency in that fast-growing part of the world.

Foreign Investment: Don Valley

My Department recorded 331 foreign direct investment projects in the northern powerhouse in 2019-20, creating or safeguarding more than 11,000 jobs. DIT is dedicated to supporting international investment into the UK, and it can be argued—in fact it is quite hard to argue against—that we are the most successful major economy in the world in attracting foreign direct investment to our shores. Our dedicated staff across the north work closely with partners in Yorkshire and Humber to attract new and existing investors, match them to opportunities and maintain our position of having more foreign direct investment than any other nation in Europe.

Does the Minister agree that with all the new markets his Department is opening up for the UK, the Government must do all they can to support the many young entrepreneurs of Don Valley?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. How refreshing it is to have a representative in the Don Valley who cares about business and recognises that trade needs to look at the wide scope of issues but at its heart is about the economic benefit that it brings to local people. Again and again, in session after session of these questions, the Labour party focuses on everything other than the economic benefit—the jobs and prosperity—that trade brings. That is why this Government will continue to support entrepreneurs; the Opposition come up with complex and sophisticated arguments, but again and again they oppose the very measures that will help to ensure employment and prosperity for the people of this country.

Israel

What discussions she has had with her Israeli counterpart on UK support for expanding Israel’s commercial ties with the Gulf states. (907231)

Britain’s trading relationships are already strong in the middle east. In the year ending March 2020, we had bilateral trade of £43.7 billion with the Gulf Co-operation Council countries and £5.1 billion with Israel. I know that my hon. Friend will join me in welcoming the Prime Minister’s appointment of Lord Austin—former Labour MP for Dudley North—as trade envoy to Israel. As Britain has now taken back control of her trade policy, I can confirm that we are now able to start scoping and probing for talks for a new higher-ambition trade agreement with Israel. We have already launched a joint trade and investment review with the GCC, taking us on the next leg of the journey to free trade with its members.

I join my hon. Friend in congratulating Lord Austin, who is a balanced and fair parliamentarian, on his great role, and we look forward to his work there. Given our strong and very positive relationships both with Israel and the Gulf states, the UK has a key role in striking deals. Will he update the House on what further plans we have for striking deals with these countries, as this will not only be good for UK exports but for our international relations as well?

My hon. Friend is right. I am delighted that the United Kingdom-Israel trade and partnership agreement was one of the first agreements to be signed by the Department, and relations will be enhanced as we further deepen our work with Israel. As I mentioned, we have recently launched the United Kingdom GCC JTIR—joint trade and investment review—which will facilitate agreements with our friends there to broaden our trade relationships and realise new opportunities in areas such as education, healthcare, and food and drink. Recently my Department’s lobbying secured an improvement in the United Arab Emirates’ labelling rules, which has allowed businesses such as sports nutrition start-up Grenade in Solihull to continue to grow in the market. I look forward to securing many more opportunities for businesses across the country.

It is unsurprising that Israel is one of the first countries to sign a post-Brexit trade agreement with the UK because bilateral relations are, as the Minister says, very strong. What progress is being made in expanding those opportunities, and how do they go beyond the agreements that have already been signed by the UK?

My hon. Friend is right to be very ambitious for Britain’s future as we unleash the potential of every corner of our country. I was very pleased to see that last year this growth included new export wins totalling £1 million in his constituency. He is a great champion of exports and he is right that there is more that we can do. There are exciting opportunities in sectors such as financial services, infrastructure and technology. We are working with Israeli counterparts to realise those, including through reinstating plans to host an Anglo-Israeli trade and investment conference in London.

Covid-19: Economic Recovery

What steps her Department is taking to support economic recovery from the covid-19 pandemic through UK exports. (907233)

Since the start of covid-19, my Department has been committed to doing everything it can to help exporters. Helping them to bounce back with extensive economic recovery measures continues to be a major priority. After significant monthly decreases in UK trade during the early stages of the pandemic, the UK is now seeing record month-on-month increases in exports, rising by 16.5% in June and a further 5.6% in July.

