12 October 2020
Business must be round the table to make trade work for local communities across the UK
Speaking at the first CBI International Trade Conference, Director-General, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, will say “trade offers one of the most powerful routes to post-pandemic recovery. Now is the time for the UK to champion free, fair and open trade, particularly in industries of the future, from services and low-carbon innovation to tech and life sciences.”
She will stress that better trade outcomes will create new jobs in all parts of the UK and underpin the Government’s levelling up agenda across the country.
Launching the CBI’s new report on trade, Partnership for Prosperity, Carolyn says trading success rests on a close partnership between government and business. “Having business closely involved is the proven way to give UK negotiators the real-time intelligence and edge they need to secure the best deals”.
Carolyn will call on the Government to use its global leadership roles in 2021 to champion purposeful free trade globally. “That the UK is hosting COP26 and taking on the G7 Presidency in a single year is an extraordinary opportunity. Both are platforms to champion low carbon innovation and mark the UK as a top destination for foreign investment”.
The CBI also recommends the creation of Office for Trade Impact (OFTI) to analyse UK trade policy success across regions and sectors, in line with international best practice.
CBI recommendations include:
- Champion services in trade deals as a fundamental UK strength and launch a global campaign to promote services and exploit export opportunities.
- Lead a global drive for inclusive growth through the G7 and G20, tied to discussions on economic recovery and links between UK aid spend and trade.
- Integrate business thinking into UK foreign policy, taking into account trade’s significance as a geopolitical lever.
- Share draft negotiating text with business and regularly consult the Strategic Trade Advisory Group (STAG) to provide real-time confidential intelligence in trade talks.
On championing the UK’s services sector, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, is expected to say:
“The UK should be the world’s champion for trade in services and innovation. These are two areas with huge potential for future global growth and where UK companies are world leaders. In 2019, the UK’s global services exports hit £328 billion, second only to the US as the world’s leading services exporter.
“Yet while the opportunities here are huge, so too are the regulatory barriers holding trade back. With services’ share of global trade set to increase by 50% in coming decades, the UK needs to focus more, and push harder, on services.
“UK firms already know where the big wins are - removing barriers in regulation to trade seamlessly across borders. And in mobility too, with so much services trade built around getting the right people to the right place at the right time.”
On the role of trade in levelling up locally, Carolyn will say:
“We need to make the UK’s levelling up agenda a central objective of our trade ambitions and vice versa. Right now, the UK is Europe’s top location for inward investment and the second highest in the world.
“But, in 2019, over half of these FDI projects landed in London. We need to extend the UK’s investment calling card across the whole country. This means reaffirming London’s global investment status, while extending the scale and reach of UK inward investment to all UK regions and nations.
“So, the CBI is calling for a new Office of Trade Impact, along the lines of the Australian Productivity Commission, to analyse UK trade policy success across regions and sectors. Our devolved administrations and Metro Mayors should also be far more closely involved in trade policy to harness local pride and dynamism and celebrate the jobs and investment that successful exporting can bring to a region.”
On partnership between business and government on trade, she will add:
“We need to hardwire collaboration between business and government across our work on trade and investment. The past few months have shown just how much business and government can achieve together. Now we need to bring that same collaborative energy to realising the UK’s full trading potential.
“The architecture set up to inform the UK’s trade negotiations has been a valuable first step. But we need to do much more. Many of the UK’s allies, including the US, Canada and Australia, go further than consulting closely with business. They partner with them in real time, particularly on the toughest trade-offs and breaking down barriers to market access.
“Through regular and structured engagement, business can give UK negotiators the on-the-ground intelligence and edge they need to secure the best deal. And when the ink is dry, business can then help promote the deals to firms of all sizes across the country.”
On stepping up globally, Carolyn will conclude:
“The UK has an unprecedented opportunity to step up globally. As host of COP26 and G7 president in 2021, the UK will have the world’s attention. We can use this momentum to challenge the protectionist forces stalling global progress. The goal should be to build a consensus among like-minded nations that champions and rebuilds public trust in free trade.
“Reinforcing the global rules-based system for the modern age and laying the foundations for a truly competitive, open trade environment that’s primed to deliver the fairer, greener, and more resilient future people want.”
Other recommendations in CBI’s Partnership for Prosperity include:
- Integrate trade and investment into domestic and foreign policy. Regular confidential conversations between Government ministers and business to help balance opportunity and risks across the world and ensure that the benefits of international trade and investment are felt at home. Align trade promotion more closely with industrial strategy.
- Convene a standing committee of UK business representatives with proven expertise in the WTO system to take full advantage of the UK’s new independent seat in Geneva and integrate it into Department for International Trade (DIT) stakeholder engagement architecture.
- Use the UK’s strengths and leadership in innovation to design and champion global standards in areas like e-commerce, Artificial Intelligence, FinTech, and the regulation of autonomous vehicles.
- Look beyond Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). Prioritise access to markets that are of the most value to UK economy in the long term and those where interests align and progress can be made swiftly. Partner with business to provide insight and expertise. Work with business to follow up trade deals with targeted export promotion so that trade deals are converted into commercial contracts.