International Trade Secretary speech to British Chambers of Commerce Annual Conference

1 Jul 2022 11:58 AM

Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan yesterday announced major plans to lift around 100 trade barriers in speech to British Chambers of Commerce.

Good morning everyone.

How lovely to see you all. I hope the Chancellor has answered all the difficult questions and I can tell you all the great stuff that we’re doing.

I really want today to talk about what the Department for International Trade, my fantastic Department is doing working alongside UK businesses – all of you – to turbocharge growth for the whole country.

Quite simply, I see us as part of the same chain reaction: trade boosts businesses, businesses create jobs, jobs spread the prosperity which improves people’s lives.

Because right now, when our country, like others, is dealing with some really difficult economic challenges, it can be tempting to use trade policy as a sort of sticking plaster solution: to think perhaps that by cutting tariffs we’ll instantly cure our problems, for instance.

And of course tariff reductions are a valuable tool. That’s why when we left the EU, we introduced our own imports regime tailored to our needs – removing tariffs on something like £30 billion worth of goods. And in fact, we now have 0 percent tariffs on around twice as many items as the EU Customs Union.

And it’s also worth remembering reducing tariffs are a focus of our free trade agreements – where they act as an important mechanism, allowing both parties to realise a deal’s benefits.

However, tariffs are not the be-all and end-all of trade policy, and haphazard reductions are not a lasting solution to economic problems.

Instead, trade should be about embedding those long-term successes, rather than applying just quick fixes.

So that’s why I see the Department for International Trade as an economic growth ministry – the Department for good news, as some of my colleagues talk about us – we are tasked with using trade to create prosperity and to make a real difference to people’s lives.

So this morning I want to tell the story of how we’re achieving this.

In the two and a half years since the UK left the EU, we’ve been championing the benefits of free, fair and open trade, and using our new independence to strike deals across the world.

Europe will also always remain a key partner, but we’re also building connections with places bursting with opportunity, like the Indo-Pacific region.

And our agreement with Australia, our first deal from scratch since we left the EU, is expected to unlock billions of pounds more of bilateral trade.

And our deal with New Zealand will remove trade barriers on a wide range of UK goods – from biscuits to buses and pretty much everything in between.

And our agreement with Japan secures benefits beyond our existing EU deal. So our digital economy agreement with Singapore, which has just come into force, is the most innovative trade deal on the planet.

But of course we’ve also launched numerous negotiations which you’ll be aware of: the flags outside my office are on sort of permanent rotation at the moment as we welcome delegations to the Department and we move through negotiations on a number of things.

We’re focused on finalising our accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership - that’s CPTPP, you’ll all have to practice that because once we’re in, because we’ll be saying it all the time - and that’s potentially opening new markets worth £9 trillion.

We’re also steaming ahead with our talks with India, we’ve launched negotiations with Canada and with Mexico, and I launched our negotiations with the Gulf just last week, and of course we’re strengthening our relationship with the US through our Dialogue on the Future of Atlantic Trade.

But of course, these talks and deals are only one part of our work at DIT: we know that businesses that export pay higher wages and are more productive. So, we want to make it easier for firms to sell their goods and services overseas.

Too often, though, complex trade rules, practical obstacles prevent firms from doing this. Seemingly minor details in the small print of countries’ rulebooks can spell major problems for UK businesses.

And that is what I know many of you are thinking of one or two people that you know have driven you mad by trying to export.

And I’m determined that we should really change that. So at DIT we’ve got an amazing dedicated set of teams concentrating on making those changes happen.

In just two years so far, they’ve resolved around 400 such obstacles – transforming businesses’ fortunes and enabling them to drive growth and level up the country.

For instance, we recently unlocked half a billion pounds in trade for UK manufacturers and retailers who want to sell lipsticks and moisturisers to China.

We did this by encouraging the Chinese authorities to remove a rule that meant some cosmetics needed to be tested on animals before being sold there. Of course this was causing our firms to miss out on China’s enormous markets.

Now, because of that change, firms can compete on a level playing field, Chinese consumers can snap up our cruelty-free cosmetics, while the Body Shop is planning to enter China’s markets.