I recently visited Blachford UK in Holmewood in my constituency. This brilliant manufacturer enjoys fantastic relations with many countries around the world, particularly Canada. Does the Minister agree that it is a shining example to exporters around the country and we need more companies like it, particularly in Bolsover?

Absolutely—we need more companies like Blachford. That is why we are transforming our digital offer to exporters and negotiating a continuity agreement with Canada. It would be great to see Opposition MPs joining us in encouraging their local exporters in the manner of my hon. Friend. I understand that he planted a maple tree at Blachford on a recent visit. I suggest that we should all be planting trees and celebrating our local exporters.

Public Procurement

What discussions she has had with UK trade partners on ensuring that public procurement is excluded from future trade deals. (907234)

We are delighted that in Geneva yesterday the UK was admitted to the World Trade Organisation’s government procurement agreement, which will secure access to a public procurement market worth £1.3 trillion. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will join me in welcoming this significant step for the UK as an independent trading nation.

The NHS currently strikes huge multi-billion-pound deals with drug providers around Europe that deliver huge benefits to the NHS and minimise drug costs to patients. Will the Government be allowing the US, through a trade deal, to gain access to NHS drugs procurement, and what are the implications for drug prices?

We have been absolutely clear that in terms of the US deal the NHS is not on the table, and that includes drug pricing and other aspects of delivery of healthcare services. Let me remind the hon. Gentleman that the European Union is also a member of the government procurement agreement, and therefore we look forward, on a bilateral basis between the UK and the EU, to UK companies being able to take advantage of these procurement opportunities in European markets and also UK procurers being able to give their contracts to European companies.

Carbon Tariffs

What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the potential merits of using carbon tariffs to reduce emissions associated with international trade. (907236)

Britain has reduced emissions faster than any other G7 nation since 1990; and we were the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions, too. This people’s Government will make sure the British people benefit from being at the forefront of clean wind energy. We will spend £160 million on port and factory upgrades to create jobs, build turbines and increase our offshore wind capacity, which is already the biggest in the world. The hon. Gentleman can be sure that we will continue to push for ambitious international action to protect the environment, including through our trade agenda. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already made it clear that the environment is one of her top three priorities for British leadership at the World Trade Organisation.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his position on the Front Bench, having worked with him on the International Trade Committee for a couple of years. Contrary to the points being made by certain Ministers, I would say that many of us on this side of the House speak up for businesses and are very proud of the contribution that our world-beating businesses and industries make. Carbon border taxes are an important measure not just for the environment, but for preventing carbon-intensive industries from relocating to countries with lower emissions standards and therefore a lower cost base. Can the Minister assure us that there is nothing in the deal that the Government have signed with Japan or nothing in the deals being struck with the US in the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership—

Order. It is far too long in both cases—we will not get anyone else in at this rate. Minister, try and do the best you can.

My Department really does recognise the role that trade and tariffs can play in reducing global carbon emissions, and we are clear that trade does not have to come at the expense of the environment, but growing trade is important for so many more reasons. It delivers the things that our people care about: better jobs, higher wages, greater choice and lower prices, and our new global tariff helps to deliver that, as well as supporting the environment, by liberalising tariffs on 104 environmental goods that we are promoting.

Digital Trade

The UK has published its US negotiation objectives, which outline our intention to include provisions that facilitate the free flow of data while ensuring that the UK’s high standards of personal data protection are maintained. They include provisions to prevent unjustified data localisation requirements.

I thank the Minister for his answer. Will he confirm that under a trade agreement, American businesses processing UK citizens’ data in America would still have to abide by UK data laws, and also that a trade agreement will do nothing to undermine the age-appropriate design code for social media?

On the second point, nothing in any trade agreement would prevent us from legislating against online harms in this country. On the first point, the UK’s trade policy seeks to maintain high levels of data protection by committing parties to legislate for the protection of the personal information of users of electronic commerce. That means that users of electronic commerce will have legal certainty over the protection of their personal information.

Free Trade Agreement: New Zealand

A free trade agreement with New Zealand is a priority for the UK Government. Trade negotiators from the UK and New Zealand held the first round of negotiations between 13 and 24 July 2020, and a second round of negotiations is due to begin on 19 October. New Zealand are a global leader when it comes to trade policy and trade agreements, and it is always a pleasure to deal with them.

