Today (Thursday 20 July) the International Trade Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, flies to Geneva to deliver a key note speech at the Graduate Institute, to set out the opportunities for the global economy from trade after the UK leaves the EU.
In a speech titled ‘Beyond Brexit: Britain and the Global Economy’ Dr Fox will call for further liberalisation of the services economy and for a rejection of protectionism, and also outline that Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are not the only way to remove impediments to trade.
Research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that protectionist measures have grown since the financial crisis of 2008. By 2010, G7 and G20 countries were estimated to be operating some 300 non-tariff barriers to trade – by 2015 this had risen to over 1,200.
International Trade Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, will say:
For the United Kingdom, the future of global trade will be shaped by the digital economy, by the promotion of trade as the main tool of development, and by unlocking the vast potential of the trade in services.
That is why it is so concerning to hear the voices of protectionism growing louder. Those who have benefitted most from an open, liberal trading environment have a duty to ensure that others are able to take advantage of the same benefits in the future.
During the visit Dr Fox will meet with Roberto Azevedo, the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), to discuss the next WTO Ministerial Conference, digital trade and the wider global free trade agenda.
They will also discuss WTO ‘schedules’ - the UK’s legally binding tariffs and levels of market access for trade in goods and services.
The UK wants to see modern and ambitious digital provisions in trade, including around e-commerce, data and telecommunications. Digital sectors contributed £118 billion to the economy in 2015 and exports of digital goods and services now amount to around £50 billion.
The visit comes as new statistics out yesterday showed the Department for International Trade supported £41.6 billion in exporting opportunities last year, creating 91,000 jobs and helping over 2,800 UK businesses to sell their products or services abroad for the first time. However, only around 11% of UK firms currently export and the government is hoping to support more exports by reconvening the Board of Trade and launching a network of trade commissioners.
The Board of Trade is specifically charged with ensuring that there is an increase in exports from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as England, so that the benefits of trade are felt by the whole Union. The first meeting of the Board of Trade will be later this year.
World Trade Organization
The WTO was established in 1994 as an international body to regulate trade and encourage nations to agree to adhere to the principle of ever-greater trading freedom.
As a founding member, on leaving the EU the UK will need to update the terms of WTO membership where, at present, all of the country’s commitments are applied through the EU as a whole. The process will mean ‘technical rectification’, by simply replicating current obligations, is the most simple and straightforward solution, and will cause the minimum disruption to trade.