On June 2nd, the Government must set clear objectives on jobs, inequality and the environment for its post-Brexit trade policy, as an unprecedented coalition of unions, business groups and consumer rights organisations is placing increasing pressure on government officials.
- Ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall next week, ministers are warned they “will not meet their ambitions for the economy” if they don’t set out a clear policy framework for trade
- Trade for All report outlines nine objectives for trade, including using agreements and WTO rules to raise standards and tackle regional inequality
- To achieve these objectives, negotiations must involve business, unions and civil society groups – and be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny
- Trade deals must ensure the creation of good quality jobs in the UK and that every country has access to affordable medicine, including Covid vaccines
- Through targeted objectives, the UK can lead the world on creating a fairer and greener international trading system
The International Chamber of Commerce, Trades Union Congress and Which? are among 11 organisations that have written to International Trade Secretary Liz Truss to set policy objectives as a matter of urgency. This unique coalition also comprises the Confederation of British Industry, the Trade Justice Movement, National Farmers Union, Greener UK, the Federation of Small Businesses, Make UK, the British Chambers of Commerce and the Scottish Chambers of Commerce.
The Trade for All report outlines how the UK can lead the world on a race to the top on standards in trade but only if there is a framework in place with clear objectives that enables all stakeholders to support the effort.
Without setting these objectives, trade negotiators will miss opportunities, meaning the UK and potential trade partners could miss out on the socio-economic benefits that these agreements should encourage.
The nine objectives for UK trade policy outlined in the report are to
- Promote a fair and sustainable rules-based mulitlateral trading system
- Secure high-quality jobs in all parts of the UK
- Address regional inequalities and ‘level up’ left behind areas
- Support the environment, including the protection of biodiversity and reducing waste
- Promote and enforce International Labour Organisation standards on workers’ rights and protections for consumers
- Promote the effective regulation of data and new digital technologies
- Foster sustainable investment and finance
- Protect public services and make sure all countries have access to affordable medicines – including Covid-19 vaccines
- Support the creation of skills and good jobs in developing economies, including the provision of effective export access to the UK market
The report says that all stakeholders, including businesses, unions, civil society and consumer groups, should be actively consulted at each stage of the negotiating process. It adds: “Parliament should be extensively involved to provide democratic oversight, agreeing to a mandate ahead of negotiations and a debate and a vote prior to ratification with the devolved administrations formally involved as every stage.”
Chris Southworth, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce UK, said:
“The diversity of the groups that have joined together in calling for a trade for all framework is unique in modern political and economic debate. Despite our differences of viewpoint, we all recognise the fundamental opportunities for Britain to lead the world on trade standards and set the objectives that will create a more equal, prosperous and united society.
“If ministers set these objectives and act on them, the UK will be able to promote good jobs and meet international commitments on workers’ rights, the environment and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
“It’s time to overhaul the UK’s stance on international trade so that we don’t miss out on these benefits. We will deliver far better outcomes from trade if we are all aligned and working together. To do that, we need a framework we can all buy into and support.”
Sue Davies, Head of Consumer Protection and Food Policy at Which?, said:
“The government must set a clear strategy for its trade negotiations that delivers a fairer and greener trading system with real benefits for consumers. The success of future agreements will be judged on what they deliver for millions of ordinary people in their everyday lives, not just the export opportunities they provide.
“It is vital that the government places consumer interests at the centre of its trade policy and delivers on the nine key objectives outlined in the Trade For All report – including world-leading standards in rights and protections for consumers “
Emily Jones, Associate Professor of Public Policy at the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, and co-producer of the paper, said:
“As the UK government sets its new trade strategy, it has a unique opportunity to design policy that will help harness the opportunities of the digital economy, tackle climate change and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including sustainable post-Covid recovery.”
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“Trade deals can be a vehicle to improve workers’ rights, job opportunities and wages. But at the moment, deals are not being done in the interest of working people.
“We are clear. The government needs a strategy to ensure that trade deals support good quality jobs, protect and enhance workers’ rights and safeguard our public services. And they must uphold fundamental human rights.
“Instead of thrashing out deals with little consultation, it’s time for the government to involve unions in meaningful discussions on the text of trade agreements. That’s how we get trade deals that work for working people.”
Dr Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said:
“In recovering from COVID-19, it is essential that Scotland demonstrates it is open for business and investment. The Trade For All Framework provides a foundation with which to achieve that ambition.”