I thank the Minister for his answer. He may be aware that prior to my first election in 2010, I worked closely with our colleague the Prime Minister in his former role as London’s Mayor and various members of the New Zealand Government to secure appropriate recognition for Sir Keith Park, the defender of London. I am pleased therefore to see our strengthened trade links with New Zealand, but does my right hon. Friend agree with me and others that we need to go further to strengthen commercial and political ties between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK and seize the chances that Brexit presents for the UK?

I thank my hon. Friend for his words of praise for the previous Mayor of London, who did a much better job than the current incumbent. I recently met the New Zealand high commissioner. The Secretary of State speaks regularly with the New Zealand Trade Minister. I did a webinar with New Zealand businesses recently. We want to have a cutting-edge deal as soon as possible. In terms of the broader relationship with Canada and Australia, I am very sympathetic to what my hon. Friend says, but I think the answer to that lies within the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, of which Canada, Australia and New Zealand are members.

Export Finance Guarantee Scheme

Export finance guarantees are provided through UK Export Finance, the UK’s world-leading export credit agency. UKEF’s mission is to ensure that no viable UK export fails for lack of insurance or finance, while operating at no net cost to the taxpayer. It recently introduced a new export development guarantee, which has seen £500 million provided to Jaguar Land Rover and Ford of Britain, with more in the pipeline.

I thank the Minister for that helpful answer. Does he agree that the take-up of the scheme among companies in Northern Ireland is not as high as it should be, and there needs to be more marketing and development of the scheme? Will he agree to a meeting between officials from his Department and me, and discuss with companies that have tried to access it, the problems they have encountered so that we can ensure the scheme benefits companies in Ulster?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about the need to market more effectively. We have a brilliant suite of products. UKEF is world leading—again and again it is voted the best export credit agency in the world—and it is doing great work. We would love to open it up to more businesses, which is why UKEF is part of various bounce back plans, including my launch in Northern Ireland of our tech bounce back plan. I would be delighted to organise a meeting with him to ensure that Northern Irish businesses are aware of all the products that are on offer.

Topical Questions

Over the last month, we have made significant progress to establish the United Kingdom as an independent, free-trading nation. We have agreed in principle a deal with Japan that goes further and faster than the EU deal in areas such as digital and data, food and drink and financial services. We have set out our pathway to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and yesterday we joined the WTO Government procurement agreement, which gives British businesses access to a £1.3 trillion global market.

Just as Israel has signed a peace treaty with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, it is innovating to create an instant covid-19 test that is currently being trialled at European airports. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to work with innovative Israeli companies in that area?

I congratulate Lord Austin on becoming the new trade envoy to Israel. I am delighted to see the reaction on the Labour Benches—they are obviously very pleased with that appointment. We have already signed a continuity FTA with Israel, and we want to go further in a new free trade agreement in areas such as tech, digital and data. We are two tech superpowers, and there is huge opportunity for British businesses and Israeli businesses to work more closely together.

I was listening to the Secretary of State on the “Today” programme yesterday morning, when she twice repeated the Government’s mantra of wanting a trade deal with the EU just like Canada’s. But the Government will not agree to non-regression clauses on environmental protection or workers’ rights, both of which are in the comprehensive economic and trade agreement—the trade deal between Canada and the EU. The Government also will not commit on state aid beyond WTO rules, while CETA contains stronger agreements on subsidies. Could the Secretary of State share with the House whether the Government are planning to change course and accept those provisions in their deal with the EU, or will she just admit that they do not really want a Canada-style deal at all?

The reality is that what the EU is demanding goes far beyond Canada in terms of an ex-ante regime on state aid, as well as alignment with rules and regulations. We will not accept that. We do want a Canada-style deal. The reality is that the Labour party would not even accept a Canada-style deal with Canada.

