LONDON — Trade minister Liam Fox claims that Britain has already held “informal trade negotiations” with a dozen countries all over the world as part of the government’s recently announced plan for a new “global Britain.”
In a column for the Daily Telegraph, Fox claims that the UK has started undertaking so-called “trade audits” with countries around the world with the aim of having trade deals in place as soon as Brexit is formally completed.
“We have taken our first steps to establishing ourselves as the champions of free trade and taking our place, once again, as one of the greatest open trading nations in the world,” he writes.
“In a globalised world, Britain must stand ready to trade, to build a free and open network of commerce and trust that will not only safeguard our nation’s prosperity, but spread wealth across the world.
The Telegraph claims that government officials have started discussions with “China, India, Australia and South Korea as well as Middle Eastern nations such as Saudi Arabia and Oman,” and adds that the “also conducting initial trade deal discussions with Norway, New Zealand and the Gulf Cooperation Council.” The Gulf Cooperation Council is a union of Middle Eastern nations including the likes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“When we leave, we will want to develop new arrangements with countries like Australia, New Zealand and India. We are conducting trade audits with a number of countries to see how we can remove barriers to trade and investment to our mutual benefit,” Fox continues.
Fox’s comments about a “global Britain” echo the line taken by Prime Minister Theresa May in two speeches this week. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday morning, May said that she wants “the UK to emerge from this period of change as a truly Global Britain — the best friend and neighbour to our European partners, but a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe too; a country that gets out into the world to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike.”
International trade is set to be one of the trickiest parts of Brexit, especially given the government has now confirmed that the UK will leave the European Single Market.
Previous international trade deals with the EU have been long and troubled. Canada’s deal with the EU (CETA) took seven years and was almost scuppered when the region of Wallonia in Belgium refused to accept it.
However, government ministers have been insistent that Britain will be able to fast track trade agreements once it leaves the EU, with Brexit Minister David Davis saying on Wednesday that a comprehensive trade deal between the UK and the EU could be signed in just two years, despite numerous warnings that it could take up to a decade.