Global Britain

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:27 pm on 30th January 2020.

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Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade 12:27 pm, 30th January 2020

My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. She will know about America’s imposition of section 232 to impose tariffs, with the excuse being that its steel industry was necessary for national security. However, I accept that the Government say they want to negotiate a zero-tariff, zero-quota free trade agreement with the EU. We need to do that, and we certainly need to do it for the steel industry, which my hon. Friend represents.

Perhaps those who have the audacity to ask for a plan ought to be prepared to provide suggestions, so in that spirit, let me be clear that the Opposition will champion the United Kingdom as a leader on the world stage that uses its position to tackle injustice and the imminent climate catastrophe. That means that we want to invest in future technologies and next generation industries, foster innovation and grow jobs in the economy, and to do so in a way that helps our trade partners to do the same. We do not see trade as a zero-sum game of winners and losers. We see open and fair trade as a way of increasing global wealth, along with global justice and equality.

At a time of global turmoil and escalating trade wars, it is imperative to have a strategy that ensures that the UK is not helpless against a triple assault: the dumping of subsidised products into our markets, which undercuts our producers; punitive protectionist tariffs imposed upon our exports by our would-be partners; and potential disruption to our trade with the EU, which is still by far our largest trading partner. To that end, our relationship with the European Union must be the priority. We need a free trade agreement that not only protects our existing trade with zero tariffs and zero quotas, but ensures minimum future disruption in both goods and services. We cannot and must not allow a situation to arise whereby our businesses face tariffs on their goods to the EU, alongside onerous and complex administrative burdens, border inspections or delays to the supply chain.

Will the Minister address whether the Government intend to remain part of the pan-Euro-Mediterranean cumulation regime? If not, what is their assessment of the impact that that might have on UK industries and of how it might affect third countries with which we have concluded roll-over agreements and that have already included cumulation regimes in their own subsequent treaties? Producers must not be doubly impacted by a surge of cheaper imports from overseas, particularly where they are manufactured to standards lower than our own or in markets that are distorted by unfair or illegal practices.

The Secretary of State knows that she is introducing what has been called the

“weakest trade remedies regime in the world”,

and industry confidence was knocked still further by interim most favoured nation tariff measures that propose to abolish tariffs on up to 87% of imports. The EU and US are introducing safeguard measures that could see tariffs on our exports and increased diversion of dumped goods on to our market, wiping out foundation industries and the thousands of jobs that they account for in steel, as my hon. Friend Jessica Morden said, in ceramics, which the Secretary of State talked about, and in major producers such as the automotive sector. I ask the Minister of State, Department for International Trade, Conor Burns, to set out in his reply to the debate out how the Government will protect our manufacturers, producers and farmers from a flurry of such imports under future trade agreements.