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Y Pwyllgor Materion Allanol a Deddfwriaeth Ychwanegol

External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee

18/11/2019

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Alun Davies AM
David Melding AM
Delyth Jewell AM
Huw Irranca-Davies AM Cadeirydd dros dro
Temporary Chair
Joyce Watson AM Yn dirprwyo ar ran David Rees
Substitute for David Rees
Mandy Jones AM

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Des Clifford Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Eluned Morgan AM Gweinidog y Gymraeg a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol
Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language
Emma Edworthy Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Aled Evans Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Alun Davidson Clerc
Clerk
Claire Fiddes Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Rhun Davies Ymchwilydd
Researcher

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 13:31.

The meeting began at 13:31.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Good afternoon and welcome to this session of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee. We've just got some of the standard housekeeping issues to deal with before we go into our substantive item this afternoon. So, could I welcome all Members? I welcome particularly our substitute Member today, Joyce Watson. Thank you very much for joining us, Joyce. As you'll recollect at the last meeting, I think it was by universal acclamation I was asked to stand in as temporary Chair, which I'm happy to do in the absence of David Rees—

—there was indeed [Laughter.]—David Rees, our esteemed colleague, who's not able to be with us today.

Just a reminder, the meeting is bilingual, we have translation facilities; you don't need to do anything other than turn these handsets on. Could you turn off your mobile phones, please, as they do interfere with broadcasting equipment, or at least put them to silent? We're not expecting a fire alarm, but just follow the directions from our colleagues here if the fire alarm does go off. Does any Member want to declare an interest in the proceedings this afternoon? Okay. I'll just draw Members' attention to my normal declaration in terms of my chairing of European-related committees, but they're not pertinent to this afternoon's business directly.

2. Sesiwn graffu gyda Gweinidog y Gymraeg a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol
2. Scrutiny session with the Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language

In which case, we can move on, then, to our substantive business, which is the scrutiny session with the Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language. You're very welcome again this afternoon, Minister. You're a regular in front of this committee. I think we are familiar with your colleagues, but could I ask you or them to introduce yourselves, please?

Member
Eluned Morgan AM 13:33:04
Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language

Des.

I'm Des Clifford, and I'm director general of the office of the First Minister.

Hi, Emma Edworthy—I'm deputy director of trade policy.

Thank you very much. Now, we're going to turn straight, if you're happy, into our areas of questioning this afternoon, and we're looking at both the draft international strategy and also wider issues to do with trade and international engagement as well. Mandy, if you'd like to kick us off, please.

Good, afternoon, Minister. I've noticed in one of your covering letters that you're going to publish your international strategy in the new year now, because of the election. How do you respond to Susie Ventris-Field's concerns regarding how two of the centres of excellence relate to the Welsh Government's values and commitment to human rights?

The centres of excellence have been chosen on the basis of some very clear criteria. So, they have to be Brexit-proof. They have to be areas where there is scope for growth. They have to be in keeping with the economic action plan, and they also have to be areas where we are already known as having global expertise. But, on top of that, they have to comply with the three specific themes that we're pushing in relation to this strategy, that is creativity, sustainability and technology.

The two issues that I think your witness suggested might not be compatible—one was the compound semiconductors. And I've got to say that I think that compound semiconductors are actually quite revolutionary products that are going to be responsible for really powering the fourth industrial revolution. They are also energy saving devices—they reduce the power in a lot of the products that we use. So, I don't think that that’s incompatible at all, certainly with the sustainability aspect.

On the cyber security side of things, I know that there is clearly a link with defence, but there's a much, much broader issue relating to cyber security. If you just look at the elections, we know that there has been an attack on the Labour Party Facebook page, for example. But, also, if you think about how there have been attacks on Sony in the past and every one of us has now got to be vigilant in terms of how we respond to our own security in relation to the digital world, and the fact that we have world-leading expertise in this and that it ticks that technology box, I think, should mean that it is absolutely compliant with the kind of approach that we've got to the strategy.

13:35

Thank you for that. Could you also confirm how the centres of excellence contribute towards delivering the well-being goal of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015?

So, the well-being of future generations Act, there are lots of aspects to that, of course. One of them is that we want to see a more prosperous Wales, and the idea here, of course, is that we're driving the prosperity of Wales. I think we've got to make sure that there's an understanding that these are exemplar projects. It's about changing the image of Wales, of how people perceive Wales, and it's not just about the old industries that we are renowned for in the past; this is about presenting a new image of how we're seen. Through doing that, through highlighting, for example, our creativity in relation to tv and film, people will, hopefully, see that, actually, there are opportunities to invest here. We know, in relation to film and tv, for example, we've now got 58,000 people working in that industry. There's been a 50 per cent growth in the past few years. So, that is certainly going to tick the prosperity box.

The 'more resilient Wales' box is really important as well. If you think about the fact that we want to drive the number of exports, that will make our own industries here more resilient to whatever may happen in relation to Brexit. And, of course, a more equal Wales is more likely to be something that can be delivered if we can increase the tax take, and then, of course, we can spend that money on supporting our public services. So, there are lots of different aspects, I think, to that well-being goal and that future generations goal that I think we should be very proud of.   

By just concentring on those three, though, doesn't this narrow your options down? Dr Elin Royles commented that priority sectors may result in negative perceptions of other sectors, and the approach of identifying priority sectors may limit the Welsh Government’s ability to respond to future development. Isn't that narrowing down your field?

