|Alun Davies AM|
|David Melding AM|
|David Rees AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Huw Irranca-Davies AM|
|Mandy Jones AM|
|Dr Elin Royles||Prifysgol Aberystwyth|
|Dr Kirsty Hughes||Canolfan yr Alban ar Gysylltiadau Ewropeaidd|
|Scottish Centre on European Relations|
|Dr Rachel Minto||Prifysgol Caerdydd|
|His Excellency Markku Keinänen||Llysgennad y Ffindir i'r Deyrnas Unedig|
|Ambassador of Finland to the United Kingdom|
|Minttu Tajaamo||Llysgenhadaeth y Ffindir|
|Embassy of Finland|
|Susie Ventris-Field||Canolfan Materion Rhyngwladol Cymru|
|Welsh Centre for International Affairs|
|Aled Evans||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Claire Fiddes||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Rhys Morgan||Ail Glerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Llywyddiaeth y Ffindir ar Gyngor yr UE||2. The Finnish Presidency of the EU Council|
|3. Grŵp trafod gydag academyddion ar strategaeth ryngwladol ddrafft Llywodraeth Cymru||3. Round-table discussion with academics on the Welsh Government's draft international strategy|
|4. Papurau i’w nodi||4. Papers to note|
|5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod||5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) and (ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 13:34.
The meeting began at 13:34.
Good afternoon. Can I welcome Members and the public to this afternoon's meeting of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee? Before we go into our business of the afternoon, can I remind Members that, if you wish to have bilingual translation from Welsh to English, that's available on the headsets via channel 1. If you require amplification, then that's available on the headset via channel 0. Please turn your mobile phones and other electronic equipment that may interfere with broadcasting equipment off. That reminds me to do mine. There is no scheduled fire alarm today, so, if one does take place, please follow the direction of the ushers to a safe location. Do any Members wish to declare an interest at this point in time? There are none. We've received apologies from Delyth Jewell, who's actually attending a plenary meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, and we have not been given any details of any substitution today.
I move on to the item of business today. The first item is an evidence session with the ambassador of Finland to the United Kingdom. Can I welcome His Excellency to the meeting? For the record, would you like to introduce yourself and your associate, please?
Yes, thank you, Chair. Prynhawn da. My name is Markku Keinänen and I am the Finnish ambassador. I started in June. At my side I have Minttu Tajaamo, my special adviser from our embassy in London.
Thank you for that. Would you like to give an introduction to some of the issues that you see as important over your term of presidency of the EU, and the time since you've been in the UK?
Yes, thank you, Chair. I'm happy to do it, but let me first congratulate you on a very important rugby match yesterday and Ross Moriarty's try. You are now only 80 minutes away from the final.
This is actually Finland's third EU presidency. After we joined the European Union in 1995 we had our first EU presidency in 1999 and the second one in 2006. Actually, last week we passed the twenty-fifth anniversary of our EU accession referendum. At that time, EU accession was supported by 57 per cent of our population. I could perhaps mention that, after this long Brexit discussion, the EU approval rating in Finland is at an all-time high. Now, over 79 per cent of Finns identify themselves as EU citizens and 56 per cent have a positive attitude towards the European Union, negative 13 per cent, and nearly 30 per cent are neutral.
But the underlining principle of our EU presidency is that the EU agenda makes the presidency, not the other way around. Our focus is on the EU agenda, not on the national one. We represent all 28—soon 27—EU member states. Chair, we are living in a vibrant time, despite the institutional transition phase. A new EU Parliament has started its work and the new Commission and the new President and the new higher representatives will start their functions soon. The EU agenda is heavy. We have important work in integrating the priorities of the EU's new strategic agenda in the Council's work, and there are many complicated issues to be discussed, such as the next multi-annual financial framework, the MFF, the rule of law, and migration, as well as the Brexit situation, which is still creating certain uncertainties. But, in spite of the challenges, I can assure you that this is a cool-headed, pragmatic EU presidency. Our difficult history has taught us these virtues. This is an open and transparent EU presidency, solution-driven and following the rules. We will be honest brokers—no more, no less.
Our presidency slogan is 'Sustainable Europe, Sustainable Future'. We have in our thinking focus on two themes, in which the citizens expect results and where further efforts are needed at an EU level, where the EU can bring us all real added value. Keeping this starting point in mind, our four main themes and goals, which are of utmost importance to us, are the following. Our first goal is to strengthen the EU's position as a global leader in climate action. The second one is to strengthen our common values and the rule of law, and the third one is to make the EU more competitive and socially inclusive, and the fourth one is to protect the security of our citizens comprehensively—so, climate, rule of law, competitiveness and security.
Very briefly on each of them, on climate, this is a key priority for us. We focus especially on achieving results on the EU's long-term strategy. As the presidency, we have a key role in facilitating discussions towards a strong EU long-term climate strategy, especially agreement on the 2050 net zero emissions target. In our view, the EU's climate policy should be updated, it should be more ambitious, in line with limiting climate warming to 1.5 degrees C. That is why we need to agree on the 2050 carbon neutrality target and raise the 2030 emission reduction target to at least 55 per cent. We have taken this issue up with all council formations, finance Ministers included.
Secondly, on the values and the rule of law, our common value base is that the European Union is our strength and it has to be preserved. The European Union is a union of values. We strongly feel that the European success story is anchored in democratic institutions, human rights and the rule of law. We have been looking for more efficient ways to identify and prevent potential problems early on. They include systemic dialogue between the member states and linkages to the EU budget, and this is the new thing. The aim of the Finnish presidency is to make the rule of law toolbox of the union stronger, and one of the central elements in this future toolbox is the MFF rule of law proposal.
The third objective, a competitive and socially-inclusive union—fostering sustainable growth is of great importance to us. This is also a key issue for our citizens. They have expectations that the economy will produce well-being. Key elements in this are (a) a deeper single market, (b) ambitious, open and rules-based free trade, (c) well-being and skills as a foundation of inclusive growth, and (d) inclusive economic union. To enable the European economy to continue on its growth path, we need a more integrated approach, connecting the single market, industrial policy and the digital economy. In our thinking, more weight should also be placed on the social dimension and special focus on youth employment and on inclusion among young people. We cannot afford to lose a generation.
In a time of global trade tensions and increasing protectionism, trade policy will also remain high on our agenda. We need to defend the multilateral trading system and common rules, and remain open for international trade while seeking a level playing field for our companies. In the fight against protectionism and for an open, rules-based world order, I can see a clear field of co-operation with the UK in the future as well.
Finally, security—a strong, united and effective EU external action is essential in order to promote peace and stability. Finland has been highlighting the comprehensive approach to security and countering hybrid and cyber threats. The EU needs to strengthen its security and defence co-operation to protect its citizens. And, in external relations, Finland will support strongly the EU high representative in any way we can. My foreign ministry has highlighted two important regions: Africa and the Arctic. For Africa, we need a true partnership of equals. For the Arctic region, we aim to highlight issues relevant to the EU, such as connectivity, meteorological co-operation, pollution prevention and maritime safety. I would also like to highlight here that the unity of the European Union is more important than ever. By acting together and defending our common values, the EU can tackle the major challenges of our time. Unity makes us a stronger global player.
Finally, we try to practice what we preach. In all our presidency meetings, we are committed to sustainable meeting arrangements. We offset the carbon emissions cost by air travel to presidency meetings in Helsinki and Brussels instead of handing out traditional presidency gifts. In addition, we aim to develop the council's working methods. This means active communication, increased transparency, as well as making the best possible use of digital tools. We believe that a successful presidency can be arranged with a smaller carbon footprint. I came here by train. Increasing transparency is also important. The EU is not there somewhere; it is us here.
Thank you for your attention. Diolch yn fawr.
Thank you very much for that presentation, and the highlighting of the Finnish goals during its term of presidency. And I appreciate very much that it is—. In the UK, we have been focusing very much on Brexit, but clearly within the EU, there are other agendas going forward because you have to look forward beyond Brexit and how the EU will operate the priorities for that situation, which don't get mentioned over here in the UK because the press is not covering that; it's covering just the one single topic. And it's likely that during your presidency the EU will be shorter by one nation as we leave the EU. So, it's been a very challenging presidency, I'm sure, for Finland, and there's still two months to go for it. So, thank you very much for that situation.
There are some questions we'd like to ask, particularly on some of the goals, particularly perhaps related to the council last week and some other matters. So, we'll start with Huw, if that's okay with you. Huw.
Congratulations as well on your Welsh. That is excellent. You're putting us to shame here. You mentioned that this, of course, isn't the first of the Finnish presidencies. It's their third. I'm wondering have you reflected on how this compares to previous presidencies.
No, actually, I haven't thought about it. But, yes, I was in Brussels during our first presidency in 1999. And, at that time, the union was much smaller of course, and more coherent in a way. And, at that time, the integration waves were very high actually, and when Finland entered as a new member, it was really fascinating for us to go directly to this integration discussion, and we didn't have any difficulties with it. And it fitted us very well.
The first presidency was very interesting, because we brought in our way of doing things, so that I still feel very proud that we, actually, at that time, started to publish EU working groups' and ministerial councils' agendas. They were secret before.
During the second EU presidency, I was personally in charge of EU affairs in our foreign ministry, and, at that time, the view and the vision of Europe was not that clear, so that presidency was perhaps more toned-down in a way, so that it was more like bringing issues for a vote.
Now this third one perhaps is a more challenging one because we don't have that much discussion any more of the ultimate goals of the European Union, but it's more about keeping us united and trying to navigate these external and internal problems that we have nowadays inside the European Union. But we are very confident that we can find solutions to these challenges we are facing, including Brexit, and including climate change, and including new financial perspectives. There is now a sense of unity in a way, which can be felt very concretely. So much has happened that we try to concentrate now more on essentials, and leave other types of thoughts and disarray aside.
Thank you for that. It seems to me, at the moment, that one of the words that is consistently coming out of the European Union and its institutions is that word of 'deepening'—deepening economic ties, deepening the single market, deepening security and defence co-operation. I'm just wondering, from where we sit at the moment, as we watch Parliament discussing what we will do over Brexit, and so on, what does that deepening of the economic co-operation and the single market, the deepening of the defence and security co-operation with EU members mean for somebody like the UK, if we do exit the European Union? Is that the end of our co-operation, or will the European Union in a post-Brexit scenario be looking to the UK to say, 'We still want to work with you in terms of how we can synchronise the best for both of our economies, how we can work together collaboratively on defence and security'?
Surely—surely and absolutely. Britain doesn't disappear anywhere, nor Wales. So it means that we still share these common goals and values we have shared over 40 years. And I think that a competitive European Union is in the interests of the UK as well. And a prosperous United Kingdom is in the interests of the European Union. As regards then our global challenges—trade wars, protectionism, the rules-based world order, which is challenged—there, the European Union and the UK can work together, because we have exactly the same agenda. As regards defence issues, there again, the same thing, and Britain is really a global player in this field and with its capacities. It's in the interests of the UK to have close links with the European Union, and the other way around as well. If we tried to influence what's happening in the world, I think that we have to combine our forces—not forces concretely, but forces in the European Union and British capacities.
As regards Finland, my own country, we have been very close partners with Britain during many years, and this will continue in the future as well. The only difficulty now is the fact that, perhaps from the beginning of November, we won't meet our British or Welsh colleagues inside the European institutions, we won't have our regular working group meetings where civil servants can meet, we won't have any more our political contacts and regular monthly Ministers' meetings, and we won't have our heads of state meetings. That then means that we have to create again—not again, but create—new structures for our close co-operation. This is now something new, perhaps from the beginning of next month, so that we have to create new ways of keeping this contact and exchanging information. So that is the change, but the feeling of closeness and the same values and the same kind of thinking continues. But we have to find new ways.
I'm sure colleagues might want to come back to those issues as to what those structures might look like and how we build those relationships, or reconstruct them, going forward, but could I turn to some of the priorities that you mentioned? I think they're quite exciting priorities, not least the one around ambitious climate change targets, decarbonisation—and agenda that, I have to say, traditionally, the UK as a partner within the European Union has been one of the foremost drivers of. And that's the first question I have: do you see in the presidency, going forward, that there are strong like-minded countries that will coalesce around this agenda, both on the 2050 targets and 2030, because, as you know, it is the global criticism that we're not doing enough fast enough, with the urgency with which we need to do it and that, in fact, we're going to need to constantly, year by year, ratchet up our ambition? So, do we have that strength of like-minded countries that are willing to push this agenda very hard? Is that your feeling?
