Carmichael continues to raise UK-Australia trade deal in Parliament

Alistair Carmichael has again questioned the government over the lack of proper scrutiny over the proposed trade deal between the UK and Australia.

Mr Carmichael highlighted that despite past commitments the government will not allow any parliamentary debate or vote on the trade deal with Australia before it is ratified.

Orkney and Shetland MP asked what assessment the department has made of the adequacy of scrutiny mechanisms for future UK free trade agreements.

The Secretary of State for International Trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP said: “The Government are committed to effective scrutiny of trade agreements. We have put in place enhanced transparency and scrutiny arrangements for every stage of FTA negotiations.

“That includes publishing our objectives prior to talks, providing additional time for scrutiny at the end of the process and putting in place the independent Trade and Agriculture Commission to report on new agreements. We are delivering on those agreements.

“The Australia FTA has been available for scrutiny for seven months, enabling three Select Committees to take evidence and to report on the agreement prior to ratification.”

Mr Carmichael responded: “We all know what Government undertakings in relation to trade agreements are worth, and it is not an awful lot.

“If the Secretary of State does not believe me, she can ask the farmers and crofters in my constituency. Is the breach of the undertaking on the trade agreement with Australia to be a one-off, or is it the start of a course of conduct?”

The Secretary of State replied: “There is no breach of any situation such as the right hon. Member suggests. We want to make sure that as we go through the process—there will be enabling legislation for the Australia and New Zealand trade deals in the autumn—there will be an opportunity for colleagues who wish to raise issues.

“We know that this process is effective. I talk to fellow Trade Ministers around the world who work with us and it is interesting that they consider our process to be very robust and very inclusive, both at a parliamentary level and with the business community.”

Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said: “The simple fact is that this is the final day before the parliamentary recess, and as a result of government actions the UK-Australia trade deal will be ratified without any parliamentary vote or specific debate.

“That is another broken promise by this government and sets a disturbing precedent for future trade agreements. Farmers, crofters and other food producers facing new trade arrangements that risk weakening their position deserve a proper debate here in Parliament.”


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