n the last year I have made well over 50
trips abroad and travelled over 170,000 miles to countries
as far apart as Namibia, India and the USA.
Pretty well everywhere I find Britain's foreign policy under
Labour is widely admired as progressive, modern and on the
side of justice and freedom - in stark contrast to the Tories.
Yet that doesn't seem to be the perception at home. So what
are our foreign policy objectives? There are four key ones:
- building respect for our values by supporting human
rights, democracy and freedom;
- promoting British prosperity through free trade
and international partnerships;
- ensuring the security of the UK;
- enhancing the quality of life through global diplomacy
on the environment, drugs trade and cross border crime.
Our policy can be summed up in 20 words: to promote British
interests and pursue British values by supporting democracy
and human rights, wherever we can, however we can.
Our active involvement across the world becomes more and
more important as the phenomenon of globalisation shrinks
the world, increasing the impact on us of events and decisions
taken many miles away.
Globalisation and new technology has had another impact on
good governance. Regimes which govern by fear and repression
will not achieve the creativity and innovation essential for
successful knowledge-based economies. Respect for human rights
is therefore not a luxury of growth, but the condition of
that growth. So the message that Labour Ministers like me
carry abroad is that human rights make humans rich. Also that
trade and investment require competition, transparency and
the rule of law. Good governance wins international investor
Critical engagement in the world's affairs - the pursuit
of political dialogue wherever it can produce benefits - is
the business we are in. With some regimes (such as Iraq and
Burma), this may require sanctions. With others (such as China),
involvement without illusions: boycotting these may leave
us with clean hands, but is unlikely to provide their people
with better rights.
Labour's policy of diplomacy for democracy is
in the best British tradition of standing for democracy, free
speech and the rule of law. We support human rights and democracy
for other people because these are the values we demand for
And we reject the cynical view that, because we cannot make
the world perfect, we should stop trying to make it better.
We cannot put everything right, but we can make a difference.
Because we cannot do everything, does not mean we should do
nothing. Credit for our military intervention to protect freedom
in Sierra Leone should not be withdrawn because we were unable
to prevent atrocities in Chechnya.
The global interest is becoming the national interest. In
the global age it is in Britain's national interest to promote
British values of freedom, democracy and economic modernisation.
Indeed, promoting our values enhances our prosperity and reinforces
Britain is uniquely able to pursue our national interests
through our global interests. As the only state that is a
member of the G8, the EU, NATO and the Commonwealth and with
a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, we play a pivotal
We are internationalists, not nationalists. That is why we
support the United Nations, World Trade Organisation, NATO,
and the European Union. We are multi-lateralists not unilateralists.
That is why we support international treaties on nuclear,
biological and chemical weapons and press all other countries
to do the same. Promoting the international rule of law protects
us. That is why we support the establishment of an International
Criminal Court. We cannot protect Britain's environmental
interests without backing global action and international
environmental treaties. It is through global engagement, not
isolation, that we stand up for Britain.
Globalisation requires greater humanitarian intervention:
we believe that when faced with an overwhelming humanitarian
catastrophe the global community should act. It is our duty
to do what we can to deter aggression and defend our values,
by whatever means will make a difference, whether that is
by constructive engagement, or by creative diplomacy or indeed
by military muscle.
But this is not a perfect world. It is not a safe world.
Nations have the right to protect their people and sometimes
they choose to do that by buying British defence equipment.
The British defence industry employs hundreds of thousands
of people, many thousands of them in Wales. These are real
people in real jobs in real places in Newcastle, Plymouth,
Cardiff and Glasgow. We are not about to put them out of work
by closing their industry down.
But there are too many arms in the world and this Labour
Government has made our arms exports more accountable and
transparent than almost any other country. We have established
for the first time:
- a tough code blocking exports of arms for either internal
repression or external aggression
- a European Union arms code doing the same thing
- annual reports with 300 pages detailing the licences we
have agreed - one of the most open exercises of its kind
in the world. We have nothing to hide.
Under this Government Britain is leading the way on arms
- banning landmines across the world
- banning the sale of torture equipment
- promoting a ban on small arms to conflict zones
- ratifying the nuclear Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
and seeking to strengthen the Non Proliferation Treaty
- promoting new international controls on chemical and
As NGOs have readily acknowledged, at the Non Proliferation
Treaty conference in New York in May we played the key role
in achieving an unprecedented agreement between the five declared
nuclear states and the non-nuclear ones to get a commitment
to the global elimination of nuclear weapons. We are also
a leading force pressing for a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty
and for effective implementation of the Biological and Chemical
And on Europe, it is our continent. The stronger Britain's
standing in our continent, the greater the leverage we will
have in the other six. If Britain is stronger in Europe, we
are stronger in the world. There is no point in being half-in,
half out. A half-hearted Britain would deliver only half our
interests in Europe.
The European Union enables us to cope with an age in which
nations are more interdependent than they are independent,
more successfully than any alternative. That reality of interdependence
is what underpins Objective One funding: the richer regions
of Europe recognise their responsibilities to the poorer regions.
With their isolationist, anti-European stance the previous
Conservative Government would never have secured the billions
of pounds of European funding that could breathe new life
and hope into Wales, into South Yorkshire, Merseyside and
Britain also has a unique, pivotal role as a bridge between
Europe and America. Under this government, Britain is shaping
not shunning Europe. Our attitude to Europe is wholehearted,
not half-hearted, committed, not carping.
Constructive engagement in Europe, as elsewhere, is best
for Britain. Eurosceptics undermine our national interests.
As we showed over Objective One, Britain has more influence
at the heart of Europe than at the edge of Europe.
A successful Europe means success for Britain. Pulling out
of Europe would pull the plug on millions of jobs all over
the Britain. Europe is good for British jobs. Out of Europe
could mean out of work. Britain is better off in Europe than
Traditionally our foreign policy has been shaped by the fact
that we need a stable world, for our security and to provide
reliable markets for trade and investment. But accelerating
environmental stresses - climate change, deforestation, competition
for water and other increasingly scarce resources - also threaten
So strong international environmental agreements protect
our interests. This does not mean imposing first world environmental
standards on third world countries. It means working with
our partners to find sustainable solutions. It means that
we put environmentalism at the heart of our foreign policy.
Wealth today must not be at the expense of welfare tomorrow.
Nor is it in Britain's interests to have a world divided
between rich and poor. That is why Labour has massively increased
our overseas aid and development budget where the Tories cut
it savagely. Why we have led the way on providing 100 per
cent debt relief for the poorest countries. And why we are
working with developing countries to achieve a new round of
trade agreements which protect rather than exploit them.
For the first time under Labour the Foreign Office has an
open door policy to NGOs from Amnesty to CND to Greenpeace.
They are positively encouraged to put their views which we
value. And we have secondees from a range of NGOs advising
This all amounts to a foreign policy which may not be perfect
because there are always tough choices and compromises in
government. But it is more progressive than any previous British
Government and reflects the socialist values at the heart
of our Party. We ought to be proud of it.
Peter Hain is MP for Neath and Minister of State
at the Foreign Office