Liz Truss shuts down host over UK-Australia trade deal
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The Trades Union Congress, National Farmers Union, as well as the International, British and Scottish Chambers of Commerce, are among 11 organisations that have teamed up and written to the International Trade Secretary. The groups are demanding nine key objectives be met by the UK Government when negotiating trade deals around the world.
In a framework published today, they state any agreements brokered by Ms Truss must “build on and advance UK standards, including for consumers and workers”.
The document also says trade deals must “promote sustainable investment and finance” as well as “support the building of skills, productive capacity and good jobs in developing countries”.
A push for the Government to commit to environmental targets is also in the framework.
Signatories of the letter to the Cabinet minister are pushing for the objectives to be formally written down as red lines in negotiations.
Ministers have so far rejected demands from Labour and campaigners for codified targets to be written into law.
Labour attempted to add an amendment to the Trade Bill earlier this year that would have specifically excluded the NHS from being a part of any future agreements.
Tory MPs voted down the suggestion saying the amendment was unnecessary.
Ms Truss has repeatedly committed to upholding workers rights and standards for goods in trade talks.
She said last October: “This government has been clear it will not sign a trade deal that will compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards, and claims to the contrary are unhelpful scaremongering.
“We are a world leader in these areas and that will not change.”
Urging the Government to back the new “UK Trade for All” framework, Chris Southworth, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce, said adopting the objectives would help with the pandemic recovery.
“Trade can and should be a net contributor to building back better,” he said.
“We are publishing a UK Trade for All framework with a coalition of organisations from business, consumers, unions, civil society and academics.
“It’s a tool to help the Department for International Trade design a trade strategy that works for everyone.”
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He added the framework would help “improve the international trading environment, raise standards, create jobs, and tackle climate change”.
The intervention comes amid growing concern amongst some groups about the terms of the UK-Australia trade deal expected to be announced later this month.
Ms Truss held face-to-face talks with her Australian counterpart in May where they announced a breakthrough in discussions meant a deal was likely to be agreed at the G7 in Cornwall next weekend.
But farmers have argued they fear the deal will lead to cheaper imports of lower quality meat, undercutting British farmers.
There are also concerns among campaigners the finalised deal may include a disputes mechanism that will allow Australian companies to sue the Government if they believe new laws harm their business.
Ms Truss has brushed off criticisms and hailed the anticipated deal as a win for Brexit Britain.
She said last month: “This is a deal that will deliver for Britain and all parts of our economy.
“It is a win-win for both nations. It is a fundamentally liberalising agreement that will support jobs across the country and help us emerge stronger from the pandemic, strengthening ties between two democracies who share a fierce belief in freedom, enterprise and fair play.”
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