Liam Fox hails 'shared values' with Philippines' Duterte as campaign for post-Brexit trade gets underway

Samuel Osborne

Liam Fox has been criticised for saying the UK has "shared values" with the Philippines as he met the country's president, Rodrigo Duterte, who has boasted of personally killing criminals.

Mr Duterte has also previously said he "doesn't give a s*** about human rights" and his war on drugs has left thousands of people dead since his election last year. He has urged the public to kill drug addicts, who he said he would be "happy to slaughter" in their millions.

Dr Fox, the International Trade Secretary, launched his campaign for post-Brexit trade by publishing an article in local media saying the UK would emerge from its EU divorce "as a stronger, fairer, more united and more outward-looking nation."

He added: "The UK and the Philippines have a well-established and strong relationship built on a foundation of shared values and shared interests and we want this partnership to continue to flourish.

"I hope this will lead to stronger relationships between the UK and our trading partners in South East Asia creating an era of even greater opportunity."

Mr Duterte, 72, won last year's election by a wide margin on a promise to fight crime, particularly illegal drugs, corruption and terrorism.

Since taking office in June, his anti-drug crackdown has left more than 7,000 peoples dead, alarming Western governments led by the United States and the European Union and UN rights officials.

He has vowed to confront, and if necessary kill, any local officials involved in the country's illegal drugs trade and said he personally gunned down at least three people when he was a city mayor.

Mr Duterte recently called the EU "sons of bitches" after it issued a resolution calling for restraint and a rethink of his bloody war on drugs, and he has called former US President Barack Obama a "son of a bitch".

Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said Dr Fox's comments were "frankly shocking".

"I'm sorry, but we do not have these shared common values with president Duterte who wants to bring back the death penalty and lower the age of criminal responsibility to nine," he said.

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesman Tom Brake said: "Duterte is one of the 21st century’s most sinister leaders and Liam Fox has flown halfway around the world to grovel to him.

"The fact that the first visit made by Fox since triggering Article 50 is to the Philippines shows just how low this government is willing to stoop in order to secure even a minimal trade deal in the future.

He added: "According to UK trade statistics, the value of our exports to the Philippines are just £500n a year- to put this into context our total international trade is currently over £28bn a month.

"So not only is Fox blind to the horrific human rights abuses and endemic corruption in the Philippines, he’s also clearly oblivious to the actual realities of doing trade with them."

Additional reporting by agencies

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