Calls to ease trade barriers after pandemic

Why have trade ministers of the UK, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand launched a campaign warning against the rebuilding of global trade barriers in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic?

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Trade ministers Liz Truss, Chan Chun Sing, Simon Birmingham and David Parker published a joint letter in newspapers across the world on Tuesday in which they vowed "to lead the world in restoring and deepening global trade" once the outbreak was overcome."Through our co-operation, we hope to provide leadership and build confidence. Most important, we aim to ensure our counterparts around the world remember the economic and social benefits delivered by open, rules-based trade before this crisis and join us in continuing policies to enhance lives and livelihoods when it has passed," said the letter.The ministers pointed out that almost two-thirds of Britain’s economy was made up of trade, while one in five Australian jobs and one in four in New Zealand were related to trade and that almost two-thirds of Singapore’s GDP was generated by external demand.

Increased trade protectionism will harm the global recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic

While the letter conceded that the global trade order had been fundamentally disrupted by the pandemic, it said that "if countries are to emerge from this crisis successfully, this will require more co-operation, not less".It warned that increased protectionism being demanded by some world leaders would only harm the global recovery from the pandemic by slowing the return of economic and employment growth.The letter added, “Some people think this crisis should mean less trade in the future and onshoring of supply chains. Some argue for a rolling back of the trade liberalisation that has underpinned much of the world’s economic growth in recent decades."While there can be good reasons for targeted reshoring of truly essential capabilities, we should not let those who would undo decades of progress take advantage of the crisis. Sharing challenges and diversifying where we buy from and sell to can make us all more resilient and better protect us in the event of future shocks. Diverse supply chains cannot only increase just-in-time efficiency but also boost just-in-case resilience."For all these reasons and more, putting in place more trade barriers would be the worst possible response to global economic uncertainty. More barriers would further erode business confidence and would slow the investment needed to restart many economies. Developing countries, which often have seen the greatest transformation from opening up, might find themselves shut out of world markets, reducing prosperity and employment."

Environmentalists urge the UK to halt post-Brexit trade negotiations with the US

The letter came a day after Ms Truss was urged by environmentalists to halt negotiations with the US over a post-Brexit trade deal because of “deep concerns” over any talks taking place during the Covid-19 crisis.In a letter signed by more than 15,000 people, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said, “We have multiple concerns about trade agreements with the US, particular in relation to food standards, animal welfare protections, and chemical and pesticide safeguards.“These are high risk issues that need considered public debate and democratic scrutiny, but this debate cannot happen amidst national lockdown, with parliament not fully functioning and with Whitehall officials focused on the pandemic."However, a government spokesman said, “We remain fully committed to negotiating a free trade agreement with the US and have been repeatedly clear that we will not lower our food standards in the process.“We are committed to ensuring that our trade policy is transparent and subject to parliamentary scrutiny. That’s why we have published our approach to US negotiations as well as the results of the public consultation and will continue to keep parliament informed throughout.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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