Developing more opportunities for UK producers to reach new, vibrant and exciting markets

Prime Minister Boris Johnson with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the garden of 10 Downing Street

Prime Minister Boris Johnson with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the garden of 10 Downing Street after agreeing the broad terms of a free trade deal between the UK and Australia, the UK's first trade deal negotiated fully since leaving the European Union - Credit: PA

The UK’s departure from the EU means that for the first time in close to 40 years, we can strike our own trade deals.

Thus far, we have rolled over 65 continuity deals that hold the same terms as when we were members of the European bloc.

Perhaps most importantly, we have also struck three major new free trade deals. First with the EU, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA); second with Japan, The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA); and third, with Australia.

The continuity deals matter because they provide the baseline for us to enhance our trading relations with other countries.

Over the coming months and years, they will develop offering more opportunities for UK producers to reach new, vibrant and exciting markets.

The free trade agreements that have been struck, not only prove the detractors wrong but set the benchmark in digital trade, agricultural standards, visa rights and financial services.

Each one of these trade agreements differs from the others. There can be no cut and paste job between different negotiations.

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Instead, the agreements reflect the wants and desires of global Britain as well as seizing the opportunity to open up new markets to our exporters and producers.

As a member of the International Trade Select Committee, it falls to me and a few others to scrutinise these trade deals, both in committee and on the floor of the House of Commons.

So, I thought it might be helpful to highlight a few points about our trade deals as we are going to be signing a great deal more over the coming months and years. 

Firstly, trade deals are the starting point, not the end point. Many have taken to the airwaves in the wake of signing these deals to complain that the forecasts suggest they add only a derisory percentage to our economy.

Ignoring the fact that they are economic forecasts and must be taken with a pinch of salt, it is essential to note that trade deals are by their very nature designed to develop and evolve.

Once struck, they can be expanded to further suit our interests and to help our producers and exporters reach new and exciting markets.

Secondly, trade deals go both ways. There has been a huge amount of fearmongering around agriculture and our farmers being unable to compete with Australian producers.

In reality, the markets in which we're competing are completely different.

Australia at present fails to fulfil its full quota of agriculture exports to the UK.

Even with the uplift outlined in the trade deal, they are unlikely to pivot dramatically to the UK when they have the Asia-Pacific region on their doorstep and growing at such a rate.

On the flip side, UK producers will now be able to export to Australia and our high-quality products will now be on sale across Australian markets.

Evaluating trade deals must consider both the import impact as well the export value.

Thirdly, we have expressed our desire to join other trading blocs and by striking agreements with Australia and Japan, we are now progressing towards joining the Comprehensive Progressive and Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

This bloc accounts for 13 per cent of global GDP, 15 per cent of global trade and has a population of 500 million people.

Access to this growing market offers a significant opportunity for our producers and exporters. It should not be overlooked.

After many years of outsourcing our trade negotiations, it is understandable that some have reservations about new agreements.

However, free trade offers us the opportunity to connect with new markets, to create new businesses and opportunities, and to ensure Global Britain is reaching its full potential.