So, I've been listening a lot to the people who are going to be selling Wales and what they have to say, and the message has come back to me very clearly from the department for trade and investment that we've got massive, extensive networks throughout the globe, and what they're saying to me all the time is, 'What do you want us to promote?' And so, unless we give them a clear steer, then the difficulty is and the danger is that we won’t be promoting anything; it'll be generalities. What happened when we went to Germany, for example, is that we said, 'Look, we're world experts in these areas, why don’t you come and speak to us?' We finished up talking about financial technology and insurance technology in Wales, because we managed to get them through the door, because they were interested. So, we are not excluding other sectors—of course we're not—but the response from the business community has been really, really positive. Although, of course, they all say, 'Have you thought about our sector as well?' We are, effectively, trying to pick winners, but it's not about just these sectors; it's about projecting a different image of Wales.  

Will you be hanging on to those three, or looking at those other sectors that have been brought up by other companies?

So, obviously, we need to remain flexible, in terms of who knows what will happen in the market in future, but I think if we go on the basis of those criteria—that they have to be in keeping with sustainability, technology and creativity, and also comply with 'where's the opportunity for growth?'—then I think that there are opportunities for us to switch in future if we see that the market is switching.

May I just add a word, if I could, Chair? I think many of us in this room have been around different parts of the world, sort of waving the flag for Wales, and there are some views of Wales that are held in different parts—people tend to know about sport, they tend to know us as a rural nation, as an agricultural nation, and some places know about our heavy industry past. It's possibly not people's first automatic thought to think of Wales as a place where we do absolutely cutting-edge, high-tech industrial development as well, and I guess that's what we're trying to focus on by trying to shift the conversation to things like cyber technology and compound semiconductors. It's been really hard to shift the dial on these things, but we'd just like people to have an understanding of Wales as a place where a really modern, knowledge-based economy, digital economy has developed and as a good place to do those industries. So, we're really just using these sectors to try and illustrate that. It's not to shut out anything else. There are lots of other things that we very actively promote, but we're just trying to shift the dial in a more positive, forward-thinking way

13:40

Thank you very much for that. Can I just follow up on a couple of those answers? You, helpfully, in your response to Mandy, indicated your thinking behind which sectors you're in, but Susie Ventris-Field, when she gave evidence to us, said she had some real concerns about the Welsh Government's values agenda and how some of these fit in, and she picked particularly that exciting field, that modern, innovative field of cyber security, where, I think, in her phrase, she says that perhaps some of the companies in this haven't got strong records in human rights issues. How do you reconcile that?

Well, I'd be very surprised if Welsh companies have a poor record in relation to human rights issues in relation to cyber security. But we will be focusing, I think, in the areas—. There's a huge, vast area that is not about defence. It's actually about how we protect our citizens, how we protect our online banking systems, how we protect the films that are produced. The NHS—you know that that was attacked. So, there are all of these issues that need protection and I think it's really important that people understand that this is also about cutting-edge technology, and one of the things we need to do is to make sure now that we have a very skills-development approach that runs alongside it so that it is sustainable in future.

That's really helpful, Minister, because what you're indicating is that you're giving a fairly high degree of reassurance there that, as to the concerns we've heard expressed from a Welsh perspective, from the Welsh companies involved in this international trade and international strategy, we shouldn't have that high degree of concerns about what they are involved in. 

Well, obviously, there are issues and we do have defence companies. There's no question about that. But within this space, the area that we'll be promoting is more the commercial side of things. 

But we support defence. We support the defence of this country and we support the manufacturing of weapon systems that keep Britain and Wales safe and keep our armed forces from going in harm's way. It's fundamental to who we are and certainly who I am as a Welsh Labour representative.

And I think you've got to remember that defence is important for the nation as well—you're absolutely right. We need to protect ourselves—

Sure. I don't want us to go down this route, Minister, whereby we're in some ways half-hearted about any of this. I support the defence of the United Kingdom. The Labour Party supports the defence of the United Kingdom. It was a Labour Government that invested in the bomb in 1945 as well as the NHS, and we have to ensure that it's a Labour Government that continues to champion the defence of this country.

Minister, I don't think you need to necessarily respond to that. Delyth.

Just to avoid it becoming a party political broadcast of some sort [Laughter.] Obviously, a balance has to be struck with this, and you've said, Minister—I think it was on 10 June, when you appeared before the committee—that you wanted, where possible, for your international strategy to align with UK Government policies, where that's possible. Taking on board what Alun's just said, with the defence industry and the presence of businesses in Wales and how, in the supply chain, at least, the UK Government has been shown to be selling arms to Saudi Arabia, but in terms—

13:45

Well, Alun, no, it's not a different issue from what I'm talking about in terms of what the Minister said on 10 June. How would you align that—the fact that the Welsh Government will want to align the strategy with UK Government policies where possible? Where's the line drawn, would you say, with a situation like that?

We've been in discussions with the UK Government UK Trade and Investment, and what we've made clear is that if we want them to sell our products, then they need to understand what it is we want to sell. So, we have focused on these three areas. We've been talking to them—'Are these three areas areas that you would be comfortable selling on our behalf?' And they've been absolutely clear that that's something they understand. So, in the past, one of the areas that they've been promoting, for example, is nuclear energy, because there was an expectation that there would be this massive, massive investment in north Wales. That hasn't happened now, so, obviously, we need to be flexible in terms of what could or may happen in future. So, talking to the UK Government about aligning our pitch is crucial in this.

