Friday, 16 Apr 2021

The big one! Brexit superwoman Truss ready to strongarm China into deal worth £8bn a year

Brexit: Liz Truss says the UK is 'back at the table'

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Ms Truss, who has already sewn up deals worth more than £200billion with third countries around the world since Britain quit the bloc, was asked about the prospect of striking an agreement with Beijing during a webinar organised by the Conservative Home website this week. And she indicated that while an agreement was possible, Britain and the West would not overlook the plight of the Uighurs in the west of the country, or draconian new laws in Hong Kong.

Ms Truss, the Tory MP for South West Norfolk, said: “Of course we’ve got to trade with China.

“Of course, also a lot of our allies, whether it’s the United States, the EU, Japan, all trade with China.

“And there are plenty of areas that are not strategic where we need to increase our trade with China and vice versa.

“However, we have made the move on our 5G network to avoid high risk vendors, and we do need to make sure that we’re challenging China’s behaviour at the World Trade Organisation.”

She added: “There’s also the issue of forced technology transfer. There’s also the issue of IP violations.

“And those are issues where Britain should not be acting alone.

“We should be working with allies, including the EU, including the United States, including the CPTPP nations to shape the global rules.

We are clear-eyed about China, but of course we have to trade with China

Liz Truss

“So we are clear-eyed about China, but of course we have to trade with China and we have to work with our allies to help ensure that China is abiding by the global trade rules.”

Conservative Home editor Paul Goodman asked Mrs Truss about attempts by the House of Lords to insert an amendment into the Trade Bill passed this year forcing the Government to withdraw from any free trade agreement with any country which the High Court rules is committing genocide.

She replied: “It is fundamentally a foreign policy issue.

“The issue though is the way that the amendment has been framed does muddy the constitutional waters in terms of what’s a political decision and what’s the court decision.

“So of course, we have all what has been going on in Xinjiang and we’ve taken strong action against it.

“The issue is the role of Parliament versus the role of the court, so we put forward an amendment which is about giving Parliament greater powers to scrutinise and look at the issue of genocide rather than handing the role to the UK courts.”

Speaking to Express.co.uk about the prospect of a UK/China deal, Julian Jessop, an Economics Fellow at the Institute for Economic Affairs, told Express.co.uk: “It’s almost impossible to say. But in 2019 total UK trade with China (exports and imports) was worth about £80billion.

“A good trade deal should both increase the volume of exports and reduce the price of imports.

“If these two benefits together are worth even as little as 10 percent of current trade, that would be a gain of £8 billion a year.

“This benefit will grow over time as China becomes an even more important trading partner.

“There could be other gains too, for example, better cooperation in areas like cross-border investment and data protection.”

China’s February exports grew at a record pace compared with a year earlier, when COVID-19 battered the world’s second-biggest economy, customs data showed on Sunday, while imports rose less sharply.

Exports in dollar terms skyrocketed 154.9 percent in February compared with a year earlier, while imports gained 17.3 percent, the most since October 2018. The data did not include figures for January alone.

In the January-February period, exports jumped 60.6 percent from a year earlier, when lockdowns to contain the pandemic paralysed the country’s economic activity.

That exceeded the forecast of analysts in a Reuters poll for a 38.9 percent surge.

Strong exports, which benefited from China’s success in largely containing the public health crisis, have helped fuel the country’s recovery from a pandemic-induced paralysis.

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