That's my feeling, that we are heading for it, that there is more and more support. I could believe that when we deal in future with the financing of the European Union we can, inside the multi-annual finance framework, find ways to support those countries who have more difficulty in achieving these goals. That may be a solution to get everybody on board. Yes, everybody can feel the pressure and everybody understands that the European Union must lead the way and be an example. We have tried—. We are a small economy, but we have tried to show the way. So, Finland has taken a decision to be carbon neutral by 2035 and carbon negative after that date. There's now a lot of legislation in planning how to do it. But this is the only way to show leadership, and this is why we're trying to play our part so that we think we are more credible as a presidency country in trying to push others to do the same.
My apologies for coming back to the ghost in all of these discussions at the moment, but bearing in mind the role that the UK traditionally played within the European Union on this, it was always one of the foremost advocates, with others—with Sweden, with the Finns, with Denmark, with others, with the Dutch—in pushing this agenda very, very hard. In a post-Brexit scenario, do all ties then get cut? Because I would hope that in the eventuality that we had a Government in the UK that wanted to drive equally hard on this that there would be room for discussion, agreement, some sort of partnership and, as we say over here, 'singing from the same hymn sheet'—we're going to go further, we're going to go faster, with some element of co-ordination from a post-Brexit UK with the EU to say, 'Listen, can we both agree, we will say the same thing', because then, perhaps, we can put some pressure on China, on America, and so on.
Yes. From the Nordic point of view, when Britain leaves the European Union, it means that, inside the European Union, we other like-minded countries have to work harder to get the same results. And that is what we are trying to do. We are intensifying our co-operation and trying to show more leadership, to fill a bit of the vacuum that Britain is leaving. And this happened exactly at the time when the European Union was actually moving to the direction Britain and we all wished the European Union to move to. But we will take that role, because we still believe in the internal market and we still believe in free trade and these kinds of issues.
Then, as regards the world outside the European Union, yes, we have to find ways of how we connect Britain to these big questions. But we also have to admit that the situation now changes a little bit, because perhaps from 1 November Britain is legally a third country, which then means that we hopefully start new negotiations on how we organise relations with the United Kingdom, and now the proposal, as you very well know—what we have on the table is a free trade agreement, and perhaps other agreements as well, which will be linked to this free trade agreement. So, surely, there will be now a time when we are under these negotiating structures and it may be a bit difficult to create totally parallel—I will call them—structures, but meetings in any case. Surely, we will find a way, but this is something we have to keep in our minds that now we are dealing with a third country and we are negotiating a new relationship, and while doing it, of course, we will have close contacts with Britain, but they cannot be very institutionalised.
I very much welcome what you've been saying, your Excellency, about issues around climate change, and particularly your emphasis on the Arctic, where we're aware that we see the impacts of climate change on both the polar regions. And I think, as Europeans, we have a particular responsibility for the work we do in the Arctic, and I very much welcome that.
I also welcome the points that you've made that have been rooted in values, in what our common values are as Europeans. And I noticed an interview with your European affairs Minister last month in the Financial Times, where she was very, very clear that you actually wanted a presidency to put this into action, and I think she was talking about future budget payments and other matters. So, for you, the values aren't simply speeches, but they're policies and policies that you want to take forward.
So, I wanted to ask you, how, then, do you confront an issue like Catalonia, where many of us believe the Spanish state is acting in a violent way towards Catalonian campaigners, where elected politicians are imprisoned, where the UN charter, article 1—the right to self-determination—is being ignored, and these are fundamental European values of democracy—?
That's contested, Alun—[Inaudible.]—for states, not for a myriad of national groups.
David, it does clearly state a right to self-determination—[Interruption.] It clearly states—article 1 clearly states there's a right to self-determination, and almost by definition that is by people and not simply states. States already have that, of course.
But, your Excellency, therefore, does the Finnish presidency stand by and allow elected politicians to be imprisoned in Europe and in the EU today? Or it's Poland and Hungary, which have really been the focus of much of the debate that has been taking place around these matters? Or do European values also mean that the Spanish state needs to be held to account for its actions?
This wasn't a very easy one, but I've been an ambassador in Spain, in Madrid, so a lot of it I know—the feelings and sentiments there. There's no such discussion inside the European Union ongoing, and I can only say that that was the EU's position before as well, as regards the situation in Catalunya—that Spain has a constitution from the year 1978, which was approved democratically by a referendum. Spain is a democratic country, which follows its own constitution. That was the original decision in a referendum, actually. I think that the same principle applies still today, so that there is no discussion ongoing, or there's no discussion started, on these kinds of rule-of-law questions you are referring to. I repeat that we rely on Spain's own constitution and legislation.
Of course, very many actions are taking place across the world, which have been appalling actions that haven't been illegal in the country where those actions take place, which is why, of course, we have an international court in place. I think many of us have seen terrible events take place in different parts of the world and have witnessed personally those events, none of which have been breaking the law of the country concerned, so I think there are issues there. Certainly, if the EU is to be taken seriously as a doer of good, arguing for its values in different parts of the world, then that means that in our own backyard, we need to be very clear that those values are being upheld in all of our member states. I think that is a fundamental issue, if the European Union is to be taken seriously in taking forward its values.
In terms of moving forward a little, the Finnish Government has always had some very clear views on the multi-annual financial framework, and I remember the like-minded group of different countries at different times that have argued for particular spending priorities and a reduction in spending at different times. Is that still the Finnish position? I assume that there's work going on at the moment around the multi-annual financial framework, making preparations for next year. Is it still the Finnish position that you would like to see restraint, possibly, in the actions of the European Union and in the budget of the European Union? Is this the conversation that you're having, in terms of framing the current discussions in the general affairs council, for example?
If I may still come back a little bit on the previous question, these European structures, like the European courts, are still there at the disposal of all parties. That is also one way to bring issues forward, and then we are still in the legal framework of this whole system.
As regards the Finnish position, when we have the EU presidency, we can't, or we haven't wished to, express our opinion on the level of financing, for example, because we feel that we are now honest brokers, and we have to put our national positions aside and try to find a compromise between these two edges, which, you rightly pointed out, we still have inside the European Union.
The overall level of financing is still an open question, and this is, typically, a question that will be open to the last moment. Then, we have a question still open: what is the balance between different policy areas? How much do we finance agriculture? How much do we finance structural policy? And how much do we finance other issues? There's a lot of pressure in all of these three sectors. If we are not ready to pay more, then we have to share or divide again the amount we have.
Then there is a lot of pressure for new items to be included, like defence issues, like climate. How much should we actually earmark for climate questions? If we want to modernise the European Union and to be competitive, how much should we actually put to research those types of issues. This package is still under discussion. And then the third question is this conditionality I referred to when we spoke of rule of law. So, during the last European Council meeting, we presented the results of our discussions with different parties. We have the whole—. All of them actually had discussions—we call them 'confessionals'. We have a picture of where we are. We expressed some kind of ideas of what it could be. And we got a lot of criticism, which is a positive thing, because if everybody criticises, then perhaps we are moving to the right direction. We've got a mandate from the European Council to propose a negotiation box to the December European Council, where we then could have, on the basis of this box, a real discussion and possibly a start for this bargaining phase. It remains to be seen how far we can go. The best would be, of course, to agree already during the December European Council, because, as we all know, it takes quite a lot of time to implement all the regulations, so that disbursement can start in time when the new financial perspectives enter into force. 'Is this possible?'—it remains to be seen, but at least Finland is trying to do its best to find a solution by the end of this year.
Thank you. Your Excellency, we still have some questions—do you have some extra time to give to us?
Yes, always for the Parliament. What time is the next appointment? [Inaudible.] But not more important than Parliament can be, so, please.
Okay. Lovely, thank you. We'll go on to the most until 14:30, and we'll stop at that point. Mandy.
Just a pretty short question for you: what is your assessment of Brexit and the current state of play, and also, what would be your assessment of the future relationship between the UK and EU after Brexit?
My assessment is now that we have received a letter—. I say 'letter' because, for us, it's all the same how many letters there are. But in our eyes, Britain has asked for an extension, and inside the European Union, I think that we are not now a little bit in a waiting mood so that we are not in a hurry to take a position on the extension. We will now first see what's going to happen, perhaps tomorrow, and then during this week in the Parliament. And then we will see. My Prime Minister has said that as regards Finland—and this is now only a national position—in his view, it's sensible to give an extension. My gut instinct is that if the time comes and we have to take a decision on an extension, I think that it will be given. But, of course, we will have a debate, the European Council has to be convened still at the end of this month, and the decision must be an unanimous decision.
What kind of conditionality will be included—I don't have a clue. And then how long the extension would be—I don't know. But it is at least my feeling that it will be studied positively and constructively. And what will be the relation of the UK with European Union after Britain leaves? I'd refer back a bit to the discussion we had earlier that surely we will find ways of co-operating, but we are heading for free trade agreement negotiations, and they are always a bit difficult, because that then means who's giving what? In all free trade agreements, all the market access is a question, and, surely, with Britain, that kind of discussion comes to the picture as well. Finland is, perhaps, not the problem in this case—we are a very open country and, again, against all kinds of protectionism and safeguard measures. But traditional free trade agreements mean that some member states look very thoroughly at what kind of imports they wish to get to their own countries and where are their exporting interests. So, that will be the next phase in my thinking as regards trade. But as regards all the other issues, surely, I'm very confident that we could quite quickly, even, reach an agreement on foreign security policy type of issues, home affairs, and citizens' rights type of issues. But the actual trade negotiation is a trade negotiation with the European Union and a third country that has wished to get only a free trade agreement with the European Union.
You mentioned earlier today the deepening relationships within the EU that have probably stemmed as very much a consequence of Brexit—the entirety amongst the 27—and I was just wondering—. We know that the comprehensive economic and trade agreement took seven years and we know that other negotiations have taken nine years. Would that deepening relationship within the EU probably add to the timescales that would be required in negotiating a free trade agreement? Because, as you pointed out, aspects of trade for one nation might be different for another nation and, therefore, that deepening relationship, is that going to be a problem or is that going to be a bonus, an enhancement of, perhaps, the process?
I would like to separate trade and other issues, but you never know how everything will be linked in the negotiations. The deepening side in trade could be that we have as close a relationship as we just can have and try to include many issues to these negotiations. We have services, we have all kinds of different types of co-operation in our free trade agreements. Although, if we don't have any alignment, still we may have a regulatory side there as well, and we have non-trade barriers type of issues that normally are the most difficult hurdles with our trade. It's not always tariffs, but it's everything that is coming after the tariffs. So, those kinds of issues we could include and try to get, in that respect, the trade as frictionless as possible.
But a free trade agreement means a border—whatever the deal, it's a negotiation between the third country and the European Union. So, a border it means, but we can try to make it as fluent as possible. But a border will not disappear with a free trade agreement.
And do you therefore see—? Like the EU has several bilateral agreements with Switzerland—separate trade out—do you therefore see several different bilateral agreements between the EU and the UK on those other issues? You were talking about security, data flows.
That's always possible, but the Swiss example is a bit difficult because that package of agreements is a bit cumbersome. There are over 100 agreements, and to manage that kind of construction is not always the easiest way of doing things. But, yes, that is one option.
Yes, I'd just like to turn to the issue of the World Trade Organization because, under the Finnish presidency, the EU has been trying to modernise and strengthen the WTO. But actually, what has happened—I'm not saying this is a direct correlation—but what has happened is there's been a deepening crisis, particularly over the arbitration mechanism, which, obviously, is—
But not because of us.
No, indeed. But your assessment of this, I think, is quite important as Brexit is predicated on a healthy WTO, and it seems to me that we're in a great crisis since any time since the WTO was constructed in the early 1990s. And, on weakening arbitration, the Chinese and the Americans have common cause, but the only thing they have common cause on is major trading policy. Have you any optimism for the chances to strengthen the WTO in the years ahead, or is its collapse, in terms of arbitration, imminent?
