New Free Trade Agreements

Scotland – in the House of Commons on 10th March 2021.

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Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the potential opportunities for Scotland arising from new free trade agreements.

Photo of Alister Jack Alister Jack The Secretary of State for Scotland

I regularly discuss with my Cabinet colleagues opportunities for Scotland arising from the signing of trade deals. This Government have already struck deals with more than 65 countries around the world worth £217 billion a year, including with Canada, Japan and Singapore, with many more to come. This will create new markets for Scotland’s exporters, including for our world-leading food and drink sector.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

I congratulate the Government on the recent agreement with the US Administration on suspending tariffs on a number of key quality UK goods, in particular Scotch. May I ask the Secretary of State how much that will be worth to the Scottish economy, and will he confirm that this benefit for Scotland would not have happened if the UK were still in the EU or a customs union, as the SNP has advocated, rather than having become an independent trading nation?

Photo of Alister Jack Alister Jack The Secretary of State for Scotland

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is brilliant news for the Scotch whisky industry, in the same week that the Chancellor announced a freeze on alcohol duty. The UK Government have fought incredibly hard on this issue, petitioning the highest levels of the US Administration to remove these tariffs, which were harming our Scottish exports.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Shadow SNP Leader of the House of Commons, Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

During the comprehensive economic and trade agreement talks between the EU and Canada, little Wallonia, as part of Belgium, managed to block the agreement until the concerns of its Parliament were resolved. Meanwhile, the Canadian state legislatures were in the next room to the Canadian federal delegation during those negotiations, putting their case. Will Scotland, with the most powerful Parliament in the world, as we are always told by the Secretary of State, have similar powers? If not, what will be the role of the Scottish Government in these trade talks?

Photo of Alister Jack Alister Jack The Secretary of State for Scotland

It is a pity that the hon. Gentleman could not bring himself to welcome the suspension of the US tariffs, in the same way that the Scottish National party has not welcomed any of our trade deals, but maybe he and his colleagues have other things on their mind at the moment. I also noticed that he did not raise separation, for the first time in my almost two years at the Dispatch Box—always separation, but not today. I think he has finally thrown that broken record away. We consult the Scottish Government on these trade deals, but they are a reserved matter and they are for the whole United Kingdom. As I stressed in my earlier answer, they will be very beneficial for the Scottish agrifoods industry.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale

I congratulate my right hon. Friend and, particularly, the Secretary of State for International Trade on their relentless efforts to remove the unjustified and penal US tariffs on whisky and cashmere, which have been so damaging. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, whatever now happens in relation to the Airbus-Boeing dispute, there can be no return to arbitrary retaliatory tariffs on unrelated industries, and that the decoupling of whisky and other products from that dispute must be permanent?

Photo of Alister Jack Alister Jack The Secretary of State for Scotland

I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend. The UK Government will continue to engage with the US to agree a fair settlement to the dispute and permanently remove these punitive tariffs, and that will be a deal that works for the whole United Kingdom. This agreement just shows that the UK and the US are determined to work together, and I look forward to seeing us strengthen that partnership.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray

The Secretary of State knows how welcome the suspension of tariffs has been in Moray, with its many malt whisky distilleries and, of course, Johnstons of Elgin, which produces outstanding cashmere products. Will he outline what the Scotland Office and, indeed, the whole UK Government will do to ensure that this four-month suspension becomes a permanent removal of those damaging tariffs?

Photo of Alister Jack Alister Jack The Secretary of State for Scotland

I know that my hon. Friend has more distilleries in his constituency than any other Member of Parliament—47, I think—and I also know that he has been a great champion for the industry and has pressed very hard for the removal of the 25% tariff. We are very pleased to have negotiated an agreement that suspends the tariffs. We now have a space of four months to find a resolution on what has been a 16-year-long dispute. The Secretary of State for International Trade is ready to engage with the US trade representative, Katherine Tai, to agree something that is fair and balanced just as soon as the Senate confirms her appointment.

Photo of Mark Menzies Mark Menzies Conservative, Fylde

As a proud Scot and one of the Prime Minister’s trade envoys, I was delighted by last week’s announcement that the Secretary of State and the Department for International Trade have secured a deal to remove export tariffs on Scotch whisky and a whole number of other products for sale to the United States. What estimate does my right hon. Friend make of the trade and investment benefits resulting from Scotland’s continued membership of the Union?

Photo of Alister Jack Alister Jack The Secretary of State for Scotland

This deal will be welcomed by businesses on both sides of the Atlantic because it will hopefully bring an end to harmful tit-for-tat tariffs. I agree with my hon. Friend, but to add to the point, the rest of the United Kingdom continues to be Scotland’s largest market for exports. It accounts for more than 60% of all Scotland’s trade.