Thank you very much. Before we move on to another area, you're content, as well, that the sectors—the sectors where you see the growth coming, those three sectors—are ones where we can also deal with those value issues such as male and female representation in the workforce and so on, as well.

I think inclusivity is really important, so that's why I have been speaking to people involved in the gender issues around cyber, for example. And we have got an issue—we've got to encourage a lot more women into STEM subjects and we've got to start a lot younger. So, there is a cyber women's group—not many of them exist in the world, but there is one here in south Wales. And the same thing with compound semiconductors. There are women who really are at the forefront of that, so we just need to make sure that we use these people, then, as role models to get more women into the industry.

And just in relation to film and tv, it's very interesting. I've recently been to visit the Bad Wolf studios and their approach to inclusivity is incredible. They are really trying to line up some of the poorest schools in this community to try and open the doors for them, to open the imagination of some of those people from really deprived communities to get them to understand that there's an opportunity for them as well. 

That, I think, we'd like to hear more about on the committee—how that is being done and embedding itself within local economies and giving those opportunities to everybody. We'd like to hear more about that, and I think if you could perhaps drop us a line—. But, we're going to move to David now, on co-ordination and delivery. David, over to you.

Thanks, Chair. It actually moves us forward, and you've just been talking about your relationships with UK Government. I think you have stressed that it's important that the UK Government is part of delivering the strategy, and you've said in the past that Wales needs to receive its fair share of UK Government representation. So, how do you monitor that and what is the fair share of our representations? Does that go down to the number of Welsh firms in trade fairs around the world that are run by UK departments? What were you driving at in saying that?

First of all, we've got to get the structures right. So, the dialogues between the Ministers and the officials, all of that is happening more regularly now than I think was happening before. I think it's really important for them to understand that there's an expectation from us now, and, actually, just simply asking the questions in a more assertive way about what our expectations are I think should help us to get them to understand what our expectation is from them. But I've always been very clear that I think that we also have to be clear with them what we want. So, part of this is about just making sure that we're all singing from the same hymn sheet in Wales, that there's an understanding that we're all lined up and that, when people go abroad, for example, in our much broader networks across the United Kingdom, from Wales, whether that be universities or national opera companies or whatever, they understand that this is the pitch that we want to be given. Now, they may or may not come in behind us, but at least they'll know what our pitch is.

So, we do and we will have regular meetings with officials. In terms of what our expectations are, I don't think we can be clear, 'Look, if you've got 100 investments coming into Britain, we want 5 per cent', but I think giving them, 'We are 5 per cent of the population, this is your roundabout target and we will be asking you questions in relation to your delivery, so we need to be clear from you about what you're doing in order to help yourselves and us to reach the targets that we expect from you'—.

13:50

If I could reverse that, you talk about your expectations or what our take ought to be, the magical 5 per cent as a minimum, on a population basis, but if we start with your powers of initiation, the three centres for excellence cover quite a range: cyber security, compound semiconductors, and then the creative industries. So, are you intending to look at the major trade embassies abroad, where the UK has major capacity and striking up a relationship where one of those three centres of excellence is going to play? Because, obviously, there are certain markets around the world that, for each one of those strands, will be a very, very big player. So, are you expecting that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office trade representatives in those embassies are fully informed, trained and aware of what we've got and what we are promoting?

That's exactly what we're doing. I've already met with the cyber trade commissioner, for example, and told him the story of Wales, which he didn't really know in relation to cyber. So, some of this is about telling the story. I think what's most interesting for me is that we don't know the story in Wales. So, we've got a job to do to tell the people of Wales what we should be proud of. We're so modest in terms of telling people in Wales what we're good at, so I think we've got to start by telling the people of Wales, 'This is what we're good at', and then sell that abroad, because it's got to be authentic. It's got to be something that Welsh people can also buy into and realise this is something that we're good at. So, yes, we're engaging with those trade commissioners, especially those who have specific responsibility, like the cyber commissioner.

I think what's interesting for me is that it's not always about markets. So, it's not about going to a particular country. Every country in the world needs to do cyber in some way or another, now. So, we are also undertaking a review of how we do trade missions. So, it may be that we do more trade fairs, rather than doing general trade missions to a particular country. So, we're just having a review of that to see what is the best way to do that and, obviously, we're engaging with the UK Government on that and also with the chambers of commerce and people like that, who are helpful in terms of selling those stories abroad.

So, absolutely, but the first thing we're going to do, of course, is to tell our own staff around the world—we've got 21 offices—to make sure that they're all absolutely lined up. We've commissioned videos to help us sell this story. And we need a whole communications strategy around this. So, that's another piece of work that is going to be, I think, quite significant that we need to undertake. So, there are real opportunities for us, I think. And of course, then, we will expect the UK Government to share that information around their embassies around the world and, in particular, the Department for International Trade.

May I add just one sentence, if it's helpful? The UK Government, through the Department for International Trade, has divided the world up into nine zones, for which there are UK international trade commissioners, and the Minister has met a good selection of them and will work her way around all of them in due course. So, those will, in effect, be our gateway to the network of these. There are 200-odd UK embassies and missions around the world and we just don't have the resource to deal directly with all of those, but we go through the gateway of these trade commissioners in the way that the Minister has just described, and that's our way of getting our messages out and the propositions that will be—

And how will you monitor that it's having an effect, this strategy, by their responses? How will you know it's working? That they know about us and our three areas of—

I guess, ultimately, we'll know in terms of whether we're getting more exports from Wales or whether we're getting more investment into Wales. It's a difficult time for all of this, but I think in terms of engagement, we will have a better system for engaging. The FCO, for example, has a devolution unit within it. We just need to make sure that those messages are being pushed out, but I think we've got to do it in a much more engaging way than we have in the past, which is why things like commissioning short videos and things I think is the way to go. The other thing that we'll want to do is to engage our diaspora community in terms of telling those stories as well.

