Great progress has been made – now I will cement our status as a champion of free trade

 
George Hollingbery
2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships - Day 1
George Hollingbery replaced Greg Hands after Hands resigned to vote against Heathrow expansion (Source: Getty)

Last week I joined the Department for International Trade, following in the footsteps of my hugely respected predecessor, Greg Hands.

I come to the role ready to continue his work in building an independent trade policy fit for the UK as a modern, free-trading nation. I am fortunate that I find the department in an already excellent place.

Thanks to Greg’s tireless work over the last two years, discussions have already taken place with more than 70 countries worldwide to continue our existing trading arrangements. We are already well under way in setting up a new UK Trade Remedies Authority, which will protect UK jobs and businesses from unfair trading practices.

In the coming weeks, parliament will again examine one of the most essential building blocks of the UK’s future trade policy.

The Trade Bill, which will be debated in the House of Commons soon, will grant us the powers needed to protect UK industry from unfair trade and continue our trading arrangements with over 70 countries, providing certainty for businesses at home and abroad.

The UK continues to be one of the most vocal supporters of the EU’s free trade agreements. Just this week, my department led debates in parliament as MPs stamped their approval on new EU-wide agreements with Japan and Canada.

I support these agreements because a rules-based free trade system is an inherently positive force in the world’s economy, creating jobs and prosperity at home and abroad, supporting developed and developing nations alike.

Last week’s backing from MPs is a victory for free trade. As the lure of protectionism grows in parts of the world, it is more important than ever that we defend the value of trade in making all of us richer, safer and more prosperous.

It is that conviction that I carry with me now into our work in parliament, into our discussions with British businesses and foreign investors, and into conversations with our trading partners across the world, old and new.

Many of those conversations are already showing great promise. The leaders of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States have already made clear their enthusiasm for new free trade agreements with the UK.

It is my priority to make sure these deals work for the whole of the UK, maintaining our world-leading standards on the environment and animal welfare while opening up global markets to high-quality British exports.

At the same time, we will use the Trade Bill to provide the certainty our businesses and consumers need, and the mechanisms to defend our domestic industries if disputes arise.

And it is my priority to make sure we capitalise on the huge opportunities from our departure from the EU in March.

As I take on the mantle of delivering our future trade policy, I am confident that the only limit to the UK’s trading potential is ambition. Rest assured, ambition is high.

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