Let’s work with the willing. Let’s work with those countries and British expatriates that want to increase trade and investment
Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade, had just scored some notable successes with India (on August 30th) and with Australia the week following when his private speech on “fat and lazy Britain” was secretly recorded and then printed by The Times. The next few days will be difficult for Dr Fox but throughout his career he has proved resilient and far more thoughtful than many are prepared to credit.
So what is the way forward and will Liam Fox’s straight-talking promote or harm his objective of boosting British trade and investment? We argue that two things will lead to success for Britain and for our doughty new Secretary of State.
The first in “scoping” new free trade agreements with those countries most willing to work with the UK.
Global Counsel, a left-leaning but rigorous think-tank, has produced a list of countries Dr Fox should first target. It’s sensible and ranks countries by GDP size, growth and existing trade. Willingness, however, is more important than anything else. Instead of China and the US let us prove ourselves with the following:
5. South Korea
For now Australia is the best example of a credible partner. Keen to reduce their dependence on China trade they completed a free trade agreement with the US in 11 months, are close to completion with the EU and their PM, Malcolm Turnbull, has said he’s willing to strike a ‘very strong, very open’ trade deal with the UK post-Brexit.
Australia has access to the American market and Mexico, who have already drafted a FTA for Britain, has too. Once agreements are in place with these countries, we will, in effect, have access to the world’s biggest economy.
The second agenda item for the new Department of International Trade must be to work with British businessmen who do care about exports. It’s true that only 11% of British companies export but there are five million UK citizens that live abroad. Not all of them work but a lot do, and particularly in trade and investment, some of these working expatriates hold top positions. It may be that there are golf-playing businessmen who don’t want to leave our shores but there are plenty of British expatriates who have already done so. Many of them would be more than willing to promote Britain as a trading partner all across the globe and if they are supported properly they are likely to help boost British exports and encourage inward foreign investment.
Just as with willing countries for FTA’s there are willing businessmen and women who will help to promote British interests. By working with those countries and people who are most likely to want to work with us, Liam may find that his words are well received and his objectives most readily secured.
Douglas Hansen-Luke is the former Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for the target seat Walsall North. He advises and consults with government sovereign funds on best practice asset allocation and impact investing. Researched and edited by Khadijah Hamirani an A-level student studying Politics, History, and Sociology and a writer for United Politics.