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Government should publish trade policy framework, says Lords committee

Thursday 23 March 2023

The House of Lords International Agreements Committee is calling on the Government to publish a trade policy framework, with clear priorities and objectives for trade negotiations.

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Business and Trade, published today, the committee says that as well as setting expectations for negotiations, a framework would help the Government by showing that moving away from its core principles could jeopardise ratification by Parliament. The committee notes that such an approach is used by other countries and clearly strengthens their hand.

The committee heard from businesses, trade associations, NGOs, unions, academics and other experts, who all believed a published trade policy framework would improve the quality of consultation and help them get involved with the process.

The letter outlines what the published trade framework should include, such as: criteria for pursuing negotiations, the role of wider foreign and domestic policy goals, aims for services agreements, and balancing consumer and producer interests.

The full letter is available to read on the committee’s website.

Baroness Hayter, Chair of the International Agreements Committee said:

“A trade policy framework should be a key priority for the new Business and Trade department. We heard clearly in our consultation that a framework would be a great help: both to the Government in strengthening in its negotiating hand, and to businesses, trade specialists and members of the public who want to engage with negotiations.

"The Government has expressed concern that publishing a framework might reveal too much information. We understand this view, which is why we propose that the document should focus on core principles and objectives, rather than possible trade-offs or red lines. We have seen international examples of such frameworks in use, including in the US and New Zealand, and we can see they work well.

“Not all agreements will necessarily be able to cover all trade policy objectives, and negotiators should retain some flexibility.

“The committee welcomes the Department’s willingness to engage with us on individual agreements and would like to build on this in considering a wider framework.”

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