I think you have raised a very, very pertinent question. I'm an eternal optimist, but, here, I'm not so sure, because the basic crisis we now have is that there's a blockage on the nomination of Appellate Body judges. And, towards the end of this year, this Appellate Body, which is one part of the WTO's dispute settlement, will be obsolete, because there's only one judge left and they can't function. And the WTO's dispute settlement has been the crown jewel of the WTO, because the other side of it, to create new regulation, has not functioned very well—that, we have to admit. But, the dispute settlement has functioned, and if the Appellate Body disappears, what happens then?
There are discussions of a voluntary Appellate Body type of arrangement, where there were these trading partners who wanted to bring their issue up, but they just agreed on a voluntary arbitration type of an issue. But, of course, it's very far away from the original achievement of having this kind of publicly acknowledged Appellate Body system. So, this is one. But, perhaps a way to circumvent that kind of a crisis can be found. Still, there is no consensus to do it, but that is my hope—that we find that kind of way on some kind of voluntary arrangement. Then, when we come to the other part of the WTO and how efficient it is in liberalising trade, or creating new rules, the basic problem with the trade war between the US and China perhaps is that the WTO regulation has not been able to follow the developments of the new economy we are in.
We don't have very efficient rules on patent type of issues or perhaps our state aid rules aren't sufficient or effective enough. We don't have anything on e-commerce type of issues, and now what the USA is trying to do is to convince China to play according to the rules. That is legitimate, but the rules are perhaps not, in our thinking, the right ones. We should put more emphasis on the WTO's work, on the multilateral track and try to persuade China and others to support new more stringent rules under the WTO.
I think that the time of big rounds of liberalising trade through WTO has gone, and we haven't had those discussions seriously for years, anymore. And that is why we go forward through bilateral trade agreements, and also through so-called plurilateral trade agreements, where one part of WTO's membership is assisting and the rest is not. But not even these plurilateral negotiations are progressing very well.
So, do I have a lot of basis for my optimism? I'm not so sure, but this is what we have and we should support it with all our strength. And I hope that, when Britain is not anymore a member of the European Union, it supports the European Union in this effort to get the WTO functioning better, so that would be, in the future as well, the basis for our international trade relations, because the other way is, then, these trade war type of questions, which are hampering all our economies.
I don't doubt that will be British policy, but unless China and America join in, the WTO as we've known it is dramatically enfeebled, and, as you said, by the end of the year, if it's not renewed and new judges nominated, then that will be that. So, presumably, in any free trade agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom, a rigorous dispute mechanism will be insisted upon by the EU side, and that, obviously, would have to be done as core to that agreement, but it's going to be very similar to existing jurisprudence in the EU, isn't it, and the European court? I'm not saying it will be done by the European court, but it will be heavily on that model in terms of dealing with any trading disputes.
If it's a free trade agreement, then that dispute mechanism is not connected to the European Court of Justice—
Well, yes, but that's because it's the WTO at the moment, but if the WTO isn't doing it, then something will have to be constructed, and that would mirror very much what exists in the EU between its own members when they are deemed to have broken free of the single market rules.
Good point, actually. This is a good point, because something new could be created, because this is such an important—. It could be a new type of free trade agreement in that respect. In EU-Swiss agreements, they try to get some kind of a linkage to the European Court of Justice, but there the market access is stronger than in a traditional free trade agreement. An interesting point. It was a very interesting point to create something, but, in a way, we shouldn't actually think that the WTO is totally obsolete now, and the dispute settlement function is still on lower levels. The Appellate Body is in crisis, and the rules and regulation-creating capacity is still there. The only thing is that the WTO's members should give more possibilities to those functions to flourish. That is the problem.
Thank you. That's a very interesting point, because, if the WTO arbitration mechanism does fail as a consequence of the lack of judges being appointed in December, then that does create a challenge, but it also creates a consideration for any future negotiations to look at, 'Can we rely upon a WTO type agreement if the WTO doesn't actually deliver?' That's very important.
I'll just close on one point. Obviously, we are having a good relationship with Finland, and, in your position, what do you see as the future relationship between Finland and Wales in particular? Obviously, we've looked at the education system in Finland very often and we see the excellence being done. We might wish, sometimes, to emulate some of that work. But how do you see the future relationship between Finland and Wales as part of, perhaps, a future of the UK being outside of the EU?
At least in rugby we don't have too much connection because we don't play it—
We play football, yes. [Laughter.] I think that you are a small nation and we are, as well, a small nation, and we small nations have to be creative. When we are now developing our economy, it's based on open ecosystems, because we have learnt that we have to have more open international ecosystems created in order to develop our own economy as well. So, that could be something. Whatever the field where you have expertise here, and our expertise, they could be interlinked inside an ecosystem, and these ecosystems are financed through the Finnish Government, but they are open to all. So, what we are looking for is ideas and talents. So, this one issue is always there, and we could develop that, perhaps. You have marvellous universities here; you have a lot of talent. My own son is finalising his Master's thesis in Swansea and he has been very pleased with the quality of teaching in maritime law, for example. But in many other fields we have to find these kinds of linkages. As regards education, surely, we're always ready to find new ways to co-operate. This morning we spoke of languages, actually, because you have here a truly good system to teach and to promote your own language, and we have also a country where we have two languages, Finnish and Swedish, and that could be perhaps something—to exchange our experiences of how you do it. We could even, I believe, learn from you, just to get the Swedish language actually better—. It's obviously acknowledged, that is not a problem, but how to get people to speak more that language? At least these two.
Do you have any other sectors? Because you are dealing with the scientific side.
Yes. So, research, obviously, is going to be important for us as well—but you already mentioned education and universities—and cultural exchange as well.
Okay. We've come to the end of our extended session, so thank you very much for your time this afternoon. I wish you well in your time as ambassador; I wish you well in the remaining time of Finland's presidency. There are still challenging times ahead in the EU, and the relationship that we will have for the future.
You will receive a copy of the transcript. If there are any factual inaccuracies, could you please let the clerking teams know as soon as possible so we can get them corrected for you? So, once again, thank you for your time, and I wish you well today.
Thank you so much. We wish you all the best for next Sunday's Wales v South Africa. I can assure you that I will watch it.
Thank you for that, and I hope it's not as heart-stopping perhaps as yesterday's was, because I think it was a very tight situation yesterday.
It was very tight, but—.
We now go for our break for a short while and come back in about five minutes.
And thank you for the very good questions, Chairman—not always the easiest task.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 14:32 ac 14:46.
The meeting adjourned between 14:32 and 14:46.
Can I welcome Members back to this afternoon's evidence session of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee? The next item on our agenda is a discussion with academics in relation to the Welsh Government's draft international strategy. Can I welcome Dr Kirsty Hughes, from the Scottish Centre on European Relations, Dr Rachel Minto from Cardiff University, Dr Elin Royles from Aberystwyth University, and Susie Ventris-Field from the Welsh Centre for International Affairs? Welcome to you all. We've received apologies from Professor Kevin Morgan of Cardiff University for this afternoon's session.
I hope you've all had a chance to look at the draft strategy, because clearly it's important that we take a view on that. We've been doing some work on that strategy, and I know it's not the final version, but it does give an indication perhaps of the thinking that has gone into it and it follows on from the original consultation. So, perhaps we'll go straight into questions. I'll open up the questions, in a sense, with a very simple one. On your answers, if you feel that somebody has already given the answer, you can either not say anything or simply say, 'I agree with.' You haven't got to repeat everything. Otherwise, we'll have four people saying the same thing.
Okay. So, in your expectations, how do you consider the draft international strategy, particularly in relation to what was originally discussed and set out? And have there been any gaps you have identified in that strategy? Who would like to start? Go on, Rachel—I can see you starting a debate there.
Okay. Well, first, thank you very much for the opportunity for participating today. Something I thought was notable as I was reading through the strategy is really thinking about Wales's relationship with Europe and how it profiles itself as a European nation, notwithstanding what happens with Brexit, and how that European strategy actually fits within the international strategy. So, that's, I think, one of my key reflections as I was reading through.
The other reflection I had was really trying to understand a bit more about how this was a values-based strategy that was going to allow citizens within Wales, civil society organisations within Wales, to engage within the international arena, an arena that is created for states not for sub-state actors. So, those are the two guiding themes, really, that I had when I was reading through, and some of the questions I have really orbit around those two points.
In that sense then, if they're the two themes that you've talked about, how do you feel the draft strategy addresses those two themes?
With both of them, I still have some outstanding questions. So, with the first, around where Europe fits within this, I had thought that I might see something that was more developed or bold about Wales's relationship with Europe, because, if we look at all the activity that's been going on around Brexit, Wales has been positioning itself as a European nation wanting to maintain a close relationship with the European Union. And, obviously, we do see that European dimension pulled through the paper, but I wondered whether it might usefully feature maybe more at the front and centre of the paper.
And with the second point, around this values-based approach, I would be quite interested to try and understand a little bit more about how this is an expression of the values that Wales wants to take out into the world, and, really, the mechanisms by which citizens and civil society organisations are going to be allowed to engage in that international arena.
May I come in, following up? Thank you, also, for the opportunity. Following up on that values point, really, we did consider it a very strong point in the strategy that the values were to be incorporated, and we see those values articulated, or some values articulated, upfront. And we also felt it was quite positive to see one aspect of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015—a globally responsible Wales—in the objectives of the strategy. But we did feel, following up on what Rachel said, that, although those values are named, some of them, it's difficult to see how they are articulated in terms of the actions throughout the strategy, because, if those values are to underpin the whole strategy and not just, say, the Wales for Africa section, which sits at the end, we should see those come into force in more of the actions.
We would also suggest that, because of the well-being of future generations Act, actually, sustainability is more of a legislative underpinning of the strategy rather than a value that Wales aspires to and, again, it wasn't clear, particularly as you look through, say, the product section, how that has been considered or implemented in that section. The coherence between the very broad values statements and the specific actions doesn't quite seem to be there yet.
Oh, they do it for me. Thank you.
Yes, I think, on the European side of this, I miss a clear European strategy that I would think should really be at the heart of an international strategy for a European country, and so—whatever happens with Brexit, Wales is still European. If you look at not only EU member states—if you look at somewhere like Norway, or if you look at a region like Bavaria or the Basque Country, you'll see that they have international strategies, but usually it's driven by having a European strategy at the heart of it. So, that was certainly one thing that struck me.
And I also think there are ambitions in the draft strategy that you could do more with. This is maybe to do with values, but you talk about in different ways showcasing Wales and its values in the world. And if you're thinking more about partnering and networking with an influence—I miss the 'influence' word a lot in the report—and it doesn't always have to be directly within competence or leading; it's about, well, if we want to see a democratic world and a human rights-abiding world and so on, how are we going to have any say in that, rather than just being a good example? And the answer, surely, at least at the European level—I'm not saying only partner with EU regions and states—is to work together, and whether that's on human rights and trying to influence where, for instance, the EU is going on human rights, or it might be on the very important discussions going on in the EU at the moment about rethinking industrial strategy, with the very changing global environment, trade wars, and so forth, as well as the green new deal side of that. So, I wonder if the strategy is a little bit too thinking of every goal as almost a bilateral goal, rather than thinking how to work in a more multilateral way, and, therefore, maybe starting with Europe.
And it was interesting, we've done a recent report actually for the Holyrood external affairs committee, looking at how smaller third states and regions outside the EU try to influence the EU. So, that was the Brexit context, but we did also look at Bavaria and the Basque country. And the Basque country has done a sort of future of Europe paper. Bavaria has a very broad EU-influencing strategy, whereas if you look at Quebec, it's got a very trade and investment-focused strategy. And I wonder where you see your strategy lying on that spectrum. And maybe it's a little bit nearer the Quebec end than it needs to be. Nothing wrong with the Quebec strategy; it's just I think there's scope to add to it in the same way that maybe I'm saying there's scope to add to yours.
Gan fod o'n dweud bod Cymru'n wlad wirioneddol ddwyieithog, dwi'n mynd i siarad yn Gymraeg.
As it does state that Wales is a truly bilingual country, I am going to speak in Welsh.
I forgot to mention, in that case, that if you require simultaneous translation, headphones on channel 1.
