In a world of tit-for-tat tariffs, Global Britain is ready to take a stand for free trade - The Telegraph

Yesterday I visited Geneva, the home of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the place where free and fair trading rules are forged and trade disputes are resolved. I met ambassadors from around the world to discuss Britain’s future global role and I had one key message to send: Britain is back.

Over the last three years we’ve promoted Global Britain and the opportunities that leaving the European Union on 31 October will bring for the UK.

Since becoming Trade Secretary, I have been around the world making the case that – freed from the EU regulatory straitjacket – we will be able to deepen trading ties with some of our closest allies outside the EU. We will be out, selling Britain to the world. But more than this, we will be able to take our seat at the WTO as an independent, sovereign nation with a role to play in shaping the future of global trade.

Other countries very much want to hear our voice. They want to work with us, they want to have better links with our industries and they want us to have our say over the direction in which the rules-based trading system is headed.

 

Trade reform is one of my top priorities, particularly as we come to face the new challenges the modern, globalised world will bring.

The shape of the global economy and the nature of work and trade are changing fast. Digital trade rules need to be reformed so they’re fit for the twenty-first century by reducing restrictions to market access to support e-commerce and ensuring the free flow of data across borders.

After all, Britain is a tech hub, currently third in the world for the number of $1 billion tech companies based here.

We will use our independent voice to reform the WTO Appellate Body. More than 500 disputes have been brought to the WTO since it was set up in 1995. We need to find a way to unblock the current impasse and address long-standing concerns about its functioning.

There is also an urgent need to strengthen the rules on industrial subsidies, state-owned enterprises and forced technology transfer – so that states cannot game the system. The UK is stepping into our newly-found independent role at a most serious crossroads in the global trading arena.

We live in a world of rising trade tensions and tit-for-tat tariffs. A world in which the good people of America may have to pay more to taste excellent Scotch whisky on account of recently imposed tariffs.

There are some people who fear competition and think the solution is to protect ourselves from the future. But this is the wrong approach. The real trade war is between the protectionists and the free traders and there is no doubt which side Britain stands on.

From the repeal of the Corn Laws, to hosting the world’s first industrial revolution, to being one of the original signatories of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the UK has long been a champion of free trade. Because free trade – facilitated by our rules-based system – is the engine of global growth and prosperity. And I see the Commonwealth as a fighting force for free trade at the WTO.

There is no greater ally of the WTO than the United Kingdom. They need our support to champion free, fair, rules-based international trade at its centre; and we need the WTO to champion Global Britain. But we cannot take our seat while still tied to the EU, and that is why it is imperative we leave on 31 October.

And leave we will, because not only do we have the leader who is going to get Brexit done, but we also have the leader who is ready to promote Britain on the world stage and become truly Global.