The UK will not consider India and China’s failure to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in pursuing post-Brexit trade deals with those countries, the International Trade Secretary has said.
Quizzed about whether India’s neutrality over the conflict has become a negotiating issue in trade talks, Anne-Marie Trevelyan told MPs: “Trade deals aren’t the tool for, sort of, if you like, the broader diplomatic agreement discussion.
“Those continuing discussions around areas of policy difference, whatever they might be, will continue, but all we will continue to do is to encourage everybody to think about how their relationship either with Russia or indeed with Ukraine can be enhanced or reduced in order to bring this war to an end as quickly as we can”.
She said negotiations with India are in “relatively early stages”, and that representatives from the Department for International Trade are in the country this week.
“They have a very clear mandate to continue discussing the broad range of trade issues that we want to see in a trade deal with India,” Ms Trevelyan told the International Trade Committee.
Boris Johnson told negotiators to get a free trade agreement done by Diwali, in October, as he celebrated a “massive push” during a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi last week.
Ms Trevelyan called the date a “good political anchor” but did not promise her team would achieve it.
She said: “We’ll hope to do so but if we come across bumps in the road we’ll deal with them accordingly”.
Ms Trevelyan also defended her department’s discussions about holding a meeting of the UK-China joint economic and trade committee despite Beijing’s neutrality over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the oppression of country’s Uighur minority, pointing to the already-existing £100 billion in UK-China trade.
“We are in discussions to try and find a date to do that but we haven’t got one yet,” she said, blaming the delay on ongoing pandemic restrictions in China.
The Trade Secretary also downplayed the prospect of a food crisis as a result of the Ukraine war.
While acknowledging some price rises and market disruption, she said UK food supplies “remain very secure because we have got a very diverse supply of imports from around the world and quite a lot of domestic resilience as well”.