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Trade Deals: Environmental Standards

Volume 701: debated on Thursday 21 October 2021

8. What recent discussions she has had with UK trade partners on inserting clauses on environmental standards into future trade deals. (903688)

The UK is seeking ambitious environmental provisions in all future trade deals, including those which preserve our high levels of environmental protection and ensure our trade and environment policies are mutually supportive. Negotiations, including with both Australia and New Zealand, are progressing and the UK is also preparing for the next phase of negotiations, including with India, Mexico and Canada.

Last week, a leaked document drawn up by departmental officials revealed that it was the Government’s policy to prioritise economic growth over climate protection in the UK’s trade deals. If the Minister says that is not a true reflection of the Department’s negotiating priorities, can she explain why it was written by departmental officials and distributed across Whitehall just days ago?

Our ambitious trade deal with Australia, for instance, includes a substantive article that affirms both parties’ commitments to address climate change, making clear our commitments mutually to the United Nations framework convention on climate change, the Paris agreement and the achievement of all those goals. We will continue to have that and more detail as we make new trade deals.

I add my welcome to the Secretary of State. She was asked in the previous question about a leaked document, which suggests that economic growth is a higher priority for this Government in trade negotiations than climate protection. I know that must be embarrassing for her, given that the Government are supposed to be showing leadership in addressing the climate crisis ahead of COP26, but she can confirm the Government’s priority once and for all by making a definitive statement now about whether the Government and her Department will rule out trade deals with countries such as Brazil and Malaysia so long as they continue to destroy their rainforests. Will she make that commitment today?

Economic growth and the UK’s world-leading commitment to the climate challenges that the planet faces are not mutually exclusive; they go hand in hand. The environment and climate change will continue to be a key priority for the UK. Our ambition and leadership in that and helping our UK businesses that are driving the green agenda and providing the clean technologies of the future will be a critical part of making sure that our trade deals are very good for those British producers.