International trade secretary Liz Truss today (14 September) put international trade and free enterprise at the centre of the government’s levelling up agenda in a speech to the Policy Exchange thinktank.
Setting out the next phase of the UK’s trade strategy, Truss said it is time to “move from defence to offence in trade” to drive a free trade revival in UK regions outside of London.
Truss’s speech came as the Department for International Trade (DIT) launched a new report, the Global Trade Outlook, that explores the long-term trends set to shape the global economy in the years to come
The UK’s strategic approach to trade will be underpinned by two major trends, Truss said.
First, the centre of global economic gravity is moving away from Europe and towards the Indo-Pacific, where three of the four largest economies will be located by 2030.
The region will account for 56% of global GDP growth and 44% of global import demand growth over the next thirty years, she said.
Truss wants the UK to use its post-Brexit independence to make the most of the opportunities in Asia, as evidenced by the launching of negotiations to join the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) earlier this year.
Digital and finance advantage
The second trend she spoke about was the growing global demand for digital and financial services – industries which she highlighted as particular strengths for Britain.
“We know the demand for high-quality British goods and services exists, and is growing, therefore we need to ready British businesses for export and bolster inward investment across the country; creating new jobs, business and growth,” Truss said.
Demand for digital services is expected to grow by 117% in the next decade.
She said that the DIT, which she leads, will continue to support exporters by setting up new trade and investment offices across the country and by providing guidance on new post-Brexit trade rules.
The latter will be assisted by a new Exporter Support Service, she added.
Truss’s department is also tasked with negotiating the UK’s post-Brexit trade deals and has already secured agreements with Australia and Japan, among others, since the UK completed its departure from the EU at the end of last year.
As well as talks to join CPTPP, Truss’ team is also set to being negotiations with India at the start of next year.
Truss met Indian commerce minister Piyush Goyal yesterday to discuss a recent public consultation that the DIT ran to understand the negotiating stances that British businesses want the government to take in next year’s talks.
Following the meeting, the government announced a series of working groups which are set to start this month. The aim of these groups is to help both governments understand each other’s negotiating positions, covering tariffs, standards, IP and data regulation.
Findings from the DIT’s consultation will be published before the start of negotiations as part of a wider package of information outlining a strategic rationale for the pursuing the agreement.