It is an undisputed fact that capitalism and free markets are the surest route out of poverty. Can my right hon. Friend update the House on how the Department is using trade to boost development in Africa? (907190)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Before I returned to the Department, I was the chair of the trade out of poverty all-party parliamentary group in this place. We have achieved duty free, quota free access for 39 African countries, and only yesterday the Prime Minister appointed 11 new Africa trade envoys. However, what would be unhelpful to our trade relationship with Africa is Labour and SNP Members’ proposals to dictate domestic production standards in the developing world, which has the potential to kill off our trade with those countries. I would ask them to look those countries in the eye when the Ghanaians cannot sell us their cocoa, when the Caribbean cannot sell us bananas, when the Kenyans—

Order. [Interruption.] No, no, no. Minister—and I will say this to both Front Benches—topicals are meant to be short and punchy. They are not meant to be for debating points like other questions. That is why topicals were brought in. Both Front Benches have taken advantage, and none more so than the Minister then. Let us head up to Preston with Sir Mark Hendrick. Come on: calm is needed.

May I ask the Secretary of State how she can agree the terms of a trade deal with the United States Government when neither they nor we currently know the extent to which the UK’s regulatory framework will be permitted to diverge from the European Union’s? (907191)

We are absolutely committed that we are going to have our own independent regulatory regime, and we are no longer going to be permanently aligned with the EU. We have made that very clear: that was the point of Brexit.

Stockton is a town of firsts—be it the first passenger railway or the invention of the friction match. How will our future trade agreements help the latest generation of innovators export across the globe? (907192)

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. Innovation has always given our businesses an edge. Virtual reality and 3D specialist Amazing Interactives in my hon. Friend’s constituency is an example of how innovation can continue to take business and exports forward. Today’s innovators, like Amazing Interactives, will benefit from our new FTAs.

Macallan single malt whisky bottled at Edrington in my constituency is just one of many iconic Scottish products suffering under the 25% US trade tariffs. A year down the line, can the Secretary of State explain why single malt whisky is not at the top of our US negotiating list? (907196)

I am absolutely determined to get these tariffs removed. The reality is that the European Union, which the hon. Lady and her colleagues want to rejoin, has failed to sort out this issue with Airbus for 15 years. We now have an opportunity—we have an independent tariff policy starting next year—and I am determined to get those tariffs removed.

Businesses in Warrington South tell me they want to do more business around the world. Can my hon. Friend tell me and the House how they can do that with the benefit of our new free trade agreements? (907193)

I know that many businesses in Warrington are already flying the flag. Earlier this week, I was delighted to learn that Warrington’s ICC Solutions has secured a deal with a major US acquiring bank so that its technology will be used to make card payments safer in America. This company does great work as one of our export champions too. Ultimately, FTAs are going to create better jobs, higher wages, more choice and lower prices for all parts of our country. An ambitious FTA with the US could boost the economy in the north-west by £389 million per year.

In response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, the UK has been at the forefront of EU sanction action against Russia, which this Government have reiterated their support for in two written statements to the House this year. Does the Secretary of State accept an obligation to operate the same principles in relation to trade with the illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories? (907203)

Sanctions are a matter for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and I will pass on the hon. Member’s views to it. However, to answer the first part of her question, the UK has been absolutely robust in its approach to Russia on many fronts, not least the illegal annexation of Ukraine, which we have opposed at all points. We will continue to highlight that injustice at every international forum available.

I would like to congratulate the Secretary of State and her turbo-charged Department on the Government procurement agreement, the Japanese free trade deal and progress in many other areas. It was a pleasure to welcome her to North Cornwall recently to demonstrate our great British food offer. Then it was cheese; today it is shellfish. North Cornwall has a lot of shellfish fishermen who hope to take advantage of our new trading independence. Can the Secretary of State tell me what consideration her Department has made of potential opportunities for crab and seafood exports to Asian countries such as Korea and Taiwan? (907194)

There are huge opportunities for great Cornish seafood in Japan, Korea, and all of Asia. Our Japan deal will see tariffs reduced on salmon, and the Cornish sardine properly recognised. We are holding a webinar on 26 October to help seafood exporters, including crab exporters, crack the Japanese market.