13:55

And then, you've also emphasised the role of UK agencies. Are there any particular ones that you are pursuing a closer relationship with, and you see them as particularly important to your strategy?

So, we've already met with the BBC World Service, and they've said that they're happy to take more stories from us. So, some of that is about us telling our story. We've got to be a lot more creative in the way that we tell our story. But also, I met with the chair of the British Council recently. We've got a really good relationship with the British Council. They're very active in Wales but, again, I think we need to be very clear about, 'Can you help us with telling our story abroad?', and there are areas, for example, in relation to soft power—in particular, maybe culture—where maybe we don't have an office in that particular part of the world where the BBC National Orchestra of Wales will be performing, but the British Council will be there and could be promoting our message alongside them. So, they're really open for that.

A lot of this needs co-ordination. So, one of the key things is that we need to co-ordinate people back home in Wales to make sure that everybody's lined up, so that when people are going abroad they know who they can contact and who can help them to promote that message.

If I can turn to another sector—we've touched on it, actually, in the previous questions—and that's the Welsh Government's relationship with civil society. And I just wonder how you intend to use those very powerful informal networks, I suppose, and ensure that it helps, again, add weight, then, to the strategy, and that you utilise what's there as a free resource, in essence, because those networks are already existing and could be enhanced, presumably.

I think people are really excited about this strategy. There's a real excitement across Wales in terms of the civil society, because they haven't seen this approach in the past. We've tried to do it right from the beginning to engage them in developing this strategy. There are all kinds of organisations; you think about the work we do with the Wales for Africa programme, where there are literally thousands of organisations or people feeding into that, and benefiting from it. We've got university networks that we need to use to benefit—they've got massive resources. A lot of them are across the world, and they are more than happy to help us promote Wales.

So, one of the things we'll be doing is making sure that we can provide some kit for them to make sure that when they're doing this, that, actually, they can speak on our behalf, giving the kind of messages. These networks, the civil society, have engaged very much in this process. The diaspora in Wales is something that we need to tap into a lot more—they're very excited about this as well—because they have incredible links to their home countries. So, that's another opportunity for us to make sure that we use them in order to tell our message abroad.

And will you—? It's quite a range, as you indicated, from universities that one could assume have a fair amount of capacity to conduct this sort of activity, to very valuable in the voluntary sector that has less capacity. Will you be investing in any networks you think are particularly worth while, and perhaps are from that end that is not as structured as, say, universities are, and is more at the voluntary end? Do you see a role for them, and will you be investing in increasing their capacity to help you deliver the strategy?

We've already got in relation to Africa, for example, Hub Cymru Africa, which is specifically there in order to enhance their ability to do work in Africa, to make sure that they have the capacity within their charities to expand on what they would be able to do otherwise. So, some of that's in place already. One of the things we will be doing is to be having two meetings a year to bring people together, to just keep our feet to the fire, really, to make sure that we're going in the right direction, and that we are reporting back to them in terms of what our priorities are. So, I hope that that will be a way to make sure that they feel that they are constantly engaged.

14:00

And then finally from me, I think you made a decision early on—or someone did; it was you and the First Minister—that there would not be a Cabinet sub-committee in this area of work. Obviously, you can make arguments that the whole Cabinet has responsibility, but the depth of attention you can get through a sub-committee seems to me much larger than you'll ever get through even quite regular discussions and updates for full committee. So, as this develops, will you be reviewing that decision, whether or not there should be a Cabinet sub-committee?

I think I would rather do intensive bilateral meetings with my Cabinet Members to know exactly what they are up to. So, I've been around the whole Cabinet just to make sure, 'Right, what aspects are you promoting? What should we be promoting?' So, I think actually you can get even further with bilateral meetings rather than sub-Cabinet meetings. Obviously, in terms of co-ordinating that role, then that will take place at the Cabinet level.

Doesn't a bilateral approach with your colleagues run the risk of being rather staccato, rather than having a sub-committee, which emphasises then to the whole range of Government? This co-ordination is really important, it's high priority.

Yes, and people are already responding. For example, we've said we're going to concentrate on certain areas—Ireland, for example, is an area where we want to build better relationships. And now the health team is saying, 'Right, okay, now we understand that, we will think about how we can develop better relationships with Ireland in relation to health.' So, some of this—we can let the whole Cabinet know, but actually the people who are going to deliver it are going to be that health department.

Thank you, David. And before we move on to another area of examination, I wonder if you can just give us an update on a couple of aspects related to this. When you were previously in front of us as a committee—one of them was when you were in front of us on 10 June—you mentioned that you were keen to update a comprehensive database of what's going on, who's doing what, where the experts are in terms of your international strategy. Has that database of where the experts are, who they are, who we need to work with, been developing?

That is being developed. I've asked all of the department now to make sure that we have a database for who we should be communicating with. There's also a broader database that is being developed by the marketing side of things. So, that is coming along. On top of that, there is the kind of diaspora side of things that I think needs a lot of extensive work. So, we're meeting with an organisation soon who's going to help us to see how we can use technology to harness the diaspora community around the world.

