Businesses, unions call for new UK trade policy

UK business and trade union leaders have united to set out their demands to the government for a post-Brexit trade policy.

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The Confederation of British Industry, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Trades Union - along with the consumer organisation Which? and the Fairtrade Foundation think-tank - wrote an open letter to ministers on Thursday ahead of the first meeting of the government’s Strategic Trade Advisory Group, to be hosted in London by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.The organisations, representing some 300,000 businesses and 5.6 million union members, pointed out that trade "can be a powerful tool to increase and share prosperity in the UK and around the world".But, the letter added: "The public debate in this area - almost exclusively on Brexit or the merits of possible new free trade agreements - says very little about how trade can benefit the whole of society."Today is an opportunity to press the reset button and show how trade can work for all when trade unions, businesses and civil society work in partnership with government."

New UK trade policy should benefit every area of the UK

The government, said the letter, must build a trade policy that helps every area of the UK to grow and raise living standards, regardless of the outcome of Brexit.It said the policy should also uphold international labour standards, enhance consumer rights, promote international development, and reinforce "our global reputation for environmental stewardship, diversity and inclusion".The letter concluded: "We are committed to working with each other – and with all politicians – to achieve these goals and draw up practical guidance to make them a reality. This is the best way of creating an inclusive trade policy for the UK that workers, businesses and communities will benefit from."

Small Deal Initiative: UK financing for small businesses

Publication of the letter came less than 24 hours after Dr Fox launched a major initiative to unlock finance for SMEs exporting to emerging markets.The Small Deal Initiative, said the minister, represented the first time such an extensive financing package would be available to small businesses. It would include extending financial support and guarantees to firms in exporters’ supply chains and the introduction of a General Export Facility, which would cover exporters' general costs, rather than just costs related to a specific export deal.“These announcements are potential game-changers for our export industry, and will help us to tap a fresh vein of potential from within our economy,” said Dr Fox.“Recognising that it takes more than one business to deliver an export contract, UKEF (UK Export Finance) has extended eligibility for its support to companies in exporters’ supply chains.“Building a truly global Britain takes real investment. It cannot be done on the cheap. If we want to become an exporting superpower, with greater influence, selling more goods and services abroad and encouraging more British investment overseas, then we will have to invest in the capabilities required.“UKEF’s work would be at the very forefront of this investment strategy.”

Read the letter from the FSB, CBI, TUC, Which? & Fair Trade Foundation. 

Read more news about the UK and Brexit

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