Implementation of international trade agreements

Part of Trade Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade) 11:30 am, 25th June 2020

If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I will come to South Korea in due course.

The five-year point, perhaps, is understandable in the context of South Korea, but it is slightly odd that Ministers think they might not be able to get the South Korea deal done even in five years, and might need another five. One has to ask why we would need 10 years to put together a roll-over agreement that is simply, as my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington said, a cut-and-paste job—a matter of just switching “UK” for “the European Union”.

The hon. Member for South Ribble helped throw a little light on the issue during her questions to Mr Richard Warren, the head of policy for UK Steel, in our second sitting. In Question 59, she asked:

“Mr Warren, if there were continuity trade agreements that did not roll over, what would be the consequences for the steel industry?”.

Mr Warren talked initially about the continuity trade agreements with north African nations such as Morocco and South Africa. He then cut to the chase on one of the biggest markets for UK steel exports: Turkey. Talking about the so-called continuity trade agreement, he said:

“Turkey…probably will not be carried over, regardless of the Bill.”

He went on to say that the Bill would allow the continuity and trade agreement to happen,

“but with politics and the complexities of negotiations, I fear, that agreement will not be in place by the end of the year, which would result in 15% tariffs, on average, on UK steel going to Turkey— 8% of our exports. It is an extremely competitive market already; a 15% tariff would pretty much knock that on the head.”

He went on to underline a similarly important point:

“At the same time, because the UK has no tariffs on steel, we would still have up to half a million tonnes of steel coming in from Turkey”.––[Official Report, Trade Public Bill Committee, 16 June 2020; c. 42 to 43, Q59.]

We would not only have an uneven trading relationship when it came to steel exports, given the huge tariffs; suddenly, imports of Turkish steel into the UK would have no tariffs at all, creating even more competition for UK steel to face in the domestic market. That is a profoundly disturbing and worrying situation, and it would be helpful to have a little more clarity from the Minister, when he gets to his feet, about what is going on in those negotiations. As I understand it, negotiations have not even begun between the UK and Turkey, never mind being close to reaching any sort of conclusion.