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Foreign Policy Foreign Policy

Be the world’s foremost champion of free trade

Last updated: 09:49pm 3 December 2019

We will be the world’s foremost champion of free trade.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.38

Our verdict

Free trade is a trade policy aimed at removing tariffs and subsidies on imports and exports. As a member of the European Union (EU), Britain benefits from around 40 free trade agreements with over 70 countries. The EU is our main trade partner. This is a pledge to be the world’s foremost champion of free trade.

Since the general election, the government has focused on replicating free trade deals existing under the EU. 18 continuity agreements covering 8% of current exports have been signed with individual countries and continental blocs. Australia, New Zeland, the United States and the Southern African Customs Union and Mozambique (SACUM) have also signed mutual recognition agreements, whereby they reciprocally recognise product performance standards. There were discussions with Japan, which signed an exchange of letters to ensure temporary continuity. Trade deal talks with the ASEAN bloc and the US have been mentioned, but any plans have not come to fruition.

In October 2019, opening the annual Commonwealth Trade Ministers Meeting, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss reaffirmed the government’s commitment, announcing an additional £2.5 million to promote free trade through the Commonwealth Standards Network.

Throughout its term, the government reaffirmed its committment to become the global champion of free trade, and announced funding to promote the concept. Nevertheless, rather than improving existing ties or signing new deals, as might reasonably be expected of a “the world’s foremost champion of free trade”, it has focused principally on maintaining current trade agreements as the UK exits the EU. As a result, this policy will remain ‘in progress’

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