Wednesday 21 July 2021 / 1:19 PM Emily Thornberry

Truss ‘Green Trade’ Report an abdication of global leadership, says Labour

Truss ‘Green Trade’ Report an abdication of global leadership, says Labour


Responding to the publication of ‘Green Trade’ by the Government’s Board of Trade, chaired by Liz Truss, Labour’s Shadow International Trade Secretary, Emily Thornberry, said:


“This 52-page report from the Board of Trade contains 7 pages of pictures, and just 2 of recommendations. On some of the most important current issues relating to trade and the environment – imported carbon, carbon border taxes, due diligence, and investor state dispute settlement – the report seeks either to shut down debate, or ignore the issues entirely.


“At any time, a report as thin, weak and full of holes as this one would look shockingly inadequate and complacent in the face of the climate crisis. But it is almost 100 days until the COP summit will begin in Glasgow, and if the Government thinks a report like this amounts to global leadership on climate change, then we risk wasting this crucial opportunity before it has even started.”


Labour has highlighted ten areas where the Board of Trade fails the test of global climate leadership:


  1. No mention of ISDS: World leaders from Joe Biden to Jacinda Ardern have warned of the constraints that Investor State Dispute clauses in trade agreements can place on the ability of countries to take effective action to reach net zero, yet the issue goes entirely ignored in the Board’s report.


  1. No alarm over Imported Carbon: The report barely mentions the carbon emissions produced overseas to service our country’s need for imported goods, despite the fact that the UK has the highest carbon emissions per capita resulting from imports among the G7 countries.


  1. No urgency on Carbon Leakage: The report says there is ‘limited evidence’ of corporations moving production overseas to avoid the measures being taken in countries like the UK to reach net zero, that it is ‘mainly a forward-looking risk’, and that any solution to the issue ‘will take time’.


  1. No debate on Carbon Border Tax: The most pressing debate in current environmental trade policy – proposed carbon border taxes to tackle offshoring and leakage – is given one passing mention in the entire report, despite the EU just announcing their plans and the US actively considering theirs.


  1. No discussion on Due Diligence: The report notes the UK’s participation in international fora on deforestation, but avoids any discussion of the ‘due diligence’ law before Parliament, whether about the merits of requiring companies to police their supply chains, or the flaws in that particular law.


  1. No rules and no enforcement: Instead of new laws, the report repeatedly advocates reliance on market forces and voluntary actions by companies to deal with the climate crisis, even on the adoption of international product standards for goods with significant environmental impacts.


  1. No action on Food Emissions: The report dismisses the concept of ‘food miles’, and publishes a chart showing that beef production in Australia, the US, Canada and Brazil all cause more emissions than the UK, with no reference to the UK’s proposed deals eliminating tariffs on their beef exports.


  1. No delivery on Free Trade Agreements: The report talks of the importance of agreeing ‘best in class’ FTAs to promote environmental goals, but cannot point to a single example of what it means among the UK’s deals since 2019 with 67 countries, with the EU, and now with Australia.


  1. No action on Green Technology: Again, the report discusses using FTAs to increase trade in green goods and technology, despite the fact that none of the UK’s dozens of trade agreements since 2019 have delivered any specific improvements in this area whatsoever.


  1. No comment on ACCTS: The report mentions the New Zealand-led Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability (ACCTS), which is working to break down barriers to green trade, but offers no view on the calls from Labour and others for the UK to join the agreement.