A Truss agenda for international trade: 5 takeaways from the Conservative leadership campaign

Mon 5 Sept 2022
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

Former international trade secretary Liz Truss today (Monday 5 September 2022) won the race to become the next Conservative Party leader and prime minister – having regularly referenced her trade credentials during the seven-week contest to secure victory.

She won 57.4% of Conservative Party member votes (from an 82.6% turnout), beating former chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak’s total of 42.6%.

Truss is the first Cabinet trade minister to become PM – although political giants such as Winston Churchill, Harold Wilson and William Gladstone have held the position of president of the board of trade on the way to becoming prime minister.

Ahead of the PM-in-waiting’s announcement of her Cabinet, the IOE&IT’s Daily Update looks back on the final round of the Conservative Party leadership campaign to lay out the new PM’s likely trade agenda.

1. Trade deals

During a televised BBC debate, Truss highlighted her skills as a negotiator, stating she delivered “dozens of trade deals,” and that she had “done more to deliver on the opportunities of Brexit” than most other ministers.

The South West Norfolk MP has promised to make UK accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) a “top priority” for her administration and vowed to “double down” on signing more trade deals, according to The Express.

2. Freeports ‘unleashed’

Truss pledged “full-fat freeports” to “unleash the potential” of the current freeports strategy, according to ITV News.

Under her plans, Truss said she would turn brownfield sites and other locations into “investment zones” – with these areas enjoying lower taxes, tailored regulations and reducing planning restrictions.

3. NI Protocol

During the campaign, Truss listed the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill as one of her three most important achievements, saying that she would prefer a negotiated settlement but that “there is only one thing the EU understands – that is strength.”

The Truss team has said she could trigger Article 16 of the NI Protocol in her first ten days as prime minister – which could result in the preservation of existing grace period arrangements to ease checks on trade between NI and Great Britain.

4. ‘Hawkish’ on China

Truss positioned herself as a China ‘hawk’ in the race, and is expected to declare China as a “threat” to national security for the first time, according to The Times.

However, when asked during a live debate whether she would “be willing to damage trade relations with our number one import partner and number six export partner”, she gave no definitive answer.

5. EU regulations

Truss recently promised to ‘supercharge’ the City of London’s financial services sector, pledging to maintain its competitive edge and release it from “onerous EU regulations.”

As reported by Politico, she also vowed to review all EU laws to see if it supports UK growth and investment, with any not passing muster being “replaced with home-grown laws that do so.”