Don’t believe Labour’s scare tactics: Free trade is good for British workers

Grant Shapps
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Barack Obama should be able to enjoy British lamb without travelling thousands of miles
This week, our Prime Minister will meet with Barack Obama at the White House. Margaret Thatcher used to say fondly that she could “smell the freedom” in America. And doesn’t the country’s economy prove it? The US is still a jobs juggernaut: the largest standalone economy on Planet Earth. We owe it to our children to bring more of that prosperity to our shores.

Consider these facts. Taken together, Europe and North America produce half of mankind’s output every year in goods and services, and chalk up over £1.5bn of trade every 24 hours. For more than 100 years, these two great continents have stood side by side together: seeing off Nazism, and then Communism. We are the cradle of human rights, free speech, and democracy. And yet we are still separated by outmoded, ridiculous trade barriers. Why?

These trade barriers are hurting us, and are making us all poorer. Today, British companies that want to export to the US are being forced to dish out $1bn a year in tariffs, and are faced with the high costs of meeting different regulations and standards. This means lower sales, and fewer jobs for Brits here at home. Many of these trade barriers are simply bureaucratic: where our rules and those of the US aren’t an identical match. Or sometimes there are language confusions: we use one word, they use another. In our food industry, this has led to unbelievable problems, like British lamb and venison being banned in the US.

David Cameron and his team are working to fix the economy. But we won’t rest until Britain has full employment too: enough secure jobs for everyone who wants one. To achieve this, we have to sweep away the trade barriers that divide us from our allies in the United States.

At heart, this is why our Prime Minister is leading the charge for a new, historic trade deal between Europe and America. The technical name for this is the “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” (or TTIP for short). Basically, this deal would smash trade barriers into smithereens, helping to create a level playing field for British workers. Ultimately, it could boost our economy by up to £100bn over the next decade – helping to create more jobs and security for hardworking taxpayers in Britain.

Some people attack free trade. I believe that such a stance isn’t just illogical, it’s immoral too. There are few sights more depressing than anti-globalisation protesters who are, however unwittingly, hurting the interests of the most vulnerable in our society. Their anti-business demands, if put into action, would mean forcing Brits to pay higher prices to buy food, clothes, and everything else. But they’re also engaged in preventing the world’s poorest from selling goods to us, free from artificial trade barriers. Free trade is good. It cuts prices, helping the poorest the most. The TTIP deal we are pressing for is primarily about Europe and American trade, but we shouldn’t stop there.

Consider the facts. Goods imported from the US currently have an “import tariff” of anything up to 12 per cent slapped on top of their retail price. You are forced to pay this tax whenever you buy a pair of American-made jeans, for example, or a pint of beer brewed in the States. Free trade would mean lower prices. Permanently.

Naturally, the Labour Party has been bleating about the mythical perils of free trade with America. It’s the same old chaos from Ed Miliband: he will say anything to scare people for a vote. Only the Conservatives are fully committed to this price-cutting trade deal – and only the Conservatives will make sure that it has proper protections for our NHS too.

Here’s the bottom line: 1.75m more people are now in work in Britain. But this government isn’t sitting around, patting itself on the back. We have a plan to drive future growth and jobs, and free trade is a big part of this. You deserve to buy clothes, food, and a round in the pub without forking out for expensive American tariffs and trade barriers. And President Obama should be free to enjoy the sublime taste of roast British lamb without having to travel thousands of miles for the pleasure, too.

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