Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told international business leaders that his party is a “reliable partner” in global trade and industry.
The leader of the opposition met with members of the business and diplomatic communities at Labour’s International Trade Reception yesterday (31 January), the first event of its kind for the party.
Ahead of the next general election, Starmer stressed that Labour is “pro-trade, pro-business and pro-worker”, reports Politics Home.
“Our task now is to do the ‘hard yards’ of raising productivity right across our country. Which can only mean we need more export-led business, more trading businesses, more inward investment," he added.
“We need to project an open stance to the world, keep working to reduce trade frictions, and show Britain is always open for business.”
Labour’s shadow international trade secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, who was present at the event, criticised the government’s policy on trade agreements.
He told The Telegraph: “It’s so frustrating for me to see. We’ve just passed the end of 2022. That was the point at which 80 per cent of our trade was meant to be covered by free-trade agreements according to the 2019 Conservative manifesto.”
In a further indication of the growing importance placed on trade by Labour, a ‘progressive trade policy’ has been given its own category in the party’s yearly National Policy Forum consultation.
This consultation is an important opportunity for Labour to hear from members, supporters and stakeholders on a range of policy issues.
Their equivalent consultation last year did not have trade as a distinct category.
Events accompany this outreach programme, including a trade policy event on 8 March with shadow foreign secretary David Lammy.
Pitch to business
This week’s reception hosted 100 ambassadors, diplomats and high commissioners as well as over 200 business leaders.
“Our big message is Labour is back in business; Labour is open for business,” said Thomas-Symonds. “We are pro-business, we are pro-trade.”
He said that an incoming Labour government would honour any existing trade deals if it came to power at the next election.
Labour’s trade policy
“The trade deals I inherit, I will operate, build on and try to assist exporters with exploiting the opportunities,” headed.
As previously covered in the IOE&IT Daily Update, Starmer and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves had promoted the idea of a Clean Power Alliance at the World Economic Forum last month.
Speaking at the trade reception, Starmer said Labour would partner with global businesses and take a “global leadership role” on climate issues, with a pledge that the UK would have 100% clean power generation by 2030 under Labour.