The UK’s future trade deals must aim to reduce dependency on human-rights-abusing states, a Catholic peer has said.
Speaking during the debate on the Trade Bill in the House of Lords, Lord David Alton of Liverpool brought up the issue of national resilience and the UK’s human rights obligations in future trade deals, warning that the UK must not allow its economic dependency to be weaponised to prevent it from speaking out and acting against abuses of human rights.
Citing the Henry Jackson Society report Breaking the China Supply Chain, he pointed out that in 229 separate categories of goods, the UK is strategically dependent upon China for its supplies.
He noted that 57 of these categories involve critical national infrastructure, including computers, technology, telephones, antibiotics, painkillers such as aspirin, anti-viral medicines, PPE and industrial chemicals.
Lord Alton said the report “recommends that we conduct a national review of the industries dependent on China; make reducing dependency on China – and, indeed, other human-rights-abusing states – an aim of new trade deals; and campaign for the withdrawal of China’s ‘developing nation’ status at the WTO”.
“We must move the UK away from a position in which its economic dependency can be weaponised to discourage the UK from championing human rights or the rules-based order,” he added.
Lord Alton pointed out that the UK enacted the Modern Slavery Act back in 2015 but in recent months reports have suggested that many UK-based and UK trading brands are benefiting from the forced labour of Uighur Muslim communities in China.
Picture: Business secretary Liz Truss is pictured as she attended a virtual signing off of a trade with Japan last week. (Andrew Parsons/No 10 Downing Street/Handout via Xinhua/PA).