This week the Trade Bill came to Parliament for its Second Reading; an important moment representing a major step on the UK’s journey to reclaim its role as an independent, global, trading nation – delivering on a pledge I made to you, and that this Government made to the country.
As we leave the EU and come out of the unprecedented challenges that the Coronavirus pandemic has presented to our local businesses, we need to grasp the opportunities that an independent trade policy provides, particularly for our manufacturers here.
We have undoubtedly been a beneficiary of free trade. Our largest employers include VEKA of Germany and Paradigm Precision of the United States. And only a few weeks ago, UVS – a local business – worked with the Department for International Trade to secure its first order in Vietnam. But it is clear from the figures that we are only touching the tip of the iceberg and to really prosper we need to tap into the global marketplace.
Getting the hundreds of thousands of businesses across the UK, including many here in Burnley and Padiham, that don’t currently export, exporting is something I am personally committed to. It will generate new economic growth, and the jobs that go with that as we exit this difficult period and seek to repair the damage that Coronavirus has done. I have spoken to the International Trade Secretary about the benefits that these new deals could have for us, from getting our local farmers lamb onto US supermarket shelves to removing tariffs on our textiles products. The opportunities are there for us to take and this is a case I made when I spoke in the debate on the Trade Bill on Tuesday.
As we take the step towards once again being an independent globally trading nation, it is right that we also consider why trade is important, and not just how we go about supporting it. And on this, the simple truth remains, that free trade creates free people and prosperous societies. It has done more to lift people out of poverty than any other measure, and it has contributed to global economic growth for decades. It is the tool we can and will use to revitalise our economy here with the quality jobs we need.
The Trade Bill also provides a way for the deals we struck as members of the EU, with countries from South Korea to Switzerland, to be rolled over into bilateral agreements between us and them. Making sure that on 1 January 2021 we have trade agreements in place with countries around the world and giving certainty to the businesses who trade there.
Progress is also being made with the USA, our single largest trading partner, on an ambitious Free Trade Agreement. The first round of negotiations has taken place covering everything from goods and services to digital trade. A key pillar of this is supporting the 5.9 million small businesses in the UK, creating an agreement fit for the 21st century.
On Tuesday I warmly welcomed the Trade Bill in the debate. It puts the UK back on the global trading map, with an independent trade remedies body to protect us from countries that seek to undercut out local producers through state subsidies, and it provides the mechanism to roll-over, and expand, existing trade agreements.