Dominic Raab says government could ignore Tony Abbott’s trade advice after advocating stripping workers’ rights

Dominic Raab appears on Sky News. Photograph: Sky.

Dominic Raab appears on Sky News. Photograph: Sky. - Credit: Archant

Dominic Raab has managed to snooker himself in a live television interview after claiming the government could ignore former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott's trade advice.

The foreign secretary joined ministers in suggesting that Abbott's misogynistic, homophobic and climate-denial views should be ignored, because he is considered an expert on trade.

Appearing on Sophy Ridge on Sunday, he explained: 'This is the former elected prime minister of Australia, he's got huge amounts of trade expertise, he's doing an unpaid role and he's been hired for his trade expertise, and naturally I think he's got a lot to offer'.

It prompted questions from presenter Ridge over his comments about trade deals with China, Japan and South Korea, when he boasted he ensured 'we weren't sidetracked by peripheral issues such as labour and environmental standards'.

'So are those the kind of skills you are hoping he will bring to bear, not to get too hung up on workers' rights and environmental standards?' asked the presenter.

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The minister explained: 'He is just coming in as one adviser, but as you rightly just highlighted, with a track record of negotiating free trade agreements in the Indo-Pacific region'.

He insisted 'whether it comes to labour standards or environmental standards we are not going to diminish or dilute ours for a moment to do a free trade agreement with any country'.

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It led to the presenter asking why Abbott was being hired if his views were to be ignored.

'Sophy you've taken on remark out of a Spectator article, what I'm saying is his track record of going through the granular detail of free trade agreement deals and negotiations with the likes of South Korea and others you mentioned will stand us in good stead.

'But as I said, he's an unpaid advisor, but that experience is quite important, and I think we can take advantage of it'.

Presenter Ridge pointed out that Raab has encouraged people to ignore his remarks on society, and 'looking at what he has said publicly on trade, which is describing workers' rights and environmental standards as peripheral issues, you're saying ignore the stuff on trade as well'.

A somewhat flummoxed-looking Raab responded: 'No, look advisers advise, ministers decide, so he can give us his advice on what you do to maximise your trade, but we've been very clear on those positions'.

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