Antony speaks in the debate on the Trade Bill

I welcome the opportunity to speak in this Debate, as it represents a major step on the UK’s journey to reclaim its role as an independent global, trading nation – delivering on a pledge I made to my constituents, and that this Government made to the country.

Burnley has undoubtedly been a beneficiary of free trade. Our largest employers include Safran Nacelles of France, and Paradigm Precision of the United States. And only a few weeks ago, UVS – a local business – worked with the Department for International Trade to secure its first order in Vietnam.

Sadly, though we have lost jobs over recent weeks. Lancashire is 4th largest manufacturing cluster for aerospace in the world, and it is one of the most global of sectors both in the supply chain and the customers it serves, but it has been hit hard. Our challenge is to make sure that free and fair trade helps spur our recovery on.

Getting the hundreds of thousands of businesses that don’t currently export, exporting, generating economic growth, and the jobs that go with that, and I am committed to doing everything I can to make sure that is the case in Burnley.

I was particularly pleased to hear the Secretary of State mention the textiles industry too. As anyone who knows Burnley will know, it was once the centre of global textiles and continues to have a thriving industry which I know can reclaim the global title once again.

For international trade to work, we need to ensure we have a safety mechanism. A way of dealing with those countries that say they trade freely, but also seek advantage through anti-competitive means. The proposal in this Bill for a Trade Remedies Authority is therefore welcome. This body will have the teeth needed to deal with subsidies, dumping and any other measures used to distort the market.

Madam Deputy Speaker, as we take the step towards once again being an independent globally trading nation, it is right that we consider why trade is important, and not just how we go about supporting it. And on this, the simple truth remains, that free trade creates free people. It has done more to lift people out of poverty than any other measure, and it has contributed to global economic growth for decades.

This is the reason the UK initially joined what was then the European Economic Community. We saw, and continue to see, the benefits of striking trade relationships with like minded countries. And having left the EU it is important for us to look at those agreements that have been struck on our behalf over the last 40 years, to identify whether to carry these over. And this Bill allows us to do that and I want to congratulate the Secretary of State, and whole Department for International Trade, for the way in which they have done this. 48 of these are ready to be rolled over, securing over £110bn of trade.

I have heard some criticise the way the Government is planning to roll over some trade agreement, including with Japan, as though trying to be more ambitious, liberalising more trade, securing thousands more jobs in the UK, is in some way a bad thing. The message from this House, in this debate, should be that the Government has our full support in trying to strike the best trade deals. Roll-over where we can, where it is in our interest, but also build on those where we can – getting the best for Britain. As we emerge onto the world stage of trade, let us be the leading light.

And I welcome the Government’s transparency where it seeks to do that. Last week we got sight of the full negotiating objectives of UK-Japanese negotiations, just as we did for the US. The Secretary of State has made herself available to all colleagues on many occasions to discuss the UK-US FTA and I am sure that similar time will also be made available for agreements like that which we’re seeking with Japan and others. And by committing to using the affirmative procedure for any secondary legislation required to implement these continuity agreements, there is ample time for debate in both Houses.

We also need to make sure that our trade agreements, both those rolled over and those we negotiate in the future are fit for the 21st century. Where we can negotiate new deals, which allow UK technology companies to operate globally, including through innovative regulatory mechanisms like the FinTech bridge, we should do so.

Chapters on this, along with SMEs, will allow our businesses not just in Burnley but beyond, to scale up rapidly in a global market. Delivering the economy of the future.

Madam Deputy Speaker, I warmly welcome this Bill. It puts the UK back on the global trading map, with an independent trade remedies body, and it provides the mechanism to roll-over, and expand, existing trade agreements.  For that reason, I look forward to voting for this Bill.