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G7 Advocacy for Free and Fair Trade

Volume 699: debated on Thursday 15 July 2021

What recent progress she has made with her G7 counterparts on advocating for free and fair trade throughout the world. (902795)

What recent progress she has made with her G7 counterparts on advocating for free and fair trade throughout world. (902797)

What recent progress she has made with her G7 counterparts on advocating for free and fair trade throughout world. (902816)

At the May Trade Ministers’ meeting, we committed to a global trading system with open markets that are not undermined by unfair trade. We agreed to work together to reform the global trading system to be free and fair for all.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the work that she is doing to improve global trading. Does she agree that the international community needs to get tough on China and improve the reputation of global trading?

My hon. Friend is right that we need to tackle unfair market practices, such as subsidies by state-owned enterprises in industries such as steel and aerospace. On Tuesday, I met my US counterpart, Katherine Tai, and we agreed to work together on this issue.

In the G7 Trade Ministers communiqué, issues around free and fair trade were balanced on transparency and supply chains being free of slave labour. Can the Secretary of State provide us with an update on the conversations that she has had with G7 leaders and, in particular, can she possibly let me know whether she will be congratulating the US Senate on passing a law last night that will ban all imports from Xinjiang because, of course, they are full of Uyghur slave labour?

I agree with my hon. Friend that forced labour is an abhorrent practice. We have already taken action in the UK to ensure that there is no forced labour in our supply chains and G7 Trade Ministers are committed to tackling this issue. We are working on best practice to prevent, identify and eliminate forced labour in global supply chains ahead of the G7 October trade ministerial.

I welcome the work that my right hon. Friend is doing with her G7 counterparts to reform global trading and encourage a rules-based multilateral trading system. Does she agree that a free and fair trading system will help countries, including the UK, to build back better from the covid-19 pandemic as part of a strong economic recovery?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There has been a worrying rise in protectionism in recent years and I am proud that the UK is leading the way in liberalising trade, striking new free trade deals to bring more jobs and growth as we seek to build back better after covid. At the same time, we are defending UK industry against unfair practices.

I hope that the Secretary of State has had a productive visit to the United States. She will have seen the example set by the Biden Administration when it comes to taking concrete action against the use of slave labour and the abuse of workers’ rights in countries ranging from Malaysia to Mexico. By contrast, may I ask her to name a country—one will do—with which the UK has a trade deal where she has taken any action of any kind to enforce the rights of workers?

We are extremely committed to making sure not only that we stand up for high standards across the globe, that our workers here in the United Kingdom are protected and that we do not diminish our workers’ rights, but that we work together with other countries to do that. I point to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, which has a very strong labour chapter, for example insisting on minimum wages and the recognition of trade union rights. I look forward to the right hon. Lady’s support for our accession to that agreement.

The shocking reality is that more than a third of our non-EU deals have been with countries where workers’ rights are systematically denied or violated, and in not a single case has the Secretary of State done anything about it. That is not good enough when slave labour is on the rise around the world and it is women, children, migrants and minorities who are too often the victims. Will she take a lesson from the Biden Administration, stop turning a blind eye to the abuse of workers’ rights by our own trade partners and start taking action against them instead?

I am very proud of the role that the United Kingdom has played in setting very high labour standards and looking for them in the trade agreements that we are working on. That is part of our discussions with the CPTPP countries. I have also been talking to leading figures in the US about how we can ensure strong labour rights in future US agreements.

China now produces 28% of carbon emissions—more than the US and the EU combined—with more than half the world’s coal-fired power stations and a third more planned. To stop carbon-intensive Chinese products such as steel displacing greener alternatives, will the Secretary of State ensure that with the G7, at COP26 and with Katherine Tai we pursue the carbon border tax being developed in the EU so that trade can help to save the planet, not destroy it?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about carbon leakage. We need to make sure that when we work to achieve our net zero target, we are not simply exporting carbon production elsewhere. That is why I am working with G7 partners on the issue of carbon leakage, but I think it is important that the solution is multilateral and embedded in the world trading system rather than unilateral from each individual country, so I am working with like-minded partners across the globe to make sure that we take account of carbon emissions.