Free Trade Agreements: Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

International Trade – in the House of Commons on 14th January 2021.

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Photo of Paul Howell Paul Howell Conservative, Sedgefield

What steps she has taken to help ensure that SMEs in Sedgefield can benefit from future free trade agreements.

Photo of Rob Butler Rob Butler Conservative, Aylesbury

What steps her Department has taken to help ensure that SMEs in Buckinghamshire can benefit from future free trade agreements.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

The Government have included, and will continue to seek to include, specific SME chapters in all our free trade agreements to ensure that SMEs are provided with the information necessary to make informed commercial decisions and seize the great new opportunities provided by these agreements.

Photo of Paul Howell Paul Howell Conservative, Sedgefield

The support for SMEs in the trade agreement is great to see, but may I ask the Minister to continue that with a free trade agreement for the USA that supports companies like Kromek in Sedgefield? It manufactures high-radiation detector material ingots that are shipped to the USA, attracting US import duty incorporating the price for worldwide sale, with the waste coming back to the UK for re-manufacture, attracting further UK import duty. The removal of those duties would clearly support high-value jobs in Sedgefield and increase the global competitiveness of an export-led UK business.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

I thank my hon. Friend for that excellent question on behalf of his constituency company, and I can tell him that the US and the UK have a shared ambition to improve trade for our SME-focused economies on both sides of the Atlantic, to help companies such as Kromek. There are three specific areas we are looking at. First, we want to reduce or eliminate tariffs. Secondly, we will have a wide-reaching SME chapter. Thirdly, we are also looking at provisions on reimported goods as well. Those provisions will benefit around 32,000 UK SMEs that already export to the US, such as Kromek, but also future SMEs. That will grow that trade, which will suit our bustling and improving SME sector.

Photo of Rob Butler Rob Butler Conservative, Aylesbury

The trade agreement with the European Union is absolutely fantastic for our country as a newly sovereign nation, and it comes on top of deals already covering more than 60 countries. Can my right hon. Friend tell the House how he intends to go further still and secure opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region, which would particularly benefit small businesses in my constituency of Aylesbury, but also those across the UK?

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

We are seeking an SME chapter in all our future free trade agreements. SME chapters are an excellent way of assisting companies to navigate a free trade agreement. They distil information and make it easier, particularly for companies without expertise in trade agreements, which is generally the case for SMEs. In Asia-Pacific, we aim to include such chapters. We have already included one in an agreement with Japan, and we aim to include them in agreements with Australia, New Zealand and, of course, the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership. We are aiming to do that to benefit SMEs in constituencies such as my hon. Friend’s in Aylesbury.