MPs claim UK's 'top down' approach to trade negotiations ignores voices of SMEs and workers

Thu 28 Apr 2022
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

uk parliament

Workers and small businesses have not had enough input into the government’s negotiating stances in trade talks with the US, MPs on the trade select committee have said.

MPs accused international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan of a “top-down” approach that excluded a range of voices and could risk signing deals harmful to domestic industries.

Representation

Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown, said Trevelyan should follow the US and the EU and include equal numbers of businesses and unions on advisory committees.

He made the point after it was revealed that the government had included unions on only six out of the 21 of these committees, the Guardian reports.

Worker rights

SMEs are also shut out, said Shevaun Haviland, the head of the British Chambers of Commerce, who has yet to be appointed to an advisory group, reports Business Matters.

This week’s exploratory talks with the US included a focus on worker rights, but critics have claimed the UK has not engaged with the issue, which is a key concern of the Biden administration.

Australian deal

The international trade committee has also criticised Trevelyan for failing to commit to allowing MPs’ sufficient time to examine the Australia trade agreement.

Angus Brendan MacNeil, chair of the committee, said: “If the trade deal with Australia is as good as the government claims, there is no reason to run scared of scrutiny. This agreement will have impacts across the UK, yet the government wants to ride roughshod over parliament, forcing its own timeline on us and stifling any analysis, criticism or debate. We’re only asking for an extra 15 days.”

The Lords international agreements committee has also previously complained that the government is treating its approval like a rubber stamp, with little opportunity for scrutiny, Politico reports.

Opening doors

Speaking at finance event City Week yesterday, Trevelyan said that since Brexit the UK’s independent trade policy was allowing it to work on “a series of advanced, high-standard agreements with leading nations across the world”.

“There is a global appetite for UK services, for FinTech, and for finance. And our trade agreements are opening doors in data, digital, and services,” she added.