Dominic Raab: Trade deals are more important than human rights  8 months ago

Dominic Raab: Trade deals are more important than human rights 

The foreign secretary said not trading with countries abusing human rights would threaten 'growth markets' 

In a leaked phone call unearthed by the Huffington Post, foreign secretary Dominic Raab suggests trade deals are more important to the UK than human rights abuses.

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Raab told Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) officials: “I squarely believe we ought to be trading liberally around the world. 

“If we restrict it to countries with ECHR-level [European Convention on Human Rights] on human rights, we’re not going to do many trade deals with the growth markets of the future.”

However, these words come in stark contrast to what Raab was saying less than a month ago - when he urged the United Nations (UN) to respond to China’s human rights violations against Uighur Muslims.

“No one can ignore the evidence anymore,” he told the UN. 

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“The reported abuses - which include torture, forced labour, and forced sterilisation of women - are extreme and they are extensive. 

“They are taking place on an industrial scale. 

“It must be our collective duty to ensure this does not go unanswered.”

And, in January, Raab said the UK would fine businesses that hide Chinese imports from Uighur labour.

Shadow foreign secretary, Lisa Nandy, has lambasted Raab’s comments.

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"Today the prime minister stood up in parliament and lauded the UK’s commitment to defending human rights around the world.

“This afternoon, the foreign secretary is sending a very clear message to countries engaged in appalling human rights abuses that this government welcomes them with open arms," she said.

“It is the latest example of a government entirely devoid of a moral compass and riddled with inconsistency, happy to say one thing and another behind closed doors.”

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And it's not just the opposition this leaked phone call is likely to anger.

Senior Tory backbenchers, such as Sir Iain Duncan Smith, have been highly critical of China's human rights abuses - and many rebelled on legislation in January that would create closer trade ties with China, almost defeating the bill.

“Uighurs are victims of alleged genocide and have been denied justice for many years,” Duncan Smith told parliament in January.

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He added, should courts find China guilty of genocide: “Why would we be doing a trade deal with a country that is guilty of genocide?”

The leaked phone call comes after prime minster Boris Johnson addressed MPs in parliament today, where he said he wanted to build "a stronger and positive economic relationship" with China.

He claimed the UK would take "tough measures" to "call out" China's treatment of Uighur Muslims, and that "companies that profit from enforced labour will not be allowed to do so in this country."

"Those who call for a new Cold War on China, or for us to sequester our economy entirely from China - which seems to be the new policy of the opposition, weaving as they generally do from one position to the next - are, I think, mistaken," he told the Commons.

"We have a balance to strike; we need to have a clear-eyed relationship with China."