If I may, I would like to begin by paying tribute to my right hon. Friend Greg Hands for all the work that he did as our Minister of State and for helping to set up the Department. He is one of the very best Ministers that I have had the honour to work with in my whole time in this House.
Since April 2017, the Department for International Trade has actively supported UK companies, with over 50 outward direct investment deals in over 20 countries. With our help, companies from all over the UK have invested overseas in many sectors, including advanced manufacturing, infrastructure and energy.
I know that my hon. Friend is a great champion of English wines in her constituency. In fact, Aldwick Court in my own constituency makes a very fine range of wines, Mr Speaker—I will attempt to get you a bottle to prove the point. We work closely with leading industry associations and producers to help to support English wine exports. A recent example of this was the festival of innovation in March in Hong Kong. Our team in-market arranged a bespoke programme of briefings and a high-profile tasting session to introduce a delegation of UK wine and spirit producers to potential buyers from around the world, very successfully.
The Secretary of State may not be aware of the input of a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister on this matter, but Lakeland Dairies in my constituency is attempting to secure Chinese business but is having some difficulty due to red tape. What support is available to help businesses across the language and cultural divide, and to gain results that benefit us all and in particular Lakeland Dairies in my constituency?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, there have been a number of questions about the ease of doing business in China and market access has been one of the questions raised. A new trade commissioner has been appointed, Richard Burn, in China, and our team will work continually with the Chinese Government to try to remove some of the barriers. If companies in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency face specific problems, I will be delighted to meet him to try to resolve them.
Of course, we will continue to do that; it is a very successful programme. But perhaps more usefully we can help to get small businesses the finance they require to get into the exporting business. Last year, in a change from the previous pattern, 78% of all the UK export finance agreements were done with small and medium-sized enterprises in this country.
Tariffs in general are one of the areas we want to be able to look at when we leave the European Union. Of course the setting of tariffs is a legal power that we do not yet have. To be able to take full advantage of alternatives—reductions in tariffs, for example—this House will have to pass the customs Bill, which is coming back shortly. I hope that we can count on the hon. Gentleman’s support on that.
Our proceedings would be incomplete and underperforming without a question from Mr Barry Sheerman.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
May I ask the Secretary of State if he is not being a little complacent about the role of China in our manufacturing and other sectors? Does he realise that, when we encourage companies to export, some of the companies, like Syngenta in my constituency, are wholly owned by ChemChina and wholly owned subsidiaries of the communist Government in China? There is a greater number of British companies owned by the Chinese. Does that alter the sort of conversation he has with them?
We believe in an open, liberal, global economy and, if we want to own companies overseas, countries overseas have to be able to own companies in this country. That is part of a liberal trading system, but that system requires a proper system of rules. That is why the World Trade Organisation needs to be strengthened and in some areas needs to be reformed, to ensure we have a global trading system that is fair and fit for all.