So, it sounds like the work on the diaspora, building that sort of base of contacts and so on, will take a little bit more time. But the actual database of experts that you can work with alongside your international strategy, do you anticipate that—this is a rolling exercise, I know—by the time you produce your strategy, that database will also be in place for those experts?

So, I now have a monthly comms meeting to see how we develop the communications strategy around this. In the last meeting, I commissioned some work so that we have that comprehensive database of people that we're working with within the department. So, that has been commissioned and I'm expecting that to come to the next comms meeting.

Very good. Thank you very much. So, we're going to move ahead to another area of investigation now and the overseas officers and presence overseas. Joyce, you're going to take us through that.

I am. Good afternoon. We've got the first quarterly report in front of us. Are you content with the performance that we're reading from that report?

Well, I think there are huge amounts of activities happening across the world in relation to our 21 offices, and probably we don't sing their praises enough and we don't give enough visibility, and we come back once again to this whole issue of how on earth we communicate what they're doing. So, comms is fundamental to what we need to be doing. So, they are being given direction now in relation to the international strategy and what they should be focused on. There are certain offices that perform better than others, but they all focus on slightly different things as well. So, for example, you know that the office in Japan has done a huge push in relation to the Rugby World Cup and we've massively increased our profile in that country. And we've built a huge strategy around that, from food and drink to promoting cyber security, to promoting arts, Welsh arts. We've had the Prince of Wales's harpist out there. There are all kinds of things that have been packaged around an opportunity that was there. And I think we've got to be opportunistic when we have things like that presented. And, of course, we're all hoping that we'll go to the next Euro cup, which—again, whatever I do, that is going to be more immense than whatever I can do in the next couple of years. If they get to the Euro cup, what an opportunity for us to really sing on an international stage once again.

14:05

I couldn't agree more, and I'm going to watch it tomorrow night. But, having said all of that—and you're right, sport on the world stage is a great opportunity for us to go along with and promote what we are about, so that's a fantastic opportunity—. But we have specific figures in front of us, and those were the figures that I was asking the question on. So, I don't know if there's anything you want to talk about specifically in relation to this table that's in front of us.

Well, I think, on the whole, they're on target, but, you know, you've got to remember, we're in a really difficult time here, so, if you think about inward investment, for example, then it's a difficult time to be attracting people to this country at the moment. If you think about things like the fact that, actually, we've got a lot of major companies that are based here in Wales, and some of them are saying to us, 'Well, look, when you've got an answer to where we stand in relation to Brexit, we'll talk to you. But, until that point, actually, don't bother coming knocking.' So, there are things that are within our control, and things where we have to just respond to what they are willing for us to do. The key thing is that we keep on offering; I think that's the most important thing.

Okay. And I will be getting on to Brexit, and, of course, it's the elephant in the room in the way that you describe. In terms of all the rapid changes that are happening, or may happen, or may not happen in any case, do you think that the Welsh Government might need to review the location of the existing, and maybe the creation of new, overseas offices, particularly if we do end up with, possibly, new free trade agreements?

So, we've just seen an extension of offices. So, we've opened new offices in France and Germany, and I think that was really important to give a signal that, 'Listen, whatever's happening here, we are totally committed to our European neighbours.' I think we've, obviously, got to keep a watching brief on how things will pan out. Key for me is that we maintain our relationship with the EU as our top priority—that's where 60 per cent of our goods go. So, we need to just keep watching that space in particular, and we may need to think about how we respond in relation to possibly reinforcing our European presence in the light of what happens in relation to Brexit.

It is very difficult, of course, to talk about what may or may not happen, but, nonetheless—. I don't know if you've got anything that you can bring to the table today in terms of progress on the committee's report, particularly recommendation 5—the committee's report on future relationships—and whether you are thinking about exploring continued Welsh participation in the EU programmes. 

14:10

So, the key thing for us is to make sure that we've given a very, very clear signal, as we have done over and over again, that we are keen—. Well, we're keen to remain in the EU is the beginning of our story. But, whatever happens, we would like to continue with those international programmes. Horizon 2020 has been of huge benefit to Wales. We've got the Erasmus+ programme—thousands of students within Wales who have benefited from that—Creative Europe, and, of course, we've got the European Territorial Cooperation. So, of course we've made it clear to the UK Government that we want those relationships to continue. So, whatever happens, all of those programmes—I think all of those programmes—are open to third countries. So, if they're open to third countries, then why wouldn't we join in as well? So, I know Israel, for example, is in Horizon 2020. If they're in it, there's no reason why we shouldn't be in it as well. So, we've just got to keep pushing on that door if we possibly can, and that's certainly what we've been doing. 

Could I, possibly—? If I could just add a line, if I may—. So, you're probably familiar with the political declaration, which was part of what the UK Government negotiated with the European Union recently, and paragraph 11 of that, which is about participation in union programmes, is reasonably encouraging from our perspective in that it seems to open the way for negotiating participation in Erasmus, Creative Europe and Horizon 2020, the innovation and research one. It doesn't specifically mention INTERREG, which is a matter of priority for us, particularly in the context of the Ireland-Wales programme. So, that is absolutely an area—. It does mention the peace programmes with Northern Ireland, an element of which is, of course, an INTERREG programme. So, arguably the principle has been conceded, but that will be front and central of our forward dialogue with the UK Government in the period ahead.

