HC Deb 18 July 2001 vol 372 cc256-7W
Mr. George Howarth

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what criteria he uses in balancing trade relations with the human rights records of trading partners; and if he will make a statement. [2102]

Peter Hain

The Government are committed to developing and maintaining open relationships with trading partners across the world, in order both to support British business and to promote human rights internationally. We continue to believe that human rights in countries with which we trade are better protected by a UK and EU-wide policy of engagement in all but the most extreme circumstances. Maintaining trade agreements, and a full political dialogue, preserves UK leverage in such countries.

The Government raise the profile of human rights in relation to trade in a number of ways. Examples include the introduction of the Export Credits Guarantee Department's (ECGD) Business Principles under which ECGD now screens applications for support to assess the environmental and social impact of projects and, more generally, the promotion of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises to UK companies operating overseas.

Our advice to UK business on market conditions overseas also reflects the Government's position on human rights, for example on the desirability of trade with certain countries. It is however for UK companies to judge whether to bid for projects or invest in particular markets.

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