Future International Trade Opportunities

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:18 pm on 1st May 2019.

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Photo of Bill Esterson Bill Esterson Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (International Trade) 5:18 pm, 1st May 2019

That is another debate. I will stick to the topic of international trade and future arrangements.

As any business person knows, you look after existing relationships first and maximise them—something I learned through running a business for 15 years. The same principle applies to countries, which is why a close relationship with our biggest trading partner is essential. Meanwhile, there is no sign of the Trade Bill returning from the Lords, and Government plans to implement zero tariffs unilaterally really would create a disincentive for countries to negotiate a trade deal with us, because we would be giving away the shop before negotiations started and would have nothing to offer in return for a trade deal.

I want to give the Minister plenty of time to respond, so in the time remaining I will speak about the low-carbon economy and the need to address the climate emergency. This Government’s record in international trade is a cause for concern in relation to the low-carbon economy: £2.362 billion of UK export finance over the past five years has been spent on exports to low and middle-income countries in the energy sector relating to fossil fuels, with just £1 million invested in the renewables sector. If we are serious about tackling climate change, those figures need to be completely reversed, so it is disappointing that after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report last autumn, this Government announced that they were considering support for a Bahrain oil refinery.

We have many success stories in renewable energy; we are often world leaders in technology—Windhoist, for example, sells wind turbines to Taiwan and Australia—but for other companies there is only frustration. Award-winning exporter Nova Innovation exports tidal energy equipment. Its chief executive officer, Simon Forrest, says:

“At the moment, we hold the trump cards in marine power—the resource is abundant, it’s completely predictable, we have a global lead and we have got the supply chain. What we don’t have is revenue support to take us to market. That’s what Denmark did with wind, and we didn’t. Having built up this lead, we will lose it to Canada or Japan.”

We cannot afford to let that happen in sectors such as tidal energy. We can be leaders in the low-carbon economy. Meeting the challenge of the climate emergency can deliver future prosperity through a proper industrial and international trade strategy in renewables, not fossil fuels. It is time to develop the future, not the past.