Authored article

Liam Fox on UK-China trade relations

Liam Fox op-ed piece, originally published in The Telegraph, on the future of trade relations between China and the UK.

The Rt Hon Liam Fox MP

On Tuesday I will address British and Chinese businesses at the Centre for Policy Studies’ China Conference and one thing that won’t be understated will be the impact of China on the international trade landscape.

Some will see this through the lens of recent news about steel tariffs and China’s interaction with the USA.

While others will have charted China’s vast expansion in industrial capacity over the last 20 years that has transformed industries worldwide and its own economy.

What’s clear is that China’s success is part of the wider story of the re-balancing of the global economy with nations across Asia and the far east recording levels of growth above traditional advanced economies of the Western world.

As with any major reorientation there are challenges and opportunities.

For Britain, our ambition is to become the world’s leading champion of free trade, taking the opportunity provided by our exit from the European Union to develop an explicitly pro-trade independent policy framework.

We will work with our friends and allies across the world to liberalise international trade, working to remove barriers to commerce, to help our businesses and ensure greater choice and cheaper prices for consumers.

In doing so we must also work within the rules-based international trading system and we welcome the steps that China - the world’s second largest economy - has taken to facilitate global trade.

We must also use this collaboration to encourage bodies such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) to operate more effectively in supporting the global economy, tackling issues of transparency, overcapacity and intellectual property through multilateral cooperation. China must play its part, opening its markets and ensuring compliance.

There are signs of progress - at the start of the Millennium China wasn’t even a member of the WTO.

Now China is spending 1 trillion dollars across the world on improvements to trading infrastructure as part of the ‘Belt and Road’ programme.

The initiative is at the heart of China’s drive to continue its rapid development and involves investment in infrastructure projects throughout Asia and central and eastern Europe. New airports, railways and ports will strengthen international links and create vast new opportunities for trade and investment.

The United Kingdom is China’s natural partner in this endeavour. Why? Just look at the global reach of the UK’s largest banks, financial institutions and professional services firms.

They have formidable emerging markets expertise, as well as experience in areas such as law, green finance and providing professional advisory services delivering international infrastructure projects.

All this makes UK firms the ideal partner to ensure projects along the Belt and Road routes are cost-effective, sustainable and delivered to the highest possible standards.

My Department for International Trade is helping businesses in both countries realise these opportunities and further a trading relationship already worth £67.5 billion through our working group with China.

We are working to identify and remove non-tariff barriers to trade while laying the groundwork for future trade agreements.

The work of this group was amplified earlier this year, during my joint visit to China with the Prime Minister in February, when it was agreed that a joint trade and investment review would be conducted, providing more essential preparation for future negotiations.

I have also appointed Richard Burn as the new Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner to China. China is the only country in the world to have its own dedicated UK Trade Commissioner and is testament to the growing potential.

Richard will oversee my department’s trade and investment promotion activities across the country, bringing his extensive expertise to bear. His work alongside DIT teams across China will help to make the ambitions of our renewed trading partnership a reality.

It is evidence of how nearly 2 years since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union of just how seriously my department and this government are taking our relationship with growing markets like China while remaining true to the principles of free trade.

It is my firm belief that the path to prosperity lies not in insularity but in embracing the opportunities of globalisation. Through this we can ensure competition, increase productivity and the incentive to innovate – ultimately making us all better off.

I will continue to promote the value of building trade links across the world and the potential for trade to spread wealth to developing and developed nations alike.

Published 19 June 2018