Monday, July 24, 2017

Britain Is Committed To Brexit And Free Trade

As an independent U.K. embraces the world, the U.S. will remain our foremost partner.

By Liam Fox
The Wall Street Journal
July 24, 2017

The principles of free trade have underpinned the institutions, rules and alliances that rebuilt the postwar world. They facilitated the fall of Soviet communism. They ushered in 70 years of global prosperity, raising the living standards of hundreds of millions of people. As the United Kingdom looks ahead to a new era of trade and a future outside the European Union, we’ll be strengthening ties around the world—especially with our top trading partner and greatest ally, the U.S.

The British government has set up working groups and high-level dialogues in 10 countries that are key trade partners. Our goal is to explore the best ways of improving our trade and investment relationships. On Monday, I will visit my American counterpart, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, for the first meeting of the U.S.-U.K. trade and investment working group. We have two main aims. First, to give businesses on both sides of the Atlantic certainty and confidence. Second, to provide commercial continuity as the U.K. charts a course outside the EU.

The U.K. is prohibited from signing any formal free-trade agreement while we retain EU membership, but we are laying the groundwork for a potential deal with our closest international partners, identifying areas where we could broaden cooperation and remove barriers to trade.

American politicians and business leaders sometimes ask me whether the U.K.’s recent general election has affected our approach to Brexit, or whether there is any chance the U.K. might change its mind and stay in the EU. No. The government’s approach has not changed. The plan to leave the EU that we originally set out is in our national interest. Brexit is going ahead. The democratic choice has been made.

In the June election, more than 80% of voters backed one of the parties that supports Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. The Conservative Party, through our agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party, has secured a legislative majority to provide stable government, uphold the democratic will of the British people, and deliver Brexit.

I believe this offers an unprecedented opportunity for the U.K. If we want to protect jobs and prosperity and watch British businesses expand, we need to engage with the overseas markets that hold the greatest potential. The EU itself estimates that 90% of global growth in the next decade will come from outside Europe. As one of the world’s largest economies, the U.K. has the chance to work with old and new partners to build a truly global Britain at the heart of international trade.

The strength of our trade and investment relationship with the U.S. is clear. Exports to the U.K. last year totaled $555 million from Alabama alone, and $3.5 billion from Washington state. Such exports supported 1,400 jobs in Alaska and 53,000 in Texas, which I will visit at the end of this week. Together the U.S. and U.K. have around $1 trillion invested in each other’s economies, and this strong trading relationship supports more than one million jobs in both countries.

The fundamentals of the U.K. economy are strong, providing a solid platform on which to build new trading links. We have reduced the deficit by nearly 75% and cut taxes for millions of working people, and the unemployment rate remains low. The U.K. was the second-fastest-growing economy in the Group of Seven last year. A PricewaterhouseCoopers report from February projects that Britain will hold the G-7 growth title until 2050, outstripping Germany, France and Italy.

The U.K. has long been one of the best places in the world to invest, with regulatory stability, a strong rule of law, and a low-tax, high-skilled economy. So it’s no surprise that Britain has attracted a range of businesses, from Google and Facebook to Pfizer.

I am committed to securing the best possible global trading framework for the U.K. It is a source of great personal pride to lead the Department for International Trade, tasked with upholding Britain’s centuries-long tradition of advocating free trade and commerce. In that spirit, I look forward to working together with our American allies to deepen a relationship based upon not only our shared values of freedom and democracy, but our shared history, culture and economic success.

At times the U.K. and the U.S. can seem very different, yet we are nations built upon a common foundation. As Britain embraces the world, the U.S. will remain our foremost partner in every endeavor.

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