The Department for International Trade launched our consultation calling on businesses and individuals to have their say and shape the UK’s new Global Tariff yesterday.
This is an incredibly exciting moment. Since we joined the Common Market in 1973, our tariff regime – in other words the taxes we put on goods coming into our country - has been written for us. And it is fair to say that it has not always served the best interests of the UK.
The EU’s Common External Tariff is maddeningly complex and hugely bureaucratic. Take confectionery. The EU inexplicably has 13,000 variations of tariffs on biscuits, baked goods and confectionery. These are essentially taxes that drive up the cost of the British consumer's weekly shop and ultimately, their cost of living. And there are countless ‘nuisance tariffs’ that sit below 2.5% - on everything from fridges and freezers to electric shavers - that cost British businesses money to administer.
But we now have the power to do away with this unnecessary complexity and cost and set our own tariff strategy that saves money for hard working British consumers and makes life easier for our great manufacturers.
Being able to set our own tariff strategy – one that suits British businesses and British consumers – is one of the many opportunities we have before us. We are now free to set our own tariff policy and strike our own trade deals with some of the biggest countries and economies around the world.
As Trade Secretary I want the UK to once again be at the forefront in the campaign for global free trade, fighting the protectionists and mercantilists. I also want to champion our fantastic British industries and ensure they are treated fairly.
The UK is not going to be bullied or pushed around, and with our new Trade Remedies Authority we will make sure no country gets away with dumping products like steel or ceramics at low costs into our market, that could harm vital UK industries in places such as Wales.
We will also be driving tough bargains with countries like Japan and the US to secure bilateral agreements so that we can cut tariffs both ways.
This will bring huge benefits for so many of our world-leading manufacturing industries, such as the brilliant ceramics companies in Stoke-on-Trent. They currently face 28% tariffs on the dinnerware that they currently export to the US. But negotiating a transatlantic free trade deal could see this tariff lowered and ensure that more British-made pottery ends up on American dinner tables.
Our new UK tariff will seek to help developing countries as well. It is our ambition to make it easier for these countries to improve their opportunities through trade. And this would be a win-win because not only will it help developing countries, but British consumers pockets’ could no longer be hit by raised costs for products from around the world that they want to buy.
One week on from the UK’s historic departure from the European Union, we are firing the starting gun on forming our own tailor-made UK tariff strategy. And it also marks the beginning of the UK finally standing on our own two feet again, after almost 50 years, and shaping our new, independent, free trading future.