So, in terms of—. And you're right about the INTERREG programmes, because, particularly in Mid and West Wales, they loomed quite large and brought lots of benefits with them. So, we're going to have a new trade commissioner. They're going to be formally appointed, and they're going to have a very critical role in everything that we do. So, have you—? Is it your intention, as soon as you can, to meet with that individual, whoever they might be, and have these discussions?

So, certainly in relation to trade—. So, I think Phil Hogan is the proposed commissioner with responsibility there, and I know that our Brexit Minister has already met him in his capacity as the current commissioner in his portfolio at the moment. Of course, I'll be asking for a meeting with him as soon as he's officially endorsed as the commissioner. 

Joyce, thank you very much. Alun, you wanted to come in at this point.

Yes. I was looking at the table that Joyce has described about the objectives and targets that have been set for the overseas office, and one of the conversations we had, I think, during your previous appearance here, Minister, was about how you would be setting objectives for the strategy as a whole. Now, I accept we haven't seen that yet, but I was wondering if you could potentially explain to us how you will be setting objectives and targets for the strategy as a whole and whether we can expect to see the same, granular approach to that as we've seen in terms of the overseas offices. 

So, it's a really difficult tension we've got here, because there's a broad strategy—people are saying, 'Right, give us a direction of travel', and then people are asking for granularity as well. So, we've got to try and get a balance between those two. I think what I am hoping to do in the final document is to give a bit more clarity in terms of what we're expecting to achieve in the next five years so that there will be a bit more clarity in terms of, 'Right, in five years' time, we will, for example, want to be known internationally as the first nation in the world to put the United Nations' sustainability goals into law', and that's something then that we can start to measure. The same thing, for example, in relation to the Welsh language—I think we should champion ourselves as a land where we have reversed the decline and have something we can offer to the world, where, every other week, a language dies. So, there are things that I think that we need to be very clear about, and I'm hoping you'll get more clarity in the final iteration of the document in terms of where we hope to be in the next five years.

14:15

I understand the point you make about a tension, and I do agree with that qualification, but without, of course, very clear objectives, and measurement of those objectives, you cannot be held to account, and neither you nor we know if you've achieved your own strategy. A strategy is not a means in itself, it's a means to an end, and, without understanding what the ends are, it's difficult to understand whether the strategy is the appropriate strategy or not.

So, I've really struggled with this as well, because I'm always someone who's keen to see goals and to be absolutely clear about what our targets are, but, I've got to tell you, it's really, really difficult in an age of Brexit. So, just to give you an example, if we said, 'Right, in the next five years, we want to see x number more students coming from Wales internationally', we would have probably under-targeted, because the UK Government has now said, 'Actually, you will now be able to stay if you're a student from overseas', and so we're likely to get far more people applying to Welsh universities than we would have had otherwise. So, we're in such a time of a moving target, it's really difficult.

If you think in relation to exports, for example, I'd love to say, 'Right, in x number of years, our exports are going to be x, y, z', but if the UK Government, as—you know, if it was a 'no deal' Brexit and they took the tariffs down to zero, that could have a major impact on the oil refinery in west Wales, which is a major contributor to exports. So, it is such a difficult thing, at this point in time, to say, 'This is where we want to be', and obviously inward investment is a really difficult target. So, some of the hard things that I would like to put in are just really, really difficult at this point in time.

So, what I would like to do is to put some broader themes so that we are saying, 'We want to be known as the world leader in the well-being of future generations' or whatever. So, some of those things I hope will be elaborated on in a bit more clarity on in the final—.

I accept the generality of the points you made, and I'm the first person to blame the weather on Brexit, but I'm not convinced that you can blame everything in this way on Brexit. Because, if you're working in any particular environment, the environment is the environment, and you've described that in terms of you setting your objectives, and you understand that where there are changes in that operating environment, so there will be changes in how you work and what you work towards. But the ambition remains; the objective remains.

So, what, I think, concerned the committee during our previous conversation was that the objective wasn't there at all and, as a consequence, it seemed—the objective and the ambition seemed to be led by actions rather than the other way around. And so we've got all of this activity going on and what we're going to do is to pull it all together and call it a strategy. And it seemed to me and, I think, to other members of the committee, that what we needed was a sense of purpose, a sense of ambition, a sense of vision, a sense of objectives, and then determining which actions and what activities would be supported and the approach that Government would take in order to achieve those ends.

And whilst I do sympathise with the issues around Brexit—as I say, I do agree with some of what you said there—the fact of Brexit shouldn't necessarily impact on what the ambition of the Welsh Government is, because, whether or not, surely the Welsh Government has clear objectives for its international work itself. So, I hope that we will be able, when we see the strategy, to see a clear statement of what the Government's objectives and visions are for Wales.

14:20

Well, I'm hoping that you will be more comfortable with what we've set out. We've got these three clear objectives that we're trying to set out. So, we've got those set out, but the question is, 'Right, within those, how are you going to achieve it?' So, we know that we want to raise Wales's profile, we know that we want to improve the economy of Wales through—

So, how do you measure them? Say, for example, raising Wales's profile—let's just isolate that, because that's not dependent on Brexit, really. How would you measure it? How would you know that you've raised Wales's profile?

