Trade Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 30th January 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Fairhead Baroness Fairhead The Minister of State, Department for International Trade 7:00 pm, 30th January 2019

I will try. First, the UK is already a member of the WTO; it was a founder member and it is a member. When its schedules have been lodged, they become the schedules, and even if they are not certified, we can continue to operate on that schedule. I committed to respond to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, following a conversation we had following some press reports about certification and whether one country could operate; I have the draft of the letter and am about to sign it, and again, I will put a copy of that in the Library. It is clear that a country can operate on an uncertified schedule; indeed, the EU 28 is currently operating on a schedule which is not an EU 28 schedule. All that is set out in detail in this letter, which I hope will provide satisfaction.

Having now laid before your Lordships the steps the Government have taken at the WTO, I turn again to Amendments 34 and 54. We have made our proposed apportionment of WTO TRQs on the basis of the best data available to us regarding recent patterns of trade in the relevant products, so that any apportionment does not distort existing trade patterns. However, we have always said that, should trading partners have alternative data, we would be prepared to examine that in order not to distort trade flows in these commodities. If allowed, Amendment 34 would prevent us doing this, and, in doing so, would undermine one of the UK’s obligations to our WTO partners at the moment when we are re-establishing and reasserting ourselves as an independent member of the WTO.

Amendment 54 requests a report detailing our progress on GATT Article XXVIII negotiations. I trust that the Government’s frequent updates on our WTO transition reassure this House that the Government are committed to keeping Parliament informed at every stage of this process. We will continue to update Parliament as we progress and complete our Article XXVIII process.

The report in Amendment 54 also requests an assessment of whether the objections raised by other countries that gave rise to our Article XXVIII negotiations affect the UK’s ability to trade on our goods schedule after we leave the EU. I hope that I addressed that in my previous answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer. We will be able to use and base our trade policy upon our goods and services schedules even if they remain uncertified at the point they become operational—whether that be after the conclusion of the implementation period or in a no-deal scenario in April 2019. We are also able to negotiate, sign, ratify and bring into force trade agreements with uncertified WTO schedules. This situation is not without precedent. Indeed, the EU has done precisely this for years while signing several trade agreements, including with Canada and Japan.

Given the broader work already in train, the impact these amendments may have on that and the Statements that the Government have made and will continue to make throughout our trade policy transitions, I ask that these amendments be withdrawn.