- The APPG for Trade & Export Promotion has set out an 11-point trade framework, including targets to double intra-Commonwealth trade and improve labour standards
- Report warns that trade policy is disconnected from other goals, such as climate change and industrial growth
- Government’s decision to reduce international aid and scrap the industrial strategy conflicts with vision for a ‘Global Britain’
- Bilateral agreements secured so far were the “easy bit” – ministers need a framework for the hard work to come on fresh deals with major economies and complicated regional agreements
The government must urgently set out a UK strategy for trade as we move from simple roll-over agreements to the tough work of negotiating with experienced trading nations like Australia, New Zealand, and the US, warns a new report released today.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Trade & Export Promotion, which is backed by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), has concluded that a single strategic document is needed to clarify the UK’s trade objectives.
During and since Brexit, the UK has focused on rolling over bilateral trade agreements. But ministers have not set out how future, more complicated regional and multilateral deals can be used to tackle major policy issues, such as industrial growth and sustainability.
The UK’s trade strategy must also spell out the country’s desire to be one of the world’s leading nations in protecting the environment. This will help the UK to seize the opportunities of our global leadership of both the G7 and COP26 this year.
The recommendations for a UK trade strategy in the APPG’s Review of UK Trade Strategy report include:
- Identifying where investment is needed most and how export capabilities will be built and expanded across the UK’s nations and regions.
- Safeguarding the Union by ensuring our trade strategy is intrinsically linked to the contribution to economic prosperity and well-being across all four nations.
- A clear statement of intent on how the government will promote a race to the top on standards, particularly in key areas such as labour, human rights, public services and environment.
- Developing existing connections to double intra-Commonwealth trade, meeting the needs of developed and developing economies.
- Setting out the role the UK government wants to play at the G7, G20 and World Trade Organisation to promote a fairer trading environment
- Detailing the role of trade in meeting commitments to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate Agreement
Lord Waverley, Founder and co-chair of the Trade & Export Promotion APPG said:
“This latest evidence session of our working group is based on expert testimony from figures across business, consumer organisations, academia and civil society. It has illustrated the essential need to promote an inclusive, sustainable approach to global trade involving all aspects of the trade agenda.
Since our formation, the APPG has played an essential role in keeping Government informed of the challenges and concerns that are being faced. In presenting these recommendations, we hope that Government will give serious consideration to and take forward the points raised.”
ICC United Kingdom secretary general Chris Southworth said:
“The UK desperately needs a comprehensive strategy on trade. As a G7 trading nation, the focus can’t just be on rolling over bilateral trade agreements. We need a framework that helps negotiators use trade agreements to tackle climate change, sustainability, good jobs and access to working capital for SMEs. Goods, services, investment and capacity building overseas all need to be covered.
“The trade deals negotiated so far were the easy bit – simply rolling over what was already there. Now comes the real challenge and we’re not ready. We need joined up thinking across departments, but instead we’re risking our export capability by scrapping the industrial strategy and cutting the aid budget to potential trade partners. Those decisions are completely at odds with the government’s vision for a ‘Global Britain’.
“This is an excellent opportunity for the government to respond with a strategy that works for all. There are some very practical recommendations here that can be easily adopted, but they need to act quickly or officials will enter trade talks not knowing what their goals should be.”
Trade and Export Promotion APPG vice-chair and former cabinet minister Lord Lansley added:
“In the wake of leaving the European Union, the UK has concluded 61 agreements to maintain the continuity of our trade as well as the Trade and Cooperation agreement with the EU.
“As we move from the roll-over agreements to new bilateral deals such as with Australia and New Zealand – or accede to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – there is an immediate need for clarity in the UK’s approach with international partners.”
The APPG heard from senior figures such as former Siemens chief executive Jurgen Maier and the High Commissioner of New Zealand, Bede Corry, at an evidence session. The group also gathered written evidence from seven organisations: The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, The Institute of Export & International Trade, The IP Federation, Trade Justice Movement, The Law Society of England and Wales and the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.