It's not just generally raising Wales's profile; it's raising Wales's profile in specific areas. So, I want to be known as the first nation in the world to take the UN sustainability goals and to put them into law. I think that that is something we should be really, really proud of. People are really interested in it and I think that, as one of the goals, we should have, 'We are recognised internationally as the first nation in the world to put UN—'.  Now, yes, how do you measure that? Are you going to go off to Iran in five years' time and say, 'Have you heard about the well-being of future generations Act?' I'm not sure how you measure it, but, obviously, we will target certain audiences. But I think there's a genuine interest. There's no reason why we can't be giving that message, for example, as key messages to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as key messages to the British Council, and BBC World Service—so, all of those things. So, our actions, then, will fall into line behind that strategic goal.

And you would then, essentially, be using Her Majesty's Foreign and Commonwealth Office as an agency, if you like, in order to pursue those objectives. So, you would, therefore, have a relationship with the FCO that would have a series of actions, consequences and results—[Interruption.] For some reason, my phone thinks I'm asking it a question—there we are.

There's nothing in my notes to deal with this, Alun. [Laughter.]

It's supposed to be my script, Minister. [Laughter.] So, the objectives for the FCO, for British Council, will be set by you in that sense, so you would then have a feel for what you are seeking to achieve.

The whole point is that then, that will fall into line, won't it? So, if that's your broad objective, then we will set out, 'These are the things, FCO, that we would like you to promote in future years. These are the things—'. So, all of that—. That's the point. So, how much detail do you want to go into in a strategic plan? I don't think you want that detail in a strategic plan.

Well, I want enough detail to hold you to account, quite honestly. So, it would be useful if, for example, you would be using the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—they'd hate this description, of course—almost as an agency, or the British Council, then it would be useful for us to know what objectives you were setting those institutions. But I'll leave it at that.

Alun, thank you very much, that was very helpful. Minister, if we go five minutes over, are you okay?

Thank you, Chair. Minister, the progress towards a concordat for trade has stalled. What's your assessment of why that is, please?

Yes. It's been really problematic, and it's not helpful that you just keep on getting new Ministers all the time and so you have to start all over again. So, look, we've been pushing on this very forcefully for months and months and months. Whenever we get somewhere, which we have on two occasions now, we get a change of regime. So, that's been really problematic for us. What we have been trying to do is to say, 'Listen, if we can't make progress on that, in the meantime, can we get on with the inter-ministerial group?' to make sure that we are starting things off in that area, so we've been pushing a lot, and we were all ready to have a meeting that would set out the terms of reference for that inter-ministerial group and, obviously, the election came. So, it happens—

It happens over and over again. It's a real problem for us. I think we've gone a long way in relation to the concordat. We are fairly confident that it's going in the right direction, but you can't do much if there's a—. You just have to start all over again, so it's a real problem for us.

Thank you, Minister. I was going to ask if there were specific barriers that you would highlight in terms of why progress has been stalled. From what you're saying, obviously the timing now with the election has meant that that has brought things to an abrupt halt temporarily. Would you say it's totally down to timing or do you think that there are cultural, attitudinal problems within certain departments, that some departments are less keen to see progress? Or would you put this down to timing?

14:25

Well, you've got to remember that this whole approach to doing trade is completely new for the UK Government as well. They haven't done it for 40 years either. There has been a big educational process for them, and our officials have done a great job, I think, in just explaining how devolution works to them. They now understand that if they sign up to trade deals that impact on devolved areas, we're the people who are going to implement them. So, it would not be sensible for them to just go ahead and sign trade agreements without consulting us, without us being at the table. They now understand that, but there are real issues, I think, within the UK Government. So, that's where some of the problem has been—actually getting different departments within the UK Government to be on the same page.

Forgive me, I should have clarified—when I was talking about certain departments I meant certain Whitehall departments, not Welsh departments. On that point, then, from what you have said in the past to us and from what the Brexit Minister has said to us in the past about section 82 of the Government of Wales Act, there almost is a feeling that—and from what you've just said—not everyone in Whitehall, in Westminster, is totally au fait with how devolution works, and I think Jeremy Miles has made the point before that section 82 had been drafted before the age of Brexit. So, is there a feeling in your department that provision would need to be reviewed?

Well, I don't think we're there yet. I think there's a lot we can do before we get to that point. So, one of the things we can do is to make sure that we do engage with different departments of the UK Government. So, it's not just engaging with the trade department; we can maybe make our voice heard via the agricultural department, who I think have a really good understanding of devolution. But there are other areas where they are not quite so well versed in it. There are other areas where the quadrilateral engagement is more developed than others. That's another opportunity for us to feed in and to make sure our voice is heard. We can obviously work with the other devolved structures as well and make common cause with Scotland and Northern Ireland where possible, and I think, certainly in the common framework programme, there's a whole breadth of activity going on there where, again, we can try and influence how things work. So, these structures are not developed yet; they're not there. They are being developed. I think it would probably be pre-emptive at this point to say, 'Right, we need to reform that section 82', but obviously we keep a watching brief on things.

Thank you, Minister. Turing finally to the trade agreement continuity programme, I was going to ask you specifically about the EU-Korea trade agreements, which are not being rolled over, then, into the UK-Korea agreement. Picking up as well on some of the points that were raised earlier about the compatibility or otherwise of elements of your department's work and your ethos with some of the work that the UK Government is looking to conduct, the human rights and labour standards that are contained as protections within the EU-Korea trade agreement aren't currently rolled over into the UK-Korea trade agreement. Is that something that concerns you, and what steps can you take to almost try to address that, would you say?

