Dominic Raab: UK trade talks with poor human rights record countries
UK will hold trade talks with countries that have poor record on human rights, says Dominic Raab
- Raab warned ready to strike deals with countries not meeting Western standards
- Will say Britain show cement is role as ‘force for good in the world’ this decade
- Comes as PM claims Britain would use trade policy to drive up global standards
Britain is ready to strike trade deals with countries that fail to meet Western standards on human rights, Dominic Raab has warned.
In a speech today, the Foreign Secretary will say Britain should aim to cement its role as a ‘force for good in the world’ over the coming decade.
But in a question-and-answer session with officials, he suggested ministers were willing to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in pursuit of trade.
In a video of the session leaked to the HuffPost website, Mr Raab warned that limiting deals to countries whose standards were compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) would result in the UK missing out on economic opportunities.
Britain is ready to strike trade deals with countries that fail to meet Western standards on human rights, Dominic Raab (pictured) has warned
‘I squarely believe we ought to be trading liberally around the world,’ he said. ‘If we restrict it to countries with ECHR-level standards of human rights, we’re not going to do many trade deals with the growth markets of the future.’
The Foreign Secretary’s private words highlight a reality faced by successive governments when dealing with repressive regimes.
Campaigners have called for an end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia for years because of its human rights record.
But successive governments have argued Saudi is a key strategic partner – and that lucrative defence contracts protect British jobs at home.
However, Mr Raab’s comments appeared to be at odds with Boris Johnson’s claim in the Commons yesterday that Britain would use trade policy to help drive up global standards on things such as human rights.
The Prime Minister told MPs: ‘Our newly independent trade policy will be an instrument for ensuring that the rules and standards in future trade agreements reflect our values.’
Mr Raab’s comments appeared to be at odds with Boris Johnson’s claim in the Commons yesterday that Britain would use trade policy to help drive up global standards on things such as human rights
Mr Johnson said Britain would seek closer economic ties with China, where he said trade was already worth more than £80 billion a year. But he played down the prospect of a full-blown trade deal.
The Foreign Office last night said Mr Raab’s comments had been ‘selectively’ leaked in order to ‘distort’ his views.
A spokesman said he had made it ‘crystal clear in his full answer that the UK always stands up for and speaks out on human rights’.
A source at the department said Mr Raab had gone on to confirm that some countries would be considered ‘beyond the pale’ because of their human rights records.
In his speech today, Mr Raab will warn that democracy is ‘in retreat’ around the world, and he will urge like-minded countries to work together to promote Western values.
‘Stable, freedom-respecting democracies are much less likely to go to war, house terrorists or trigger large scale flows of migrants,’ he will say.
‘And they are generally, not always, but generally easier to trade with, and easier to cooperate with to solve our shared problems.’
A Whitehall source last night said applying ECHR standards strictly to trade would mean ending links with the United States, Britain’s biggest trade partner, because of its use of the death penalty.
‘That does not mean we are turning a blind eye to human rights issues – quite the opposite,’ the source said.
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