Ie, gan bod y strategaeth yn dweud bod Cymru'n wlad ddwyieithog, well i mi siarad Cymraeg. Dwi'n meddwl ein bod ni'n croesawu'r strategaeth o ran ei bod yn cynnwys nifer o ddatganiadau gwleidyddol pwysig am y math o genedl mae Cymru eisiau bod wedi Brexit, ac mae'n bwysig ein bod ni'n trio cael mwy o gyfeiriad a ffocws strategol. Ond dwi'n teimlo weithiau fod yna elfennau o hynna ddim mor gryf ag y gallen nhw fod. Mae yna issues yma o ran cydlynu gyda pholisïau eraill Llywodraeth Cymru, a chydlynu o fewn y strategaeth ei hun.
I raddau weithiau, dwi'n teimlo bod y strategaeth yn or-fanwl, yn tynnu sylw at lawer o gamau gweithredu a phwyntiau gweithredu penodol, yn hytrach na gosod egwyddorion ynghylch y math o ddull o benderfynu ar weithredu. Ac, felly, byddai canllawiau fel yna efallai yn rhoi mwy o hyblygrwydd, yn enwedig yn y cyfnod mwy ansicr yma rydym ni'n mynd i mewn iddo fe wedi Brexit. Mae bod yn rhy bendant mewn unrhyw strategaeth ryngwladol yn gallu bod yn bach o risg. Ac yn enwedig, dwi'n meddwl, yn y math o gyd-destun rydym ni'n siarad amdano fo.
Byddwn i hefyd yn ategu pwyntiau ynghylch rôl rhwydweithiau, lle mae'r math o waith dwi wedi'i wneud ar ymwneud rhyngwladol Cymru wedi dangos faint o ddylanwad mae Cymru wedi llwyddo i'w gael trwy rhwydweithiau. Maen nhw yna yn galluogi deialog dwyffordd, yn caniatáu dysgu gwersi polisi, ond hefyd yn ffordd o roi grym a dylanwad ar lefel ryngwladol i Gymru, ac i Lywodraeth Cymru yn benodol, mewn ffordd fyddai ddim wedi digwydd eto [cywiriad: hebddynt]. Felly, o feddwl am y gwahanol fathau o arfau sydd gan lywodraeth is-wladwriaethol wrth ymwneud yn rhyngwladol, mae rhwydweithiau yn chwarae rhan ganolog, a dydyn ni ddim yn gweld hynna efallai yn ddigon amlwg.
Mae'r gwerthoedd yn allweddol yn y strategaeth, ond dwi'n teimlo bod y gwerthoedd, ochr yn ochr â'r ffordd mae'r elfen fasnach wedi cael ei chyflwyno, yn creu tensiwn eithaf sylfaenol. Ac efallai mai'r elfen fasnachu fydd bob amser yn goruchafu, ac ydy'r tensiwn yna efallai yn rhy amlwg yn y ddogfen? Sut mae modd gwireddu'r ddogfen yma? Ydy hwn ychydig yn rhy debyg i ethical foreign policy y Blaid Lafur yn y 1990au, o ran yr ymgais wych yma i fod yn rhagflaenu efo egwyddorion cadarn, ond pan ddaw hi i benderfyniadau masnach anodd bydd y rheini'n dymchwel? Dwi'n gobeithio bod modd cyfannu'r ddau faes mewn ffordd ychydig yn fwy datblygedig efallai.
Yes, as the strategy does state that Wales is a bilingual nation, I should contribute in Welsh. I think we welcome the strategy, in that it includes a number of important political statements about the kind of nation that Wales wants to be post Brexit, and I think it is important that we get a clear strategic focus and a better direction of travel. But I do think that there are elements of that that aren't as strong as they perhaps could have been. There are issues here in terms of co-ordination with other Welsh Government policies, and co-ordination within the strategy itself too.
To a certain extent, I think the strategy can be overly detailed, drawing attention to a number of specific action points, rather than putting clear principles in place on the kinds of means of deciding on actions. So, guidance of that kind would perhaps provide greater flexibility, particularly in this more uncertain period that we're entering post Brexit. Being too specific in any international strategy can be something of a risk, particularly given the context that we're facing.
I would also echo the points on the role of networks. The work that I've been doing on Wales's international relations does show how much influence Wales has managed to have through networks. They are there enabling dialogue, bilateral dialogue, they allow us to learn policy lessons, but they're also a means of empowering Wales on the international stage, and the Welsh Government particularly, in a way that perhaps hasn't happened in the past [correction: that perhaps wouldn't have happened without them]. So, thinking about the different kinds of tools available to a sub-national government in international relations, then networks play a central role in that, and we don't see that as being prominent enough here.
The values are vital in the strategy, but I do think that the values, along with the way that the trade elements have been presented, do create a fundamental tension. And perhaps it's the trade element that will always be most important, and is that tension too apparent in the document? How can we deliver this document? Is this a little too similar to the ethical foreign policy of the Labour Party in the 1990s, in terms of this excellent effort to proceed with strong principles, but when it comes to difficult trade decisions those will then collapse? I do hope that we can bring those two areas together in a slightly more developed manner perhaps.
I'd like to ask you, Kirsty, if you don't mind, how this looks—. I presume you're not based in the country, so, looking at it from a difference perspective, if you're reading this for the first time or you're unfamiliar with the country, what does this tell you, what do you think this strategy is saying about Wales?
I thought, in many ways, it was very clear. And I thought it managed, for an outsider, to summarise some of the key characteristics of Wales, and I actually quite liked some of the annexes and the lists of networks and memorandums of understanding, and which you see as your key partner countries, because if you go to the Scottish Government's website, you'll find elements of its international strategy, or some of its new hubs offices in Berlin and Paris, for instance, but you won't always find it all brought together.
So, I think there are always ways you could do it differently and, as I've already shown, there are plenty of things you could do, I would say, more ambitiously. But in a sense, as presenting resources, interests, goals, yes, I thought it was very clear, but I do think it lacked—I think it's what I've already said, so I don't want to repeat myself—the sense of maybe focusing too much on the trade and investment, not because it is important, but because it's that difficulty that Scotland struggles with as well, of being a country but not being a state. And I don't think that always has to lower your ambitions, and so you can have maybe a more multidimensional strategy. So that was a bit the impression too.
And opening it out a bit, when I was reading through this, I thought, 'What does this tell me about my country?' And I was unsure as to, 'Does this have the ambition that I would want for Wales?' And I'm thinking, 'Not really.' It doesn't feel to me that it's ambitious enough, and it doesn't feel to me that it tells me enough about this place. It doesn't feel that it has the wish and the scale to do—. Some things it's already done—we've had conversations about sub-national Governments. Well, Wales, of course, played a significant role in the Paris process, around climate change. Does this policy, does this strategic approach outline that, or even appreciate or understand that? I'm less sure about that. We've just heard today that the Welsh Government is putting more money into the airport. One of their biggest achievements in the airport is a flight across to the middle east, yet there's nothing about the middle east in here. I'm just left thinking, to what extent is this a restatement of where we were, rather than to signal ambition for the future?
Just to come in on that, I think one of the things we're really hoping to see from this strategy—we don't think it's quite there yet—is something that is, again, in line with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, is something that is long term and ambitious, so not looking to things that we might want to achieve in the next year, or two years even, or at least if you're going to do that, to also look beyond that and look further into the future. And we also felt quite strongly, particularly from a civil society perspective, that actually the scene setting for the strategy—the bit upfront where you're saying, 'Well this is Wales now, and this is a little bit of how we've got there, and then this is where we want to be'—is missing.
So, as you say, Wales has these remarkable achievements in the international sphere. Rachel will be able to talk about the many networks that we're part of, in terms of Wales being an internationalist nation. There's a long history there and lots of very strong examples—the first Fair Trade nation is an example. Actually, I would say that, reading it, it doesn't quite capture some of Wales's real strengths upfront, as the starting point. And I think also it lacks a little bit of the rationale of, 'What's the strategy, who's it for?' And, potentially, there's some information upfront about the This is Wales brand, and I'd say maybe that's the kind of thing that could come out and be replaced with some of the slightly more inspiring stuff about what Wales has actually achieved and where it wants to be.
Just following up on both of those points, really, again I think what would be really nice to see more of is that influence dimension. And pulling up what Susie and Elin have said previously about networks, and we do have in the appendix a list of the various networks that different Welsh actors are actually involved in, and they're involved in them now, and they're influencing now, and they're exchanging knowledge now, and so they are participating in that European and international political space, if you like. So that is something certainly that can be drawn out.
Something I think that would be useful to clarify a little more when looking at that list of networks is actually—and I believe a sifting process will be going on—what are going to be the criteria by which the decisions are made about which networks are going to be prioritised, through which Wales is able to advocate for its particular approach around equality or climate change or whatever it may be, and also learn from European and international partners as it is doing now? So, in terms of the gap, if you like, I think that's the obvious gap that I think could be filled quite neatly.
Dwi'n cytuno. Dwi'n meddwl bod sefyllfa Brexit a'r ansicrwydd efallai yn egluro'r diffyg elfen yma rydych chi eisiau'i gweld o ran meddwl mwy hirdymor neu uchelgeisiol, achos mae mor ansicr o gyd-destun i fod yn creu'r ddogfen yma. Ond dwi'n meddwl bod yna duedd o'r herwydd wedi bod efallai i ddweud mwy ynglŷn â'r math o Gymru rydym ni eisiau ei hyrwyddo dramor a'r math o ddelwedd rydym ni eisiau'i chael dramor, yn hytrach na'r math o weithredu rydym ni eisiau'i wneud. Ond dwi'n meddwl bod o'n hollbwysig ein bod ni'n gweld y math o bethau mae Rachel newydd gyfeirio atyn nhw.
Yn ochr hynny hefyd, ein bod ni'n—sori, dwi wedi colli llif beth roeddwn i’n mynd i'w ddweud.
Achos mae'n andros o bwysig dwi'n meddwl ein bod ni'n adeiladu ar bethau rydym ni wedi'u gwneud, achos mae yna ddegawdau o brofiad yn rhai o'r meysydd yma, ac mae'n ansicr yn arbennig am y pwynt o ran dylanwadu. Ydyn ni'n mynd i dynnu allan o'r rheini'n gyfan gwbl? Achos os mai hon ydy'r strategaeth, ble mae'r eirioli yna'n mynd i ddigwydd?
Sori, hwnna oedd y pwynt arall roeddwn i eisiau'i wneud, sef beth sy'n digwydd i'r holl fecanweithiau o ran trio ymwneud efo Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig. Mae'r strategaeth yn cydnabod bod rôl y Deyrnas Unedig mewn eirioli a hyrwyddo Cymru dramor yn bwysig, ond mae ychydig yn wan weithiau o ran sut i sicrhau bod Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig a'r gwahanol asiantaethau'n mynd i wneud hynna.
Oes, mae yna ansicrwydd achos Brexit, ond dwi'n meddwl bod y math o gyd-destun a'r math o drafodaethau rydych chi fel pwyllgor wedi bod yn eu cael o gwmpas cytundebau masnach yn dangos pa mor heriol ydy cael Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig i gynrychioli'r cyrff datganoledig. Dwi'n meddwl bod angen rhyw fath o gydnabyddiaeth o hynny.
I agree. I think that the situation with Brexit and the uncertainty perhaps explains the lack of this element that you would like to see of being more long term or ambitious, because it's an uncertain context in which to be drafting this document. But I think that there was a need to say more about the type of Wales we want to be promoting internationally and what kind of image we want to have internationally, rather than what type of actions we need to take. But I think that it is essential that we see the types of things that Rachel has just referred to.
Alongside that also—sorry, I've lost my train of thought there.
It is extremely important that we do build on what we have done, because there are decades of experience in some of these areas, and there is some uncertainty especially on the point about influence. Are we going to withdraw from those entirely? Because if this is the strategy, then where is that advocacy going to take place?
Sorry, this was the other point that I wanted to make, namely what is happening to all the mechanisms in terms of trying to work with the UK Government or interact with it. The strategy acknowledges that the UK has an important role in advocating and promoting Wales internationally, but then it's sometimes weak about how to ensure that the UK Government and the various agencies will do so.
So, yes, there is uncertainty because of Brexit, but I think that the type of context and the type of discussions that you as a committee have been having around trade agreements does show how challenging it is to have the UK Government to represent the devolved arena. I think that there needs to be some acknowledgement of that.
