Letters: Free trade future

Press quote (The Telegraph)
27 November 2019

SIR – Through Brexit and the election, trade has come to the forefront of the national conversation. As trade professionals we welcome public debate but fear the supplanting of fact with rhetoric.

The UK will likely soon reach the crucial stage of trying to establish its future economic relationship with the European Union and begin Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks with numerous other trading partners.

Therefore we call on all political parties to commit themselves to three things. First, to focus on content, not timing. Engines are being revved to strike FTAs by arbitrary deadlines, with little sense of what we want to achieve. Britain must carefully define its offensive and defensive interests for each negotiation, and their sequence, if these FTAs are to benefit the economy.

Secondly, FTAs involve trade-offs that should be openly discussed. The Government and Parliament should conduct transparent consultations with the public, business, devolved administrations and wider civil society to help define negotiating priorities. Ensuring openness is essential to build public confidence, allay fears and ensure the Government delivers deals people want. There is little point negotiating a deal without knowing whether it will gain domestic approval.

Thirdly, a mechanism should be established to provide independent, trustworthy analysis. Just as the Office for Budget Responsibility provides independent analysis of public finances, so the public and Parliament must have an impartial assessment of trade policy proposals and performance.

If the UK wants to benefit from high quality trade deals and to lead on the global stage, a major shift in approach is required. It’s time to get serious.

David Tinline
Former Senior Adviser to the WTO Director-General

Dmitry Grozoubinski
Founder, ExplainTrade.com

David Henig
UK Director, European Centre for International Economy (ECIPE)

Peter Ungphakorn
Former Senior Information Officer, WTO

Namali Mackay
Independent trade advisor, former trade negotiator for Australia

L Alan Winters
Director, UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO)

Anna Jerzewska
International Customs and Trade Consultant

Sam Lowe
Senior Research Fellow, Centre for European Reform

Jeremy Cape
VAT lawyer

Michael Gasiorek
Professor of Economics, UKTPO, University of Sussex

Allie Renison
Head of EU and Trade Policy, Institute of Directors

Guy de Jonquières
Senior Fellow, ECIPE, former Financial Times World Trade Editor

Sophia Wolpers
Brexit Policy Manager, London First

Sharon Leclercq-Spooner
Senior Advisor, EPPA