UK-Israel trade agreement: letter from the Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise

A letter to the UK Minister for Trade Policy, Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP from the Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, Ivan McKee MSP.

Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP
Minister of State for Trade Policy
Department for International Trade
Old Admiralty Building
Admiralty Place

25 July 2022

Dear Penny

Launch of UK-Isreal Free Trade Agreement negotiations

Thank you for your letter of 20 July announcing the launch of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with Israel.

The Scottish Government welcomes opportunities for Scottish businesses and our economy to grow, in particular in trade in services, where the coverage of the existing trade agreement with Israel is limited. However, we must be sure that any new agreement is in the best interests of Scotland and consistent with the principles in Scotland’s Vision for Trade. I wrote to you recently setting out in detail Scotland’s interests in this FTA.

The scoping analysis that you have now published does not give any detail on the likely economic impact of this deal on Scotland. However, any benefits from increased trade will not make up for the loss in trade as a result of Brexit. Given that your own modelling shows the recent deals with Australia and New Zealand are likely to have a detrimental impact on the agriculture and semi-processed food sectors, it is important to see the impact of all proposed FTAs on Scotland and our economy in advance of negotiations.

I have called on the UK Government to ensure that current and future trading partners comply with their human rights and international law obligations. We have specific concerns in relation to the human rights record and ongoing conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs). In particular, we are concerned about reported labour rights violations of Palestinian and migrant workers under Israeli working practices.

It is vital that you ensure that that goods and services sourced from illegal settlements in the OPTs are excluded from this agreement in a way that can be reliably enforced. It is also important that any expansion of trade in architectural and construction services within Israel does not lead to involvement in the punitive demolition and destruction of Palestinian public and private property in the OPTs, which is a violation of international law.

It is disappointing that you have not undertaken a human rights impact assessment in advance of negotiations, as we have consistently called for, but urge you to fully consider these important issues and use the trade negotiations to progress human rights objectives.

I would also welcome further information on what plans you may have to similarly develop the current trade agreement with the Palestinian Authority of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

As you know, I have repeatedly made the case for a full role for the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament in the development of trade agreements. I welcome the engagement that has taken place so far but will continue to press for the Scottish Government to be fully involved in these negotiations to ensure they achieve the best outcome for Scotland and promote human rights.

Ivan Mckee

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