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Sun, 29 November 2020

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As a newly independent nation, it’s vital we establish a clear trade policy

As a newly independent nation, it’s vital we establish a clear trade policy

Jobs and investment in our communities up and down the nation depend on the UK having successful trade relations, writes Lord Waverly. | PA Images

4 min read

Establishing an inclusive and sustainable approach to trade has never mattered more. The APPG for Trade and Export Promotion will seek to build consensus on our future trade policy.

The final count down to the United Kingdom embarking on a new chapter in our proud journey has arrived. Many unknowns are still to be determined; of which, whether we embark with or without a trade deal with the EU, is what weighs most on the minds of all.

Trade today affects every walk of life – whether it is the food we buy, the goods and services we produce, or those who provide our public services. Jobs and investment in our communities up and down the nation depend on the UK having successful trade relations with the rest of the world. It is time to take stock of what has not worked in the past, and to set it right, so that we can build back better towards a greener, more sustainable, and inclusive economy.

The UK is an innovative nation, rich in expertise and ideas, and with international networks that reach every corner of the globe. The challenge is to align our efforts, to bring together all aspects of trade and look at the issues in a more holistic way. It starts with establishing the right approach to trade governance to ensure everyone has a voice, and being fully transparent and democratic in what we do. Only then can we build public trust and deliver better outcomes.

It is worrying that we are entering into major trade negotiations without a clear idea of our objectives

We are not there yet, as trade governance is still not inclusive enough. Some constituencies have a voice, while others do not. There are also gaps in key strategic areas – such as trade in services – as well as a lack of clarity and alignment between trade policy and climate concerns. It is worrying that we are entering into major trade negotiations without a clear idea of our objectives and how we are planning on achieving them. Gaps in policy that had been filled by EU policy for the past 40 years, must now be resolved.

Never has creating an inclusive and sustainable approach to trade mattered more to the prospects of the UK. For this reason, Parliament has launched the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Trade and Export Promotion, to bring businesses, unions, consumers, academics, NGOs and civil society together to build consensus on trade policy, trade promotion, investment and trade finance.

The APPG is strengthened by having cross-party representation, as well as engagement across all regions of the UK – Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the nine regions of England. We are ably supported with a Secretariat run by an organisation that lives and breathes trade; the International Chamber of Commerce. I urge all MPs and Peers with interest in this, to kindly make contact in order that we include you into our programme of activities.

Sessions will begin in earnest from the new year. In the meantime, the APPG is probing government on a range of issues; trade deals, a review of the regulatory framework to tackle the US $3-5 trillion trade finance gap, standards and rights, and transparency on the use of development funds to bridge the digital divide between developed and emerging economies, to name but a few. Parliament can, and must, provide oversight and hold government to account.

There is plenty to consider. For example, the role of government and how to strengthen private sector engagement should be addressed. Indeed, in other G7 countries, the private sector plays a far larger role in trade support than in the UK. There is much to learn from countries such as Japan, that have a highly effective partnership between government and the private sector.

Now as an independent nation, it is even more important that government and public funds are focused on areas where they can add the most value – such as trade policy, negotiations, strategic sector support and capacity building.

This is a collective endeavour. The time has now come to cast divisions aside and to work together for the common good.

 

Lord Waverley is a crossbench member of the House of Lords and co-chair of the APPG for Trade & Export Promotion.

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