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Government agrees to consider a range of options for trade arrangements

3 May 2019

In its response to the International Trade Committee's wide-ranging report on trade with developing countries, the Government makes some encouraging commitments to consider changing the arrangements that currently cover trade between the UK and developing countries, but provides no information about the time frame for doing so.

The Government response addresses the recommendations set out in the International Trade Committee's report on Trade and the Commonwealth: developing countries, published in November 2018.

The Committee's report emphasised the critical role of trade policy in supporting development, and made a number of recommendations  in relation to the future of the current trading arrangements between the UK and developing countries – both in terms of unilateral preferences granted to developing countries, and the reciprocal Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).

In responding to the report, the Government states that it agrees with the Committee's recommendation to consider a range of options for the future unilateral preferences it grants developing countries, but fails to set a specific time limit for doing so, as called for by the Committee.

In relation to EPAs, the Government says that in the future, it “will look to review implementation and see how we can improve on the EPAs”. Again, it does not set a specific time frame for doing so.

The Committee's report also made recommendations covering the need for collaboration between the Department for International Trade (DIT) and the Department for International Development (DfID), the relationship between trade and gender, and the role of the Commonwealth.

In response, the Government sets out the existing co-ordination between DfID and DIT, and highlights the commitments made in relation to the impact assessments that will be carried out for all new trade agreements.

In relation to the Committee's recommendation calling on the Government to publish an analysis of its understanding of the relationship between trade and gender, the Government does not commit to doing this, but agrees with the Committee's recommendation that it should evaluate the effectiveness of trade and gender chapters in existing free trade agreements.

Chair's comments

Commenting on the Government response, Chair of the Committee Angus Brendan MacNeil MP said:

“The Government needs a crystal-clear plan for navigating its trading relationship with developing countries in order to achieve sustainable development. My Committee made a number of important recommendations in its report on this issue, and it is encouraging to see that in many cases, the Government is supportive. However, the vagueness of some of the responses doesn't match the ambition needed to drive forward a trade policy that is fully aligned with development goals. The Government needs to commit to specifics – including timeframes that it can be held accountable to. Getting this right is important, not just for the UK but for the developing countries who rely on trade with us to support their development.”

Further information

Image: CCo