Liam Fox: there’s no ‘secrecy’ on UK trade deals | Letters

The international trade secretary says the government is committed to developing future trade policy in a transparent way, while Mike Watkins asks why the media gave Boris Johnson’s Brexit speech so much coverage, but largely ignored John McDonnell’s on nationalising public service provision

George Monbiot’s article (Resist a US trade deal. Your life may depend on it, 14 February) makes a number of claims surrounding “secrecy” of UK trade deals, our negotiations capacity and our approach to standards. Unfortunately, those with an anti-globalisation and anti-trade agenda will be encouraged in their actions which can only damage developing countries and push up prices for ordinary families at home.

The government publishes clear guidelines on how we share information, which the UK-US trade working group strictly follows. However, it will not surprise readers that we also need to share information with other states confidentially, in order to ensure continuing close commercial and diplomatic relations. In addition, we have committed to developing our future trade policy in a transparent way and have invited views on the UK’s approach, including to future free trade agreements, and are continuing to consult and meet with a wide range of stakeholders. This work is ongoing.

Furthermore, while we are committed to a mutually beneficial economic trading arrangement with the US, we have been clear that the UK will maintain its own high animal welfare and environmental standards in future free trade agreements.

In terms of our ability to negotiate trade agreements, my department has the right expertise and resource in place, with a trade policy group of more than 450 staff, with more than 100 who have previously worked on or represented UK interests in bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements.
Liam Fox
International trade secretary

• John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, gives a seminal speech on a policy of nationalising public service provision that, if the Labour party wins the next election, will overturn nearly 40 years of privatisation of these services. It receives underwhelming coverage on the BBC, aside from an overbearing interview with McDonnell by Nick Robinson on Today, and little better in the Guardian.

In contrast, Boris Johnson’s much-trailed speech on the benefits of Brexit, which the Guardian’s editorial (15 February) describes as “rich in rhetorical flourish and almost empty of detail”, has received mass coverage on all media platforms. I’m bemused. I can only explain the stark contrast in treatment of these stories by the media’s love of a personality (Boris) story and its dislike of a boring policy story.

Given a choice, I would prefer more in-depth coverage of policies.
Mike Watkins
Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire

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