So, the first thing to say is that, as to the trade agreement with Korea, there are two agreements, effectively. So, there's a political framework, which does talk about environmental standards and climate change, and all of those other issues, and human rights. So, there's a broader political framework, and then there's the trade agreement underneath. And the trade agreement refers back to the broader political framework agreement. And, obviously, if we're rolling over a trade agreement, we can't refer back to the political agreement, because we will no longer be a part of that. So, that's maybe where there's a slight misunderstanding of what that relationship is. Obviously, we'll be having a bilateral agreement if we leave the EU, and those are areas for negotiation. I don't know if, Des, you'd like to add something on that. 

14:30

Well, I think you've set the position out accurately. It's not my job to speak for the UK Government, but the UK Government has signed a joint statement with Korea on shared values and growing partnership, and the content of that is benign and, I think, broadly in line with what would be the general expectations of this Assembly and the Welsh Government. There is a commitment to sustainability and using natural resources, and future generations, for example, but the technical answer that the Minister gave is the correct version. 

Thank you for that. Could I check—and forgive me for not knowing this—that, legally, that is as watertight as if the protections were contained within the actual text of the agreement?

I will venture, but I'll defer to your legal advice subsequently, if I need to, that the trade agreement itself is law and a political declaration is a political declaration. It is not legally binding in that sense, but it is capable of being appealed to in a legal context. I think 'justiciable' is the term that people use, and I think an international declaration as part of a bilateral agreement between the UK Government and another country is something that would be taken very seriously in a court of law, I think, is a fair way to describe it. 

Thank you for that. Just very quickly, would you, Minister, be looking to press the UK Government on looking to include those provisions in a more legally binding way?

Well, I think what we're doing now is focusing on what the future free trade agreement is going to look like, and there's a whole process that needs to be put in place, where we will have some very clear messages at the pre-negotiation stage so that we make sure we're starting off on the right foot with some of those issues that will be of key importance to us. 

Delyth, thank you very much.

I realise that many of these trade deals are now being done at some pace, and so on, but, on the point that Delyth was raising, correct me if I'm wrong, the EU, over the last few years, has moved to a position where human rights are actually part of the trade agreements themselves. So, they're in clauses. We're now moving to a situation where these UK agreements with South Korea—. I may not be quite up to date, but I think that 15 agreements covering 46 countries have currently been signed off, and most of them failed to cover human rights in the clauses of the agreement. They tend to be, as Des was saying there a moment ago, in the words that wrap around the agreements, which refer back to the agreements. I'm genuinely asking here whether, in terms of where we stand as a Welsh Assembly and Welsh Government on human rights, we should be concerned about this or we should be reassured that the Government is taking a different approach and putting them into this slightly separate document saying, 'Refer back to the agreement.' The agreement doesn't have it within it. The EU has moved the other way, to saying, 'You will put it in clauses in your trade agreements.'

Yes. I think, going back to the points we've made before, that those trade agreement continuity agreements are roll-over agreements. So, the UK Government is trying to just replicate, and then that framework above South Korea is basically all about geopolitical—. It's the EU foreign policy, so that's why the UK Government hasn't been able to roll it over at this stage. However, when we're looking forward to new agreements, where we're starting from scratch, the Minister has asked us to develop trade policy principles—what are those big principles that you would like to see in an agreement? So, yes, I think there's a very big difference between what's rolling over and what we can ask of the UK Government and then what we're asking of UK Government in relation to new trade deals. 

14:35

Am I taking by implication there that you're suggesting that going forward into new trade deals, you'll be asking for a much stronger signal on human rights than we're currently seeing in these ones in front of us? I don't want to put words in your mouth.

Future trade agreements, as Emma said, we're currently developing what are our principal positions before we go into negotiation. What are the bottom line things from which we want to bouncing off? But I think one of the things that's quite interesting I remember from my time in the European Parliament is that, actually, it was one of the times when the Parliament gained some additional power, because they only had the power to block trade agreements. They couldn't negotiate them, but they could block them, and that's what changed the music because they blocked them on the basis of a lack of reference to human rights. So, I guess that's something that UK Government might want to consider in future, because they will also have to agree to these constitutionally as well.   

Very interesting. I'm sure we'll return to this. Minister, you've been very kind going a few minutes over. I've just one other very short question. When you actually publish your response to the consultation on the draft international strategy, are the delivery plans going to be published or consulted upon at the same time? 

So, no. What we're going to do is to publish the report. Obviously, we're hoping maybe by middle of January. We'll be hoping to publish the responses to the consultation by the end of this week, but we're not going to go into detail about the delivery of the plans now.

Okay. Thank you very much, both to you and your colleagues. Thank you very much, Minister, indeed. 

Thank you very much.

3. Papurau i’w nodi
3. Papers to note

And colleagues, if we can now move on to the next item on the agenda. So, if we can turn to paper to note 3.1: correspondence from the First Minister to the Chair regarding a request to reschedule a scrutiny session. We discussed this at a previous session. If you're happy, we'll write to the First Minister to reschedule the session now for 6 January for the reasons we discussed before, and to request in the meantime a written update from him on the Welsh Government's work on inter-governmental relations and common frameworks. Are we happy to do that? Thank you very much.

The second paper to note, under 3.2, we have correspondence from the Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language to the Chair regarding the timetable for the publication of the international strategy, which we've been dealing with now. Happy to note that?

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

And, in which case, if we can move to item 4, a motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting. Are we happy to do so? 

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 14:38.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 14:38.

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