Can I ask a question, then? From what you've all said—clearly this is a draft strategy, so I want to re-emphasise that, in case anyone's watching—is there an expectation that, in any final strategy, it would have those prioritisations within it, particularly the networks, and that it would have a stronger focus upon what those agendas are and what the ambitions are? Because it's clear, from what I'm getting from all of you at the moment, that this is not an ambitious document, that it lacks focus, and it is, in my words, still woolly in areas that they should start narrowing down and being more prescriptive on. Is that a fair comment on this strategy, and you would expect those issues to be addressed in a final strategy?
Dwi'n meddwl ei bod hi'n rhy prescriptive mewn rhannau. Dwi'n meddwl bod yna ormod o fanylion am beth maen nhw'n mynd i'w wneud mewn rhai meysydd. So, er enghraifft, yr adran ar—. Sori. Mae yna adrannau sy'n dweud yn union pa fath o weithredu sy'n mynd i ddigwydd. Dwi'n meddwl bod angen cymryd cam yn ôl, bod angen bod yn fwy cyffredinol, i roi mwy o ryddid, achos bod gorfanylu fan hyn. Ond dwi'n meddwl eich bod chi'n dal yn gallu cael ffocws, achos rydych chi'n mynd i fod yn gryfach yn dweud sut rydych chi'n mynd i ddod i benderfyniadau, yn hytrach na pa fath o weithredu rydych chi eisiau'i wneud.
Dwi'n meddwl bod Rachel yn cytuno efo hynny o ran y math o criteria a'r math o approach, achos mae pethau efallai'n mynd i newid. Mae'r gwledydd rydych chi eisiau gweithio efo nhw'n mynd i newid. Ond os ydym ni'n gwybod beth ydy'r egwyddorion y tu ôl i benderfyniadau, mae'n rhoi llawer mwy o hyblygrwydd yn hytrach na beth ydy'r cynllunio [cywiriad: cynlluniau] penodol neu pa fath o gydweithio penodol iawn sy'n mynd i fod.
I think it's too prescriptive in parts. I think there is too much detail as to what they are going to do in some areas. For example, the section on—. Sorry. There are sections that state exactly what is going to happen. I think that they need to take a step back and they need to be more general, to give more freedom, because there is too much detail here. But I think you can maintain focus, because you're going to be stronger in saying how you're going to reach decisions, rather than simply stating exactly what you're going to do.
I think Rachel would agree with that in terms of the kind of criteria and the kind of approach, because things are going to change. The nations that you want to work with will change. But if we know what the underpinning principles are for decisions, then it gives you far more flexibility rather than saying what specific plans are or what kind of specific collaboration is going to happen.
I think not everything has to be focused, certainly I agree with that. Not every bit of the document, or at least the thought process behind the document, has to begin with Wales. So, what is the answer in this international strategy to what are the biggest challenges of our times, if you like? The world is in some tumult and period of change, so what are the biggest challenges in the world? What are the most important things to sort out, to protect, to change? And the same questions for Europe. They are always going to be there, but as I said before, I think we're at the start of a new Commission, a new European Parliament. If you go and look at Ireland's European strategy or Norway's, you'll see a list of priority areas. And if you did that, whether it went into the document or not—it might be rather nice if it went into the document, 'Here's our top five issues that we think for the next five years for Europe', and then within that you say, 'And this is where Wales is already acting, or where we'd like to contribute, or where we're going to wait and see how it unfolds, or where we're going to look at where we actually need to now co-operate with these new countries, or we need to do what Ireland did and we need to do it. Ireland has done some bilateral audits of its relationship with different partners, and I think it started with Germany. So, work in progress is part of a strategy as well.
So, one of my sons—. My middle son is, at the moment, studying in the University of Kent—business management—and my interpretation of what you're saying is that the Government and the Minister and officials have fallen foul of the cardinal rule here of when you're trying to do that 'what is your company setting out to do?' and then work out from that exactly what actions flow from it. The first thing is set your mission, your values, your clear vision of what you're intending to be and do, and then you can tell us subsequently what flows from that. From what I'm picking up from you, this is neither fish nor fowl. It's trying to be both. The point that you raised, Elin, about actually taking a step back, set that context, and then you go on to the next level, which is, 'And here's now where those values, that vision, takes us, in terms of our international ambitions'—.
Yes, there's the case that it tries to be very ambitious with some quite vague statements, but then very specific in some of the details, and maybe just a good example would be on the section that's on Wales for Africa, where there's quite a—. I think it's just an example that is familiar throughout the strategy where it tries to say some actions that we want to do. It talks about Wales as a feminist Government doing some gender work. It talks about closer links with Lesotho because of a historical relationship. And those things are fine, but actually what do we want to achieve? What do we want to be different in those places in 10 years' time? What do we want to share? What knowledge can we bring from other places that will help support that ambition of a feminist Government, if that's what we want? What about the other UN conventions we're part of?
But there are these big questions about where we want to be, and, in terms of looking beyond Brexit, which I think, to some degree, you have to look at, as it's a huge part of the context but we also don't know what it's going to look like, you actually have to look further into the future, and say, 'Well, what do we want to be? Who do we want to be? Who for? Who with?' and then the detailed action plans—. You can have delivery plans that sit under a strategy that are year on year or longer term that would deal with those detailed issues. So, it does feel like that's where it's falling down a little bit; it's not quite pitching at the level of strategy, really.
And it's a bit vague on the implementation. So, yes, some of this detail is something we would expect in action plans. There is one mention of a European action plan, I think. But you could envisage a number of sectoral action plans coming out from the document, but it's quite unclear about what it wants to do. So, maybe it's trying to combine both a bit too much.
If your analysis is right, the danger is that some of the detail that's in there may have been arrived at for the wrong reasons, because there are already policies on the ground that lead us to a certain place, and that gets levered in, or we've identified strong existing relationships so they then become the—. We work, then, back up to the overall strategy and that's where we—. I'm just wondering, at this stage, where the consultation is ongoing over this particular strategy, what would be the key thing that you would say to the Minister if they were—. Are you suggesting that there is a radical restructuring here of what we currently see in this draft? Or is it tweaking around the edges?
Keep the ethos, but take a step back perhaps, because I also think—. The economic side isn't my forte, but the whole conception of identifying three priority sectors is somewhat risky in being so prescriptive, and what does that mean in terms of the external perception of other companies who might want to export and invest? So, taking that step back, and identifying how you want to identify the sectors that you want to prioritise about export or to draw in for investment, would give you a much stronger basis for outlining your decision making in action plans or whatever you can identify in key sectors. It feels as if there's a risk of making yourself a bit too stuck in a strategy for future developments.
I feel like the impetus—. There are certainly some things in here that are things that are already happening, already funded and already in action. Therefore, they're included because they're already happening. Some of the 'we will' statements are things that are already supported by the Welsh Government. Actually, the temptation is to say, 'Well, we need a strategy. We haven't got much budget, so we'll focus on the things that we've already got'.
But, actually, again, it's not necessarily a case of budget. If it's ambitious and genuinely unifies people across sectors, you can deliver quite a lot. I think it is about, yes, a step back, but I do agree with Elin about keeping the ethos, but taking out some of those specifics and also looking across to other Welsh Government strategies to make sure the links are there. Again, I'm not a trade expert, but I know the innovation strategy for Wales pinpoints other sectors for focus that aren't reflected here. It's not quite clear where those are—
I'll be coming on to sectors in a second. On the generic questions, do you want to take the leading question, or are you happy with what's been said?
I'll comment briefly on the leading question. I think, yes, if you step back, rather than just editing, it's not that you would junk everything that's there already, but you might just have a wider and more strategic framework than you've got at the moment. It may link to sector and other questions, because if you put things in their broader context, then it's going to be more open for more people and more open for whom you're partnering with and other countries.
I think what it mustn't do, surely, is make it look like this is, somehow, Wales alone in the world and Wales just presenting itself to the world. It needs to be in partnership with whether the themes of the world or the other players in the world.
Since you've mentioned the sectors, I know Mandy has some questions on that, so I'll go over to Mandy and then I'll come back to Alun.
It's great what you've said so far, and I'm very aware of the time, so I'm going to roll two questions into one for you. I really do like your answers. Would you broadly agree that the three distinct industries that have been chosen are centres of excellence for Wales? Also, would you say that those sectors that have been chosen are not really vulnerable to Brexit?
I would say that I definitely can't answer on whether they're centres of excellence. I think the trade expertise is not something I have. We would only raise question marks about the choices of the sectors, particularly two of them, as there are some issues when you look at the commitment to values and rights. Cyber security, as an example, does have some connections with companies that, perhaps, haven't got strong records in human rights issues.
Again, perhaps we'd like to see the ambition around some sectors that are more highlighted in the innovation strategy—some more green sectors—but I wouldn't want to comment on the actual Brexit-proof-ness of those or whether they're centres of excellence or not.
I would just echo what Susie has said. It's absolutely my understanding that these are centres of excellence, and certainly with work I know that's going on around cyber security. This is something I'm not able to really comment any more on than that. What I wondered about was how this married with the equality goals that the Welsh Government has around looking to grow these sectors, and what thinking has gone on about how there is inclusive growth within these sectors, how it makes sure that we see men and women being able to participate in these sectors, the skills required to actually drive these sectors and who is having access to be able to develop those, and where these sectors are actually based. Those are the kinds of things that came into my mind when I read those three sectors. It wasn't the contestation about whether these are centres of excellence or that Wales is leading the charge here, but those questions really related to the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 in that thinking.
I'm not in a particular—. The point I would mention there is that whatever happens in the area of Brexit, certainly, the European Union is active in these areas. The European Union is not irrelevant. The EU member states are active in these areas and will have, obviously, centres of excellence, and certainly there’s lots of work going on around digital security, so, I suppose, keeping in mind the way that the European Union is developing here is always going to be an important point of reference, whatever the UK’s future relationship the European Union. Thank you.
I agree with all of the comments that have been made. The only other point I would raise is to reiterate this issue about the potential risks of identifying—. To be Brexit-proof is very difficult, but identifying particular sectors so early is a bit risky, I think. I would prefer an approach that would identify a criteria by which you’re going to identify which sectors or which industries you’re going to prioritise in a strategy like this, instead of saying, ‘Here they are’.
Could I just add to that? It’s very hard to identify any sectors that aren’t Brexit vulnerable. Obviously, the nature and extent of the vulnerability depends on the type of final future trade deal you do, but we know, certainly, that services are especially vulnerable to leaving the single market. They’re not protected if you even had retained a customs union approach for the whole UK. In the creative industries, tv and films were mentioned, but, certainly in the case of—. I’ve been on cultural panels in Scotland discussing problems of freedom of movement for musicians, for instance, both to come here and to travel and work in Europe. So, I think it’s inevitable that these and other sectors are impacted by Brexit, and, often, both goods and services interact into one product, which I think may well be the case if you’re looking at compounds semiconductors, and so forth.
So, if Brexit happens, it’s about what you can do to then assist all sectors, isn’t it? Some will be hit worse than others, but it’s doesn’t follow for me that your Welsh priority sectors should be somehow ones that are least hit. And it’s not just something for sectors. If Brexit happens, the sort of influencing we’ve also been talking about and saying is a bit lacking here is going to need more resources. And it’s very sad and a bit dispiriting to say that it’s going to need more resources for less result, but that doesn’t mean it’s not extremely necessary, whether you’re talking about lobbying in Europe for human rights or working on cyber security.
Thank you for that. I'm interested, in reading through this strategy, about how we describe who we are. And, usually, when we describe the country, we would rarely look at some of the issues that are in here; we would talk about all sorts of other things. It strikes me that the document lacks a heart in some ways. I was up early for me on a Sunday yesterday—I might be up a little later next week—and a country that gets overexcited about games of football and rugby is a country that is excitable in all sorts of other things as well, and has a very long cultural history and a very long part in different world affairs in different ways. But there’s very little here about soft power and very little here about how we use those things that make us Welsh. I’m not Welsh because I happen to do this particular job; I was Welsh before then and I will be afterwards. Describing the country in terms of our gross domestic product and in terms of what we manufacture, what we make and what we sell and the rest of it seems to be a very limited description of the country, and when you're selling something, if you like, or when you’re communicating what something is, those are very often the last things that you put into a document. And I’m interested that there’s very little—. I think there’s a sentence mentioning the world cup in Japan. There's virtually nothing here about Welsh international football, whereas, when I was watching the Mexico game in California last year, everybody knew Gareth Bale, nobody knew the First Minister. And I'm interested as to how do you therefore—? And is there something missing here when we are communicating, describing who we are as a country, that we're not describing our history, our people, we're not describing our culture, we're not describing what we like and what we don't like, we're not describing what we eat and what we do? And I'm thinking: is that therefore missing something in terms of the overall soft power that we might be able to have and mobilise as a country?