And just last week, my officials unlocked fish and poultry exports to Mongolia – putting £10 million into British businesses’ pockets.

Iceland Foods says this change will allow it to grow its international business, while opening poultry markets will enable Moy Park, a food producer in Northern Ireland, to supply chicken to KFC Mongolia.

And of course often it’s businesses themselves that tell us what those barriers are that they face.

VetPlus, a firm based in Lytham, in Lancashire, said it couldn’t export its animal supplements to India due to a paperwork complication. So we resolved the issue, a change that’s going to be worth £1.4 million to the firm over the next five years.

A diamond jewellery seller, Chelsea Rocks, also contacted my team saying that they were struggling to export their products to Austria.

Again, my team solved the problem and allowed the firm’s sales to jump by a fifth.

These examples aren’t isolated victories. Barely a week goes by without adding another win to a list covering every continent and every part of the country.

And obviously, quite frankly, I don’t really shout about this enough. So I want us to go further: it’s my ambition to ignite a bonfire of barriers, which could result in over £20 billion of export opportunities for our economy.

To put that number into perspective, it’s more than the individual GDPs of Iceland and Senegal put together.

So I’ve drawn up a ‘most wanted’ list of around 100 obstacles standing in our businesses’ way in every part of the globe.

Take the rules that prevent UK meat exporters selling their beef in South Korea and their lamb in China. Remove them and we could open import markets worth a combined £4 billion a year.

Our biggest beef producer, Foyle Food, which employs 1,400 people, says it would hugely benefit if we could lift the South Korean ban.

Pilgrim’s Lamb, a firm based in Hampshire and Powys in Wales, believes overcoming the barrier with China would boost its business substantially, while the Scotch Whisky Association tells us that removing a 100 percent tax levied on spirits over 30 percent alcohol by volume in Hong Kong could unleash the potential of the market for UK producers.

So beyond all this, we’re helping firms take advantage of our new independent trade policy to drive those jobs and that growth for the whole of the UK.

Last year, we set ourselves a goal to increase our exports to £1 trillion before the decade is out. Our Made in the UK, Sold to the World export strategy is our blueprint to help achieve this. Of course, it’s all of you that are going to make it possible.

But the tools we’re bringing together to support you will include the UK Export Academy, giving firms the know-how and importantly, the confidence, to sell overseas.

We’re also about to launch a major programme, offering businesses practical support so they can take full advantage of our new trade agreements and work to topple those barriers.

UK Export Finance is also helping our firms sell to the whole world. In fact, last year it provided businesses with £7.4 billion, supporting 72,000 jobs. It’s also helping our businesses roll out sustainable projects around the globe, including electric railways and offshore wind farms.

So this brings me to another personal passion of mine: seizing the opportunities of green trade.

I am convinced that it’s British businesses’ ideas, innovations and expertise that are key to achieving a net zero future for the world.

So we want to help firms take advantage of these enormous economic benefits here too: the global market for low-carbon exports is expected to be worth £2 trillion by 2030.

So as a green trade pioneer, the UK already has an advantage.

Now, we’re supercharging our green export sector, encouraging the world’s most exciting companies to back Britain and to drive sustainable growth.

At October’s Global Investment Summit that we hosted here in London, we secured almost £10 billion-worth of pledges from international backers for environmentally-friendly projects - some of which are already translating into green jobs across the UK.

And we’re going to build on this at our Green Trade and Investment Expo, which will be in the North East this Autumn.

And of course, all of this will benefit many smaller supply chain companies that are the backbone of chambers of commerce. Businesses like yours that are there day in day out, providing those amazing jobs, using innovation to actually drive British success.

So just let me wind up here. It’s been a real pleasure to have the chance to share with you some of the tools that we use, and I hope that it will help be integral to our national success, and to your successes.

My Department wants to help you to achieve even more. That’s why we’re opening these markets, breaking down those barriers, driving investment and green growth, and showing the world just how much our brilliant UK firms have to offer.

So let’s get together, let’s keep working to make a difference for the people in all our communities, and to make sure that the rest of the world knows that we want the best of British. Thank you.