James Forsyth

The looming Tory trade debate

The looming Tory trade debate
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Post-Brexit, the UK needs to find allies on trade liberalisation. One obvious place to look is the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership. The UK is keen to join this group of 11 countries, as Liz Truss reiterated at a Policy Exchange event this afternoon. The Singaporean trade minister emphasised how keen he would be to see the UK join, and how this would send a message about the role that the UK wishes to play in the world post-Brexit. 

Interestingly, he also warned that the government needs to prepare domestic businesses for the change this would bring to prevent any anti-trade backlash. In her remarks, Truss implicitly accepted that there isn’t going to be much multilateral progress on trade liberalisation, and so the plurilateral option offered by the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the next best thing.

It is clearly American history week for the cabinet. Truss joined in with the praise for FDR that has come from Boris Johnson and Michael Gove this week. But she also argued that if the government wants to copy FDR’s successes, it should also learn from the failures of his predecessor Herbert Hoover, whose tariffs compounded the great depression. 

In the coming months, there is going to be a debate in government about whether the best way to build national resilience is from reshoring or diversifying the countries from which the UK buys good such as PPE. Truss will be firmly in the latter camp.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator.

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