Badenoch says there's more to international trade than just free trade agreements

Tue 4 Oct 2022
Posted by: Richard Cree
Trade News

Kemi Badenoch at Conservative party conference

With media attention focused on chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s tax rate U-turn, presentations to the Conservative Party conference by international trade secretary Kemi Badenoch have been somewhat overlooked.

Taking part in a Q&A with GB News presenter Liam Halligan, Badenoch yesterday (3 October) discussed the chancellor’s announcement.

She said that as trade secretary, she would be looking at more than just headline trade deals, saying she would also focus on the importance of exports and investment.

Overton window

Explaining she wanted her department to be judged on more than just the deals it signs, she said: “I am trying to shift the Overton window of trade beyond trade deals. Everyone thinks the department does trade deals. Trade deals are great, but they are not the only thing.

“Trade deals are like the motorway. It is fantastic when you get them built. But if cars aren’t going back and forth, then you might as well not have built them. The going back and forth are the exports and investments.”

Tilting at Indo-Pacific windmills

At a fringe event with Policy Exchange on the Indo-Pacific tilt, Badenoch expressed her commitment to look beyond deals and also expressed her pro-Brexit credentials, pointing to opportunities being outside the EU single market has opened up.

As examples, she highlighted an investment partnership with Norway and mini-trade deals with US states.

“Even though the US is not doing trade deals, we are able to have a memorandum of understanding with states. We can do mini-trade deals with the 50 states of the US,” she said.

Elsewhere, Reuters reports that Badenoch warned conference that any free trade deal with India, which is apparently still on schedule to be agreed before Diwali (a date agreed by former UK PM Boris Johnson and Indian PM Narendra Modi), may not include a deal for services.

A trade strategy fit for tomorrow

Badenoch told the Policy Exchange meeting: “the world is changing, and we need a trade strategy that evolves with it. The global economy is shifting. In 2000, 40% of the global middle class lived in the EU, by 2030 it will be 14%.”

She added that global growth in the coming decades would be driven by the Indo-Pacific region and not the EU. Hence the need for to grasp the opportunities to promote “Global Britain” that arise from Brexit.  We are, she suggested, “taking back control of UK trade policy”.

Indian negotiations

She admitted that the India trade deal negotiations are complex and unique, arguing that each country is different and requires its own deal.

“I want to secure a good deal and an accession to the CPTPP. But trade deals are bilateral and the same deal we do with Australia won’t do with India. The deals I sign will be right for both countries and will lift both countries up.”

She explained that “an entire ecosystem of trade” exists outside any trade deals and that she wouldn’t rush into signing a bad deal.

“The foundations of these deals last a long time, I am not in a rush to sign any trade deal. As we used to say, ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’.”

Trade and security

Finally, she added that while trade has to date been a tremendous tool for growing global prosperity, it can also be a tool for long-term security. "I want to do deals that will work for our children, that will ensure food and energy security.”

Citing Janet Yellen and her idea of “friend shoring”, Badenoch spoke of the need to build supply chain resilience.

“We want trade deals that help us grow as a country but also help us become more sustainable and secure for the future.”