Comment

Joining forces with Canada will allow Britain to change the world 

Over thirty years on from Thatcher working with Canada's Pierre Trudeau, we have a new generation fighting for free and fair trade

In the late Eighties, I spent a year at a school in Vancouver. It was an exciting time – many of my fellow students came from nations along the Pacific rim, and we shared the same eagerness to get on in life and embrace new ideas.

When I came back to the UK, I saw how the country was beginning to change, thanks to Margaret Thatcher challenging the old ways of doing things. She realised the United Kingdom’s economic future lay in services and technology, ushered in new investment from partners like Japan, and championed the issue of climate change.

Thirty years on from the end of Mrs Thatcher’s premiership (during which she worked with Pierre Trudeau as her Canadian counterpart), we have a new generation fighting for free and fair trade. Yesterday Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Pierre’s son), Boris Johnson, my Canadian counterpart Mary Ng and I agreed in principle a continuity deal that will underpin our £20 billion trading relationship.

We have also agreed to start negotiating a more advanced trade deal next year, which will be more ambitious in areas such as digital trade, women’s economic empowerment and the environment.We will build on this in our presidency of the G7, working with like-minded democracies such as Canada to promote our priorities around the world.

This agreement heralds a new chapter in our long and deep relationship with Canada. Mrs Thatcher was warned by her officials that “the ordinary Canadian tends to think that Britain has turned her back on Canada and is now only interested in Europe”. Our re-emergence as an independent trading nation means we can prove them wrong. This deal will allow us to take our economic relationship to new heights. It also takes us a step closer to hitching ourselves to one of the most dynamic trading areas in the world.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership is a vibrant group of 11 nations including Canada, Japan, and Australia. They thrive under modern, business-friendly rules which offer much more than the EU could for the industries of the future. We already share the Pacific mindset: a patriotic globalism and eagerness to innovate. Membership would play to our strengths as a world-leading hub for services, data and digital.

The UK is the second-largest exporter of services in the world, the top destination for foreign direct investment in Europe and has the globe’s third largest number of “tech unicorns”. Joining would enable British businesses to sell their wares directly into the world’s most vibrant markets, and give the UK access to around 13 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product – over £11 trillion.

Together, we would form a coalition of the willing in the fight for free and fair trade which would push back against protectionism and those who would try to subvert the world’s rules-based system. We would help to challenge bad behaviour at the World Trade Organisation which undermines free enterprise.

Mrs Thatcher understood that the UK succeeds economically by going global. Over 32 years ago, she warned in her Bruges Speech that Europe “never will prosper as a narrow-minded, inward-looking club”.  Now we are on track to join a truly broad-minded and outward-looking club.

Our deal with Canada means the UK has now struck trade deals with 53 countries, from South Africa to South Korea, in under two years. This covers £164 billion worth in trade, as of last year. Our values-driven and value-generating trade policy has been proven to deliver, with our Japan deal securing much more for the UK than it had been able to benefit from before.

But be in no doubt, we will not do deals at any price. As Telegraph readers know well, no deal is better than a bad deal, and we are not resting on our laurels. We are working flat out to reach new gold-standard arrangements with the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

Seizing these opportunities will bring home jobs, economic growth and investment. This is how we will revive our industrial heartlands, turbocharge our services and take our digital trade to the next level.

Our re-emergence as an independent trading nation means we are free to become the ideas factory of the world. I could not be happier to be moving forward, with our Canadian allies, as free trade pioneers.

 

Liz Truss is Secretary of State for International Trade