Trade Deals: Non-EU Countries

International Trade – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th January 2018.

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Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade

As the Prime Minister set out in her Florence speech, the UK will seek a time-limited implementation period with the EU. We will prepare for our future independent trade policy by negotiating trade deals with third countries, which could come into force after the conclusion of the implementation period. To that end, we have already established a series of 14 working groups and high-level dialogues with key trade partners.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

Will the Secretary of State confirm that he is still on track to deliver 40 trade deals with non-EU countries after we leave the European Union in March 2019, as he said he would be? Will he explain to the House what demands there have been from those countries for additional visas for their citizens to come to the United Kingdom, and how that impacts on the tens of thousands figure?

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade

The Government are indeed committed to ensuring continuity of the 40 or so EU free trade agreements after we leave the European Union, and that is why we introduced the relevant legislation this week. I am, however, rather disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman and his party saw fit to vote against that legislation, and deny British business that confidence.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

Should we seek any level of protection, the agreements will take longer and yield less—won’t they?

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade

Our clear aim is to achieve continuity and stability. We want the agreements that we have already as part of the EU to be delivered safely and securely into UK law, and that is the point of the Trade Bill.

Photo of Emma Little Pengelly Emma Little Pengelly Shadow Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (International Trade)

Concerns have been raised that the transitional arrangements may lead to significant changes to the detriment of the United Kingdom. Will the Secretary of State confirm that he is not intending to make any significant or substantive changes to any of the transitional arrangements?

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade

That is absolutely correct; we aim to keep the transitional arrangements as close as possible to the condition they are in today, given that we have some minor changes to make, for example in the disaggregation of tariff-rate quotas.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Conservative, The Cotswolds

From the preliminary dialogue that my right hon. Friend has had with the United States, what assessment has he made of the prospect of doing a trade deal with that country?

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade

May I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend on his well-deserved recognition of the service that he has given to this House and his constituency? We have four working groups with the United States on continuity, short-term outcomes, the potential scoping of a future free-trade agreement, and working with the US at the World Trade Organisation. I am content that we are making progress on all fronts.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Chair, Finance Committee (Commons), Chair, Finance Committee (Commons)

I also welcome the Under-Secretary of State for International Trade, Graham Stuart. He is a wonderful man, but I warn the Secretary of State not to send him anywhere at very high altitude because he is not very good with that.

The Secretary of State is right to try to pursue lots of good trade deals with countries outside the European Union, but is one of the major problems the corruption in some of the biggest countries? Brazil, Russia, India and China all fall very low down on Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index, and especially in Russia it is difficult for British businesses to do big business because they have to pay bribes all the time.

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade

The hon. Gentleman is right, and when I am having those discussions I often describe corruption as a supply-side constraint in many of those economies. If we are able to get trade agreements and good legal agreements, and if we make transparency a key element of that, we will be contributing to success on both sides.