I think it comes back—. I made the point earlier about setting the scene, and I think it comes back to that point about how it—. There's one interesting bit in the strategy that's quite nice, where it talks about the diversity of the Welsh workforce, which is nice, actually. It shows a little bit about that value of being a welcoming nation, but it does beg the question: why just the workforce and why just in that section? Something about who we are and what we do. And I think that point of what we've achieved, what we've done, where we come from, both culturally and in the other aspects—Wales has got a long history of engaging internationally, and being sometimes quite influential on the international stage.
Thinking further back in history towards David Davies and the influence on the United Nations and the formation of UNESCO, and those stories, which are quite a powerful part of our history—the very long history of solidarity with other nations—those things do form part of the heart of the country, alongside the important points about sport and other factors of culture. The Urdd's message of peace and goodwill is a fairly unique thing. And those little stories, I think, actually, if the audience is external, that scene setting can actually be something that captures people's imaginations. And I think you want to start from there—catching people's interest and imagination. And then the trade aspects are important as well. But I would agree that there's something there, upfront in the strategy, that gives people a sense of who Wales is and why it's different and what its unique selling points are, I guess. And I don't just mean trade sales; I mean broader than that.
Mae'n her, dwi'n meddwl, onid ydy: pa fath o genedl rydych chi eisiau ei chyfleu ar gyfer y math yma o strategaeth. Mae rhai pobl wedi dweud wrthyf fi, a dwi'n cytuno â nhw, ei bod hi'n braf gweld rhywbeth sy'n trio edrych ymlaen ynglŷn â'r math o genedl rydym ni eisiau bod. Ond hefyd mae yna gydnabyddiaeth o’r Gymraeg ac yn y blaen hefyd.
Efallai un cwestiwn ydy, os ydym ni'n pwysleisio'r hanes yma o ymwneud yn rhyngwladol a datblygu sefydliadau rhyngwladol, y canlyniad y byddwch chi'n ei ddisgwyl byddai mwy o rôl ceisio dylanwadu, a dyna lle rydym ni'n gweld bwlch yn y strategaeth. A mater arall, dwi'n meddwl, i'w godi ydy—. Dau beth arall—un peth arall buaswn i'n gallu ei ddweud ydy ein bod ni wedi bod yn un o'r cenhedloedd cyntaf yn y chwyldro diwydiannol. Eto, mae hwnna'n rhoi dyletswydd arnon ni i wneud mwy yn rhyngwladol o ran newid hinsawdd. Ond mae yna ryw fwlch yn y strategaeth o ran hynny hefyd.
Mater arall, dwi'n meddwl, ydy'r diffyg cydlynu efo strategaethau sy'n bodoli'n barod. Felly, o'r hyn dwi'n ei ddeall, mae yna strategaeth ynglŷn â chwaraeon ac yn y blaen yn cael ei datblygu, ond dydym ni ddim yn gweld hyn fan hyn. Felly, eto, mae modd dod â phethau at ei gilydd yn fwy eglur i gyfannu'n well yn y math o strategaeth sydd gennym ni, dwi'n meddwl, gan dynnu'r pethau sydd eisoes yn bodoli ac yn mynd i gael eu datblygu. Ac efallai nod sydd wedyn yn dweud, 'Dyma lle rydym ni eisiau mynd efo'r pethau yma'.
It is a challenge, I think, to know what kind of nation you want to convey for this type of strategy. Some people have told me, and I do agree with them, that it's good to see something that's trying to be forward-looking about the type of nation we want to be. But also there's an acknowledgement of the Welsh language and so forth.
So, perhaps one question is, if we emphasise this history of international relations and establishing international organisations, then the result you would expect would be looking for a greater influencing power, and that's where we see a gap in the strategy. And the other issue to raise, I think—. Well, two other things—one thing that I could say is that we have been one of the earliest nations involved in the industrial revolution. Well, that again places a duty upon us to do more internationally in terms of climate change. And there is a gap in the strategy in that regard also.
The other issue is the lack of co-ordination with strategies already in existence. So, as far as I know, there is a strategy about sport and so forth that is being developed, but we don't see that here. So, once again, there is a means of bringing things together in a clearer manner to encompass what we want to cover in this type of strategy, and that's drawing on things that already exist and will be developed. And then the aim could be to say where we want to go with these things.
No, no, I would just—. I really agree with what Susie and Elin have said, and I really like the way they've articulated that. I suppose, as well, nearer the end of the strategy, so, in annex D, there is the section on 'Our Values'. And so a lot of this could be part of this scene setting about what kind of nation Wales is and how, obviously, in this case, some of this is actually manifest, or expressed, through legislation. So, some of it was more tucked away nearer the back, but I do like this idea of something that's more scene setting at the front, and, as well, placing Wales as showing its international legacy as well.
And I think just—. I agree with that, and I think it's also about, in the context of the whole strategy, accepting that some of what you're trying to achieve, you achieve indirectly. So, when you try and present Wales in a way you want people to understand it, that's a goal in its own right. But it's also not just as simple, obviously, as saying, 'Oh, and, if we do that, we might export more somewhere'. It's not that crude a use of soft power, and it can sometimes be very indirect and accumulates over time. And then, if you think about, 'Well, how do you think about Norway?', you might think lots of different things—and I mention Norway, but it has developed a reputation in human rights and conflict resolution, but that comes out of its multiple layers of its multiple identities.
So, again, the more you have a broader strategy with the values and with the different goals—perhaps the more ambitious goals—it also, I think, will link more to that stronger heart or description that you want to add—or you want to add.
Watching Wales playing football in the last European championships—I've become obsessed about this—in Paris, in France, did more for Wales on the international stage than 1,000 trade visits. I'm pretty sure about that. When I've been to events in Scotland, Paris and Brussels and various others, they wax lyrical about Scotland the land of lochs and glens—you expect Andy Stewart to walk through the door at any point. There's a sense of painting a tapestry here that plays to the gallery to some extent, and plays up the stereotype, which is another, more pejorative way of putting it. But for a sub-state place—a place that doesn't have a seat at the United Nations, is not a member state of the European Union—then at what point do you touch other places? And it tends to be—and our history as a nation has always been that our nationhood has been expressed in non-institutional terms, because we haven't had those national institutions of governance. And so, I'm interested therefore as to why would we not continue to do that. We've got one of the oldest football associations in the world, we're in the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup. If you put Bryn Terfel's name on the billboard of any place, anywhere in the world, you'll sell all your tickets. There are enormous cultural reaches that we have, which are far beyond our population size and far beyond what anybody would anticipate from a country of our size and place, and yet we don't seem to be maximising our reach with those.
Can I just add one Brexit point there, which I think follows—half follows? Forgive me, it's a bit more gloomy, though. I think the UK or the UK Government has done itself—done all of us—a lot of damage in our standing in Europe and even in the world through the way the Brexit process has happened, or failed to happen, as well, in the last three years.
And, certainly, if you look at some of what the Scottish Government has done— okay, it's a different context and Scotland voted remain, clearly, but it has done a lot of that, let's call it paradiplomacy, which can add to the soft diplomacy and it's very—. I think it's very important. You can't just sit there and go, 'Look, we're all right in Scotland, because we showed that we are pro-European by that vote'. You have to keep going and keep talking—not necessarily against Brexit, though that might be part of it. And Wales, I think, or the Assembly, has been clear that staying near or in the single market at the very least or/and in the customs union is a good idea.
Also, the Brexit context in terms of not being dragged down by the damage the UK has done to itself—and I think there's a great opportunity, because of the distinct countries within the UK, to do that, but I think it can't just be left out, maybe, at this point, because it's something that's going to take, at UK level, I think, really some time to repair.
Ie, dwi'n meddwl byddwn i'n cefnogi beth rydych chi wedi'i ddweud, achos un o'r pethau wnes i fwynhau gwneud yn fy ymchwil oedd edrych yn ôl ar gyfnod y Swyddfa Gymreig a'r Ceidwadwyr a'r math o ymwneud rhyngwladol roedd Wyn Roberts yn ei wneud a'r ffordd yr oedd cyrff fel y Welsh Development Agency yn defnyddio diwylliant i hyrwyddo Cymru. Mi wnaeth Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru, dwi'n meddwl, datblygu y strategaeth ryngwladol cyntaf yn 1989. Nid gwers hanes ydy hwn i fod, ond dwi'n meddwl ei fod yn dangos yr hanes hir o ddefnyddio diwylliant i hyrwyddo Cymru.
Felly, mae'r sail yna; mae'r strwythurau yna. Mae Celfyddydau Rhyngwladol Cymru yn bodoli ac yn y blaen, ond beth sydd gennym ni ddim yn y strategaeth yma ydy amlinellu'r ystod o gyrff. Mae'r ffocws fan hyn efallai mwy ar beth y mae'r Llywodraeth yn ei wneud, ac felly dyw e ddim wedi cwmpasu'r math o weithgarwch y mae cyrff eraill yn ei gyfrannu. Mae pethau fel y berthynas efo Flanders. Mae Llywodraeth Cymru bellach, wrth gwrs, yn rhan ganolog o'r ymwneud yma ac mae yna gymaint o gyswllt agos wedi bod rhwng gwahanol gyrff diwylliannol. Ac, wrth gwrs, mae hyn i gyd hefyd yn dangos yr ystod o gyrff cymdeithas sifil sy'n rhan o'r gweithgarwch rhyngwladol ac Ewropeaidd yma.
Un peth olaf byddwn i'n ei ddweud yn fan hyn ydy, o ran chwaraeon, dwi'n cytuno efo chi, mae'n anhygoel beth mae chwaraeon yn gallu ei wneud. Y cwestiwn wedyn dwi'n meddwl ydy: beth mae Llywodraeth yn ei wneud efo hynny a sut mae defnyddio grym meddal mewn ffordd sy'n gallu gweithio i Lywodraeth? Achos mae llawer o hyn yn fympwyol, neu mae llawer ohono fe yn hirdymor o ran datblygiad perthnasau. Ond beth mae hynna'n ei olygu am lefel buddsoddiad Llywodraeth a beth sy'n briodol i Lywodraeth wneud pan fo pwy sy'n mynd i fod uchaf yn y Champion's League yn gallu bod mor amrywiol?
Yes, I think I'd support those comments, because one of the things that I enjoyed doing as part of my research was to look back at the time of the Welsh Office and the Conservatives and the kind of international engagement that Wyn Roberts was involved with and the way that bodies such as the Welsh Development Agency used culture to promote Wales. The Arts Council of Wales, I think, developed its first international strategy in 1989. This isn't supposed to be a history lesson, but I think it does show the long history of using our culture to promote Wales.
So, those foundations are in place; the structures are in place. Wales Arts International exists and so on and so forth. What we don't have in this strategy is an outline of the range of bodies that could be involved. The focus here is more on what the Government is doing, and it hasn't encapsulated the kind of activities that other bodies are involved with. There are things such as the relationship with Flanders. The Welsh Government is now a central part of that relationship and there has been so much close contact between various cultural organisations. And that shows the range of civil society organisations that are involved with these international and European activities.
One final point that I would make here is, in terms of sport, I would agree with you, it's incredible what sport can do. But the question then is what does the Government do with that and how can you use soft power in a way that can work for a Government? Because much of this is arbitrary, and much of it is long term in terms of development of relationships. But what does that mean on the level of Government investment and what's appropriate for the Government to do when who's going to be highest in the Champion's League can vary so much?
