Richard Graham – 2020 Speech on the Trade Bill

Below is the text of the speech made by Richard Graham, the Conservative MP for Gloucester, in the House of Commons on 20 May 2020.

I hope you can hear me better this time, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am grateful for the opportunity to join this debate.

As our debate across the country widens gradually from how to protect our citizens’ health to how to protect their jobs, this Trade Bill is important. Some 30% of our GDP comes directly from our exports, and they in turn generate many of the jobs of all of our constituents. This is especially true in high-value manufacturing and engineering, cyber and services, in all of which there are some great examples clustered around my constituency of Gloucester.

This Bill, which provides the infrastructure for our own trading agreements with the Government procurement and the Trade Remedies Agency, is part of our plan to put our exporters in a position not just to recover but to grow again. Alongside the talks with the EU being handled through the Cabinet Office, and those by the Department of International Trade with the US, Australasia and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, this Bill highlights some of the Government’s strategy to take this forward.

I support all the goals mentioned in the Bill, but at the same time we should be honest about the risks. Global trade is currently in decline. Nationalism and protectionism are on the rise. The backdrop is not as benign as it was for an overall expansion of our trade, growth of exports and expansion of jobs in exporting businesses. We clearly do need to finish the agreements with our allies, such as Singapore, Canada and Japan, with which agreements did already exist. Trying to negotiate separate agreements with separate teams simultaneously with both the US and the EU is high-wire trade diplomacy. I wish our ministerial teams and all the negotiators all good fortune in taking these forward successfully. I believe that many of these things will go down to the wire, and our teams should play tough. They should stick with the game, and we need their success.

It is also worth highlighting the opportunities from the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is an important accession opportunity rather than an FTA. Even though there is some overlap, we should not forget the importance of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. TPP is not a complete substitute for continuing ​to grow our business with ASEAN in terms both of exports and bilateral investment. The way in which investment from the Philippines, to pick one small example, has turned around the fortunes of the Glaswegian Scottish whisky blender Whyte and Mackay is a strong case in point when it comes to the advantages of inward investment.

May I encourage the Secretary of State, the Minister who in his place and their teams to focus strongly, as we go forward, on the Continent of Asia both for greater market access through economic dialogues, as well as on FTAs and the TPP, recognising that most of its agricultural commodities and handicrafts are completely complementary to rather than competitive with our own output. Our services, for example those providing health insurance for millions across south-east Asia, are hugely beneficial for those countries as well as for our businesses. Ultimately, that is why this Bill is so important: it is an opportunity not only for us but for our trading partners, and we are right to strongly make the case as to why free trade does matter across the world.