I have had more representations on the overlapping issues of food safety and animal welfare in trade agreements than on almost any other issue for a long time. The Conservative party was keen to insert animal welfare provisions into EU trade agreements—indeed, the issue was in its 2015 manifesto. Why was the inclusion of animal welfare provisions in EU trade agreements good enough then, but not good enough to be written into UK legislation now? (907206)

In each individual trade agreement we consider key issues such as animal welfare. We are consulting closely with the farming industry, including the pig industry, which sees all the offers we put forward in individual deals. Each deal will be scrutinised by the International Trade Committee, and the implications for animal welfare will be independently verified. Parliament will have an opportunity to debate those issues. We take this matter seriously, and as the hon. Lady said, those issues come to light in each individual trade deal.

Despite the best efforts of Scottish National party Members, Scottish businesses want to trade around the world. What efforts are the Government making to ensure that Scottish businesses are able to trade around the world in the way they wish? (907195)

My hon. Friend is right, and last week I announced a new trade hub in Edinburgh, which will help businesses in Scotland to grow internationally and recover from the impact of coronavirus. The hub will promote opportunities for Scottish companies, and FTAs will provide access to our global network, which is provided in 115-plus markets. There is the support of UK Export Finance—[Interruption.] It is hard to hear oneself think with the chuntering from the Opposition Front Bench. Would it not be great if we saw the same interest in trade, and promoting trade, not least in Scotland, rather than chuntering and sideline messages?

We have had five years of horrific humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and over that period the Government have traded and made profit from £6.5 billion-worth of licensed arms. At the same time, they have given only £1 billion in aid. The UN has said that a consistent pattern of harm to civilians is being caused, so will the Secretary of State say why profiteering from arms sales is more important than supporting civilians in crisis? (907210)

I understand the hon. Lady’s point, but Her Majesty’s Government take their arms export responsibilities very seriously. We assess arms exports in accordance with strict licensing criteria. Those are consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria, and we draw on a lot of available information, including reports from non-governmental organisations and our overseas network in doing so. We will not license the export of equipment where to do so would be inconsistent with the criteria.

I was delighted to hear the Secretary of State on the radio this week talking about the benefits of free ports, and there is a fantastic bid for a free port at East Midlands airport. Does the Minister agree that that could have a transformational effect in the east midlands? (907197)

First, let me praise my hon. Friend. If the allocation of free ports was based purely on the championing of their case by Members of Parliament, it would be a certainty that he would have one in his area. Yesterday, Her Majesty’s Treasury published the response to the consultation on free ports, which outlined how free ports will help to level up the UK economy, bring in new investment, create high-skilled jobs, and provide new opportunities in ports and the areas around them. Although it will be an open, fair, and transparent process, I have no doubt that the advocacy of my hon. Friend will set a precedent for others and, I hope, lead to a successful outcome for him.

On Monday, farmers from across the whole United Kingdom will be demonstrating in Parliament Square to make the point that, to them, future food standards and animal welfare provisions are essential. Will the Secretary of State join me in meeting them to hear from them at first hand the importance of this? (907213)

I have met farmers from right across the United Kingdom, and indeed the Trade and Agriculture Commission that we have set up to advise us on these issues is conducting a series of regional meetings with MPs and farmers to get their views, to make sure that our policy on every free trade deal works for farmers right across the country.

The Welsh Government have not been allowed to negotiate with the EU, so if Welsh farmers, some of whom voted in favour of leaving the EU, find that they face tariffs and border controls on lamb, will the UK Government give the Welsh Government compensation to give to those Welsh farmers and other sectors that have lost out through a badly negotiated deal? (907214)

Both the Farmers’ Union of Wales and the National Farmers Union Wales are represented on the Trade and Agriculture Commission to ensure that there is a full voice for Welsh farmers on future trade agreements. Under the recent Japan deal, Welsh lamb is now going to be recognised geographical indicator, and we are fighting to get lamb into the US market. There are lots of opportunities out there for Welsh lamb farmers, which we are pursuing vigorously.

In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I am suspending the House for three minutes.

Sitting suspended.