Lastly, just a bit of irony and déjà vu here. When we're talking about the bit on cyber security and being Brexit-proof, I noticed this morning on the news that Japan, last quarter, are down 5.5 per cent on their exports and also down 1.5 per cent on their imports, but South Korea today, for the last quarter, is down 19.5 per cent on world trade. And that downturn is mainly on things like semiconductors. So, we've just been talking about this being Brexit-proof, especially things like the semiconductors and that, so it's already not Brexit-proof, but it's neither world- trade-downturn-proof either. I just thought I'd put that in there.
No, absolutely, and obviously you can't necessarily do a strategy that's going to predict every turn of the trade cycle, but there's a lot of gloom about a possible global recession, and so again that maybe also links back to my point about whether you list your top 20, or maybe, better, your top five, global challenges. Again, it gives you a context, even if you can't answer all those, and maybe the strategy won't look so different whether there's a downturn in a sector you're prioritising or not. That may come back to more domestic policies of response to recession, but it may do, so maybe you need to query that for some of the main elements.
Just one final point on this, perhaps. We've had a good discussion on the strategy and an overview of it. Should it have performance measures within it or should it not have performance measures in it? I suppose that's the very valid question that we want to ask. You rightly point out at what level you're predicting it, but at some point we've got to decide whether that strategy is working or not. So, if we have performance measures, what type of performance measures would you expect to see within the strategy?
I suppose one point I will mention is some of—. If we look at participation within networks, for example, and coming back to the previous point that Kirsty was making about the work that various actors within the UK have to do to try and rebuild that relationship between the UK and the European Union and Wales and the European Union, that work is ongoing, yes, by Government actors, but also by civil society organisations who are working right now through those networks to maintain and try to make sure that their relationships are Brexit-proof, which has meant that we've seen one European network—. If I look, for example, at the European Women's Lobby, it has amended its internal rules so the UK, including WEN Wales, Women's Equality Network Wales, can continue to participate within that network. It's actually very difficult to capture the value of participating within that network [correction: those networks], coming back to the indirect, long-term benefits. So, that is one point I think it's—. We need to keep that caveat in mind when we engage with questions about key performance indicators attached to this.
I guess there's been some debate, I think, amongst those in the sector about whether it should or it shouldn't. What's certain is that we definitely feel that something should sit underneath the strategy and the different sectors that do have some performance indicators. But, whether it has indicators or not, I think if you are going to look at indicators you can look towards things like sustainable development goals or the well-being goals and look at where there might be some indicators there that could be used that are relevant to this—so, look at maybe some indicators that already exist, that are already measured.
I think the other thing is, whether it has very specific indicators or not, it should be quite clear, with this strategy, there are some key things we want to be different in 10 years' time or in five years' time. What are those things? What do we want to see that's different? That's particularly relevant, I guess, when I'm thinking about the international development or the Wales for Africa side. But I think we can use it across the whole strategy: what do we want to be different because we've put the strategy in place and because we've taken actions under the strategy? And some of those will be very soft and difficult to actually measure, but at least a sense of what we want to see as a difference should be clear from there.
I think I'd add, something like KPIs is something you'd expect more in an action plan, maybe, than in a strategy, and it's the next step in the process. And I think the nature of the performance indicators you might use depends entirely on the sector and, clearly, they are much more appropriate in some than others, particularly around industry. I know you've got a paper today about the international offices. I think, obviously—and this is a general point in some respects—quantitative indicators are so helpful for us to be able to read, but they don't give you that kind of qualitative understanding. So, I think it's also important to have a more qualitative approach, and, in some cases, international relations or areas of international relations, you have to accept this is a more long-term project and we're not going to see some of those immediate results that you want to see, and you can't capture—.
But I think there's a broader issue as well of just making people aware of international activity. I think, sometimes, there's been a reticence to be public or visible about what's happening because there's been concern about, perhaps, the repercussions and questioning of public spending on these kinds of things, but I think it's important in building Wales as a nation that people are aware of the type of international activities that are ongoing and why it's happening, because we want to make an impact in communities in Africa, because we are learning from this or we want to understand climate change better and how we can respond in Wales by being involved internationally. So, I think there's a broader issue of how we report and how we publicise what's happening internationally as well. Because there's a wealth there, but, if you were a citizen on the streets of Wales today, you wouldn't have a clue about what's been going on.
Huw—? We've been, obviously, asking very much about the strategy, and in a sense a lot of the points you've made already will reflect upon some of the answers already in place, but we need to look at the overseas offices and the agenda for that. So, I'll let Huw lead on that.
So, let me open by asking this question, and I'm not saying this facetiously in any way: what is the point of Wales's international offices? What are they meant to do? What do they add value to? I could unwrap that a different way and say, 'Why don't we just rely on the UK overseas embassies and UK Trade and Investment and all of that?' So, what is the special thing about Wales's international offices that you think they should be doing?
My response to this, really, would focus on the Brussels office because that's the one that, in my research, I've spent more time looking at. So, the Welsh Government's Brussels office is playing a really important role—very much distinctive from the UK Government office—about intelligence gathering, seeking to influence policy, is the base for engaging in those European networks. So, actually, at the moment it plays—and I would argue that it will likely continue to play—quite a distinctive role as part of those network of offices. Also, the role of that Brussels-based office, I think this is important because when it comes to thinking about Wales's representation post Brexit, we'll need to think about its relationship with the UK—what will become the UK mission to the European Union. At the moment, Brussels is seen as a quite positive site for inter-governmental working, inter-governmental relations works, to use a positive example. So, there are large questions there about the nature of that relationship with the UK mission to the EU post Brexit. So, I would just note the distinctive role of the Brussels office within that constellation, if you like, of offices.
And I can see from the nodding of heads that I suspect you'd all be in agreement with that, the importance going forward, not just regardless but particularly in the event of Brexit, the need for that to be a very strong presence, a great influential presence as well as intelligence gathering.
Yes. I think it's a bit of a challenge, isn't it, because at the moment the international offices, in contrast to what was in existence in the period of the WDA are based within consuls or within UK Government buildings abroad? Clearly, there are strong benefits to that and you would hope that Wales is benefiting from that, but we also see examples where Wales is not being adequately represented by UK international agencies and bodies. So, I think this is something that needs to be kept under review as we go forward. Is this the best option for Wales? What do they add as value, but do they need to be more distinct in some respects? And, also, in terms of location, you're looking for that fluidity of being able to respond to what's happening economically, but also, I think some of them would benefit—I'm sure this is happening, particularly in ones in Europe—of having a more multidimensional portfolio, of having an industrial portfolio, but also fulfilling other roles. For instance, in New York, we've talked a lot about the need to be able to influence, are we going to see further development or capacity to be able to influence at the UN and those kinds of things? I'm sure it's happening, but I think we need to think about where they are and the different roles that they need to play, but I think your question's really helpful for this strategy as well. What are the implications of this strategy for those offices? And if it only gives us one answer, perhaps we would benefit from re-looking again, because there is a massive potential there.
On that, I think, there's always more that can be done for a start. And there's always more lobbying and more networking and more meetings that can be done. So, the scale that any country or state or sub-state chooses to invest is a decision, but there is always more that can be done and may have a beneficial outcome. And I think, again, if Brexit goes ahead, if you look at how Norway, even though it's in the European economic area structures, does a huge amount to get intel because it can't get it through being at the table—well, okay, it talks especially to its Nordic neighbours. But there is more to be done. And then again, with the Norway example, if you look at north Norway, the region, it has its own strategy and then it relates to the other regions and the overall Norwegian mission in Brussels as well. Exactly how, if Brexit goes ahead, trade and wider foreign policy is going to unfold, what the role of the devolved nations is going to be in that, and how much conflict there may be about what next—. Obviously, this week in Westminster, there's a lot of discussion about where our environmental, labour and other standards are going, and this obviously works better the more there's a consensus and complementarity. Whether that's where we're going, I don't know.
I think in the case of the Scottish, Scotland has long had the trade-promoting offices, and has more recently developed more hubs and offices that have a broader remit. And they seem to have been set up first, and the strategy for them is coming second. And I think it's very important in the Scottish case, just as in the Welsh case, that that comes, and not every office has to do the same thing, but you need them to be within an overarching strategy, so you're developing an international strategy. So, I would hope that would help define the role of the offices, but not fully, because then they have to say, 'Yes, the best we can do in our local area is this, and is this going to be complementary enough to the one in Berlin, or the one in Düsseldorf?'
So, I'm wondering whether—. In the current political context that we're in, understandably, a lot of the focus is 'How do we get into other markets; how do we flog stuff; how do we get out there, build relationships and sell stuff, get into new markets, expand in existing markets beyond the EU and so on?' The danger with that is that, from year to year, from month to month, it might be the appropriate thing within an emerging market where there are opportunities, but it constrains significantly that wider role of influence and engagement and intelligence gathering, and building those long-term relationships that, previously, traditionally, UK foreign diplomacy, their embassies et cetera, has been very, very good at in certain countries. So, within this strategy, what should we be challenging the Minister on? Do we have the right approach? Have we got the—? You're talking about a very individual specific challenge for each international office, based on what they can do, where they can add value, and that may be with some key performance indicators around trade, but it may also be wider things. Have we got them in the right place? What should we be saying to the Minister at this point?
I guess one of the things—. Sorry, this may not be answering your question, but one of the things I would be asking as a question in terms of this document is what it says to the audience, which is presumably largely external to Wales. And on your point that it might be about expanding to new markets, and it might very well be and going beyond Europe, but when you read it potentially at the moment, there are some mentions of Europe, but it almost gives a sense of, 'Europe's a problem now, so we'll go elsewhere', and that's not necessarily as a tone something that's going to—. So I think the strategy needs to be enabling of those changes and those differences and those options taking place, so that it still feels like a welcoming space for our European partners, and our other partners around the world, so that, in reading the strategy, no-one actually feels like, 'Well, they've ditched us, they're going to send all their red meat to China now; Europe's not a good market for that.' And, in honesty, I know it sounds picky, but it's a wording thing—sometimes the way it's worded, given the audience, needs to just be a little bit carefully considered, in terms of, if I'm an investor and I read that 'no deal' Brexit is going to be catastrophic, what influence will that have on me? If I read this as a European partner—current partner—and I see too much focus on other markets, what impacts—? So I think the question is: how can the strategy be enabling of lots of different potential scenarios by having some clear criteria and mechanisms that others have talked about today? I think that's really the question I would be asking.
One more point, which was something that Professor Kevin Morgan and I have argued in a paper when we've been thinking about the role of the Brussels office post Brexit, is actually the benefits of moving towards a more partnership-approached way of working. And that would speak to, I think, a lot of what we've been saying today, which is mobilising, including, bringing in those other actors from beyond Government as part of that European and international strategy.
I think that's right. And I think, in a sense, a lot of what we've touched on this afternoon—. We've talked a lot about horizontal relations, so whether as Government and Assembly, or as wider civil society, there's enormous scope. And there's a huge amount already going on in terms of horizontal relations and maybe, in the turmoil that Brexit has created, that's going to become more important. You said, 'What to say to your Minister?' But have we got the vertical and the horizontal dimensions of the strategy right? There still is, in some sense, a UK foreign policy and that will evolve, who knows in what direction, in the days and years ahead. But there's how to have influence on that, how to try and force, if that's the right word—it may not be—more common frameworks, and more role for the devolved administrations in trade and foreign policy discussions. But the ambition on the horizontal scale can always be there, Brexit or no Brexit. And so I think to look at that not just in the civil society sense, but, yes, in the Government and Assembly sense.
Since we've talked about the horizontal scale, I think we'll move on to the question of co-ordination, which David's going to ask.
The Minister has said this is so important that the whole Cabinet will be the oversight mechanism in Government, which strikes me as always a cop-out, because if you don't have a sub-committee, then forget it for any detailed control. Am I horribly cynical?
I don't know, to be honest. 'International' covers so many things, so actually it's obviously very important to make sure it's not in silos, and it's very important that you don't just say, 'Well, it's that Minister's responsibility, and then they must consult with that, and the rest of us won't think about it.' So, actually, I suppose my first instinct would be to say, 'No, on the contrary; maybe you do need everybody.' Well, you need everybody to engage with it. As for how you drive it forward, and what might be an appropriate sub-group—.
