Press release

PM: UK should become the global leader in free trade

Prime Minister Theresa May will set out her ambition for the UK to become the global leader in free trade when she attends the G20 Summit in China.

The Prime Minister will set out her ambition for the UK to become the global leader in free trade when she attends her first G20 Summit in China today.

The Prime Minister intends to use the summit to robustly champion free trade while underlining the need to do more to spread the benefits and build a fairer economy for all.

The Prime Minister will warn that while more people are feeling left behind by globalisation, ‘the answer cannot be to retreat, turn to protectionism or abandon free trade’.

Instead, countries must do more to ensure that working people really benefit from the jobs and opportunities that trade brings by investing in skills, training and infrastructure as the government intends to do with a new industrial strategy.

The Prime Minister also hopes to kick off exploratory talks with a number of countries around the world to enable the UK to forge its own new trade deals once we have left the EU.

Tomorrow, the Prime Minister will meet with the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who has already signalled that Australia will want to negotiate an important trade deal with the United Kingdom.

Following the introductory phone call between both leaders in July, officials from the Department for International Trade have been in discussions with the Australian government about the expertise and experience that Australia can offer – having themselves negotiated 5 free trade agreements in the last 3 years as well as the multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership.

This week a team of UK government officials will hold talks in Canberra with their Australian counterparts about establishing a trade negotiating team and the Australian government have also offered to second experienced negotiators to the UK as we seek to rapidly establish a world class trade policy team.

New Zealand and Canada are amongst other countries to have also offered the government expertise, reflecting the support from countries around the world to make a success of Brexit. Later this month, one of New Zealand’s top trade negotiators will fly in to London to provide support for officials in the Department for International Trade.

Speaking ahead of the summit, the Prime Minister said:

We are going to make a success of Brexit and one way we will do that is by playing to Britain’s strengths as a great trading nation and forging our own new trade deals around the world.

We are building up the necessary expertise to go after these trade deals and here in China, I will be seizing the opportunity to talk to leaders from countries like Australia who have already made clear that they want to strike a deal once we have left the EU.

And we will continue to be a powerful advocate for trade, recognising that with the right investment in training, skills and infrastructure, it can help us to build a fairer economy that works for all, not just the privileged few.

The Prime Minister’s talks on trade with world leaders come ahead of the second meeting of the Cabinet committee on EU Exit and Trade which will meet later this week and focus on the government’s trade policy, in particular the principles which should guide the UK approach including further work to prioritise early free trade discussions.