International trade secretary Liz Truss has hailed the UK’s deals with Australia and Japan for setting high environmental standards and supporting the UK in its bid to reach net-zero carbon emissions targets.
Speaking to the International Trade Committee today (7 July), she said that “climate issues should be handled on a multilateral basis” via bodies like the World Trade Organization (WTO), but that bilateral deals, like the one it has secured with Australia, are “the next best thing”.
While saying that trade deals allow the UK to work with like-minded partners to achieve its wider goals, Truss also argued that the WTO “needs massive reform” to become the body through which global goals – including reaching net zero – are achieved.
Outcomes-based trade deals
Truss was asked by former trade minister Mark Garnier about whether the UK should pursue “outcomes-based trade deals” – agreements which support British values around issues such as the environment and human rights.
Truss said that the Department for International Trade, which she leads, works closely with the foreign office to consider the impact of UK trade policy on other issues, but called the department the “lead commercial office”.
She did say that “trade policy does have to reflect our values” and that “values-free globalisation does not work” when pressed on whether human rights abuses, such as those reported in the Xinjiang region in China, could impact UK trade decisions.
She said that certain policies the DIT could adopt – such as imposing trade embargoes – would not be the best approach to tackling such issues.
“Trade embargoes can hurt the poorest people in any given country rather than punishing those making the human rights violations,” she said.
When asked about the UK’s upcoming trade deal with Australia, Truss reiterated that there will be a long transition period of 15 years before tariffs are reduced and removed across all agricultural imports such as beef and lamb.
She also said that parliament will have at least three months to scrutinise the full legal text of the agreement.
She added that a definitive date could not be given for when the text will be published but the core of the agreement is already complete.
Truss’ appearance coincided with prime minister Boris Johnson’s appearance before the Liaison Committee.
Like Truss, Johnson spoke of the “huge opportunity” for the UK to lead in “low carbon jobs and growth”, the BBC has reported.
He also said there are "huge investments going on" to meet his target of the UK becoming "the Saudi Arabia of wind".