But I think, if you look just at EU issues, it's very hard, isn't it, to distinguish international from domestic in the world we live in? So are you going to say, 'Here are our key four international European portfolios', and then say all the rest are domestic? We could sit here and go through them and discuss. So, I wouldn't say it's a cynical question, but, no, I'm not sure those are some the considerations either way.
Do you know what the Scottish Government does? Does it have a Cabinet sub-committee on international relations?
That's a very good question. I'm not aware that it does, but, obviously, it's got a Minister for external affairs, culture and tourism, and then it's got a separate trade and economy Minister—the Europe Minister comes under the Minister for external affairs, culture and tourism—and then another Cabinet Secretary for Brexit. So, I wouldn't say it's got ideal structures either.
Without answering your question specifically, I just think that it needs to be scrutinised in its implementation, and I wouldn't want to suggest what the best mechanism for that would be. But it is important that, if we're going to have a strategy, and the importance of that is acknowledged, sometimes if something is left so that sits across everything, it may not always get the necessary detailed look or scrutiny it warrants. So, I think there needs to be satisfaction that whatever the mechanism put in place is, the implementation will be reviewed and scrutinised, and that it will be put into place across Government.
No, I was just going to reiterate the points the panel members have said, and as well refer to the point that Kirsty was making earlier about the work in progress that would be necessarily required as part of an ongoing strategy where you're reviewing the direction of travel of your international partners, of the European Union, of international bodies, and that, of course, will necessitate working that will happen across teams within Government. So, there's that ongoing activity, but beyond that—I'm not going to advance any more than what my panel members have said.
The Minister envisages some sort of twice-yearly conference for, I don't know, consultation review—perhaps some form of monitoring, anyway—consisting of the Welsh Government, local government and the civic sector, so I think it's pleasing they mention the civic sector. Do you welcome such a body? I don't think it's met yet, despite the fact, you know, presumably at draft stage it will be quite useful. But what are your views on this? Has there been any discussion with you about how it might operate, for instance?
We haven't had any discussions about how—we might expect to, I think, if there was to be a discussion about how civil society might engage in this moving forward. I think we would be one of the people who that discussion might happen with. I suppose it comes back to some of the other points in the strategy. I think it's great to have a mechanism, a body, a cross-sectoral group of people who will be engaged, and I think it's actually essential, because of the horizontal relationships across sectors. I'm not sure, again, with the specificity—we'll have two events each year that brings these—. I'm not sure that it needs to be that specific. I think setting up an oversight body that engages across the sectors is really useful and really valuable and welcome. But the twice-yearly—those are the elements that maybe don't need to be quite so specific. And I do think that there's an absolute need for transparency around who is involved and who is selected to be involved, and whether they are representing, say, their own organisation or representing civil society as a whole, or representing a particular sector, and I think that should be really clear. There are already several bodies in several sectors that represent certain elements—the third sector partnership council, for example—and I think it's important that it's a clear where such a body would fit and how members were selected or invited or included in that discussion.
I think, from my point of view, obviously there's always a risk with these things that they can be sort of box-ticking consultations, but if someone said to me that in Scotland that I, running a think tank, was deemed to be part of civil society and could go twice a year and discuss with the Scottish Government and local authorities what Scotland's international strategy is, I think that would be absolutely wonderful, actually. It would be a great place to start, and that doesn't mean there isn't all sorts of other sectoral or thematic stuff that needs to go on. It couldn't possibly be box-ticking. Yes, at first glance, that sounds great, actually. And I appreciate your points obviously, Susie, but just coming at it from a different angle.
And then finally from me on inter-governmental relations, I suppose with Scotland, but also the UK Government, because there could be some interesting complementarity here in terms of where the effort is and use of foreign assets like the UK's embassies. So, have you any suggestions how that sort of co-ordination and networking between the Governments might proceed?
I think when you look at—. I've mentioned Norway a few times, or whether you look at Switzerland or Germany—when you look at other states, you see that sort of co-operation, co-ordination, interaction, and it's—. I think especially at the moment, because of the way the Brexit process has unfolded and the Joint Ministerial Committee, there's an awful lot to criticise there about how it's working, and you have the Scottish and Welsh continuity Bills. So, there's a lot, whatever happens with Brexit, that needs rethinking, looking at again, from the macro-constitutional level to the more specific. But having said that, I think it's certainly intriguing, and, again, I keep saying 'if Brexit goes ahead', but if it goes ahead, then it looks like there will be some separate part-deal for Northern Ireland. So, I think Wales and Scotland have potentially a lot in common, and all the different dimensions. Your international strategy and European strategy we've been discussing today—I think it's interesting to consider where there could be more co-ordination and co-operation, both in UK discussions, but more importantly where you've both got offices, and how to build on that. But that's a very top-level answer; it would be interesting to try and unpick what that would look like more specifically.
To offer another top-level answer, it's such an important question, but, post Brexit, inter-governmental relations are going to be operating in a different setting where we don't have that European framework, that legislative framework, that normative framework, that policy framework, so it's going to be a new basis upon which those inter-governmental relations are going to take place. Thinking a bit more specifically, I would again go to Brussels and say—already you can see the way in which the UK's permanent representation, which is going to be the UK mission to the European Union, is making changes for its post-Brexit future. So, it will be really important, because, as I said, that has been a site of successful inter-governmental working. Since, from the indications we've had, Wales is still profiling itself as a European nation, wants to have a close relationship with the European Union, getting those inter-governmental relationships right will be really important. So, that's going to be a really important site to think about and engage with now, and certainly over the coming weeks and months as the new structures begin to take shape.
If I could just add, Brexit hasn't happened but has been going on for three and a half years, and I think, in various ways, its impact in terms of the devolved structures is to have been centralising and recentralising. Obviously, in Scotland you've got a Government that has its overarching goal of independence, but it also has been very critical and very concerned about the state of devolved structures and devolved relations. So, again, whether Brexit goes ahead or not, there's an urgency and a major need to review that and do that in an open way. Obviously, that goes beyond only international frameworks and policies, but, actually, that's quite an interesting and big chunk of it to look at in that area.
You say, Kirsty, 'if Brexit happens'. I think it's becoming reasonably clear that it's not going to happen immediately, but even if it were to happen immediately, it's going to continue not happening for an awful long time afterwards because we'll be in a European orbit without decision-making powers. But we will be negotiating arrangements and agreements, and that's going to happen for—I sense it's going to happen for the rest of my life. [Laughter.] It's certainly going to happen for a number of years. Now, that means, of course, that the place of Wales and the place of decision making in the United Kingdom is going to be scrutinised in a way that it hasn't been before. Because, you know, even the most liberal UK Minister usually draws a line and says, 'Look, you know, we're happy to support and to enable and to do the rest of the things you as the Welsh Government, but we draw the line at international affairs: that's our remit and not yours.' And, of course, when it comes to trade arrangements, then, all of a sudden, you change that view, because we are then talking about areas that are devolved and that are rightly devolved, and areas that should be devolved in some cases in terms of the Welsh settlement—less so with Scotland, possibly. But, then, Wales does have a very key interest in these matters, and I would argue a legitimate interest in these matters. So, we have an international strategy here that has been focused elsewhere in the world, which you'd anticipate, but an international strategy over the coming years also has to be rooted in the UK, because our ability to actually deliver that strategy around the world is going to be impacted by the structures that are in place and the means by which we're able to shape a policy that is being pursued or led by the United Kingdom Government. And so we need, I assume, different structures to deliver that different role for the Welsh Government and a different role for the UK Government as well, to be fair.
I think you draw into sharp relief this new post-Brexit context within which those inter-governmental relations will take place, where there is that potential for differentiation, and I think it's important to think about that legislative framework, but also think about the norms, funding, strategies, the other ways in which European integration has taken place in the UK, within that political system, and outside that political system that has manifold implications. So, I think, absolutely, those inter-governmental structures have been heavily criticised for the extent to which they've been weak and unable to afford the devolved administrations the opportunity to really influence UK decision making, and they're really having to come into their own at the moment, but there is road yet to travel to strengthen and formalise those structures, certainly. And a large part of this will be around the structures that the UK Government is willing to establish that can be used by the Welsh Government. But I agree with everything that you have said.
I guess just a very quick question, with a point coming back on that. I agree also that that's a point—. I guess the question I would ask in terms of scrutiny of this particular document, the international strategy, is just clarity around audience. I agree there are huge amounts of work to do. Parts of this document at the moment address the UK Government specifically, and there is certainly a need to do that, but I just think there's potentially a note of caution in terms of that what's actually in the strategy itself and what happens behind the scenes are quite a different. So, again, just thinking through that audience of, 'Okay, we know these things, we want these things to change in the UK Government. Is that for this strategy or is that for a separate paper or separate approach, or for the work that happens behind the scenes to enable the strategy to happen?', so that the strategy itself doesn't become a sort of lobby of the UK Government and what it needs to do for the future.
It's awkward, isn't it? Because normally, in a way—we're not in normal times, I suppose—but normally you would expect a strategy in a multinational union to, in fact, discuss that. You're talking about looking forward, and there's incredible uncertainty, and one of the defining characteristics of Brexit has been uncertainty, and if Brexit happens, then, okay, we'll get rid of one bit of the uncertainty, but, actually, it will still be very uncertain. We may be facing a general election soon—how much certainty or not will that give? Will it give us a majority Government that will stay in power for five years or not? And then how much conflict or disagreement will there be between the devolved Assemblies and central Government, depending on who and what policy, and where they're taking their foreign policy and trade policy and European relations? And, again, if Brexit happens, with Northern Ireland in a different place, and also—. Imagine trying to think about that part of it. Is the UK Government going to be lobbying on the single market rules on Northern Ireland's behalf, or on our own behalf? It also makes it much more complex. That is definitely not a reason, obviously, though to say, 'Oh no, well, okay, we'll just accept that our consultation and joint decision-making mechanisms are a muddle and we can't sort them out now.' You just have to keep going, don't you?
Look, it's a terrible chaos, and I think everybody agrees with that. But the one thing the UK Government does have, notwithstanding what we heard before about no trade specialists, is a resource available to us. David's made the point about sharing resources. I certainly don't know what the rent is for our consulate or our office in the financial district of San Francisco, but I'm sure I wouldn't want, as a member of the Finance Committee, to scrutinise it too carefully if we had to pay it all ourselves. Now, I would have anticipated that access to a residence in Washington and everywhere else is actually a fantastic resource for us that we should make full use of, and, certainly, my experience on trade missions, as a Minister, is that the UK civil service has provided fantastic support for us, and that is something we should continue to enjoy.
The one exception I would make, actually, would be in the Brussels office, where I think, for other reasons, it would be important that we maintain our own presence rather than disappear into what was UKRep, or what is UKRep. So, notwithstanding the points you make, Kirsty, the UK still does have an enormous resource that we surely should be seeking to derive benefit from.
Absolutely. I wasn't suggesting we wouldn't. Certainly.
Okay. We are fast approaching the end of our session. Do any other Members have questions? Well, there are none. Can I thank you for your time this afternoon? It's actually been a very interesting discussion on the strategy and your views relating to the draft version and what we hope to see in the final version, whenever that's published—who knows with the things that are going on at the moment. But, very kind. You will receive a copy of the transcript, each of you. If there any factual inaccuracies, can you please let the clerking team know as soon as possible so that we can get them corrected? So, once again, thank you for your time and have a safe journey home.
For Members, if we move on to the next item on the agenda, which is papers to note, we have three. The first is a performance report on the Welsh Government's overseas network, as it happens. This is the first performance report we've received from the Minister, following a commitment to the committee to provide quarterly reports. Are Members content to note at this point? The Minister will be coming back to us after half term.
The second one is correspondence from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster regarding the common frameworks. And, as we are aware, there has been a session scheduled now for Thursday lunchtime, and it has been confirmed. Are Members content to note the letter? Thank you.
And the third one is correspondence from the First Minister regarding some questions we did not reach with him during our session on 16 September. Are Members content to note the responses from the Minister and the confirmation within that of the Government not introducing its own agricultural Bill until the next Assembly? Okay. Thank you for that.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi) and (ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Then, item 5 is a motion under Standing Orders 17.42(vi) and 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of this meeting. Are Members content to move into private session? Yes. Therefore, we will now move into private session.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 16:14.
The public part of the meeting ended at 16:14.