As part of the International Trade Select Committee, it is my responsibility to scrutinise the trade deals being signed by the UK. Now outside of the European Union, the UK is a master of its own fate when it comes to striking new economic partnerships and trading agreements with countries around the world.
To date, over seventy deals have been rolled over from our time within the EU, plus two brand new deals have been negotiated with Australia and New Zealand. On top of which, a digital partnership with Singapore is in the offing and the Japan-UK agreement (JEPA) has been significantly modified. We are also aiming to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Explaining trade deals and their processes is a tough job at the best of times. They are technical, bureaucratic and often rather dull. However, there are real benefits to be found for UK producers, exporters and wealth creators.
The seventy deals that we have rolled over from the EU are now able to be modified and developed to benefit UK exporters and consumers. A case in point is where the UK enhanced the Japan agreement to include new rules around digital trade. These new digital trade rules are widely viewed as a new global benchmark, and other countries are aiming to follow suit and match our standard. Businesses in the service sector will benefit enormously from these rules and will be able to find new markets where their intellectual property has the protection needed.
It is often said that the mark of a good trade deal is when both sides leave the table annoyed but with an agreement. While this might be true in part, it is interesting to see that the Australia and New Zealand Free Trade Agreements, which were reached in record time, offer a huge new market for UK producers to export to. Food and drink sectors are often cited and are undoubtedly going to benefit from these new concords, due to the size of the markets but also because of the appreciation of British food quality.
However, while trade deals can be spoken about in lofty terms, it is important that businesses across South Devon and the South West understand how they can take full advantage of the export opportunities that are now available.
First, all businesses should enrol in the Export Academy. It offers free, comprehensive training for UK businesses to learn how to sell to customers and secure contracts from around the world.
Second, use the Export Support Services. For businesses who need answers to technical questions about exports, there are officials from the Department of International Trade standing by to help.
Third, take advantage of the free publicity. The Made in the UK, Sold to the World campaign is designed to give businesses a boost and to help promote their products at home and abroad.
Fourth and finally, UK Export Finance is there to ensure that no viable UK export fails for lack of finance or insurance. It provides the financial support to ensure our exports can reach their markets.
South Devon has hundreds of businesses that export, but many are unaware of these measures. Working together we can reach new markets and ensure that the businesses we have here are growing, developing and creating new opportunities for all.