My hon. Friend is absolutely right. One of the priorities of the Department for International Trade, in co-operation with the Department for International Development, is to look at how to replicate and increase the effects of the economic partnership agreements. There are with seven in place now, and we want to extend them to 31 other countries, including African and Caribbean ones. The opportunity is certainly out there, and I agree with him wholly.
We have made a good start. The Government’s stance in the White Paper on trade was encouraging:
“When we leave the EU we will regain our independent seat at the WTO. As an independent member and one of the largest economies in the world, we will be in a position to intensify our support for robust, free and open international trade rules which work for all, and to help to rebuild global momentum for trade liberalisation.”
We are already seeing encouraging signs. According to the OECD, at the end of last year the UK’s inward investment stock was an impressive $1.89 trillion, more than double Germany’s, which stood at $920 billion. The Government have already established working groups and high-level dialogues with a range of key trade partners, including the US, Australia, China, the Gulf Co-operation Council, India, Japan and New Zealand. I commend that approach, and I know that the Department plans and will work to extend that list, continuing to increase global trading relationships.
Analysis in a report by Minnesota’s Minneapolis Fed suggests that were we to reduce trade and investment barriers with the rest of the world by 5%, we would raise UK income by between £25 billion and £30 billion per year, even taking into account possible future restrictions on trade and investment with EU. Dr Graham Gudgin, an economist at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Business Research, states:
“A smart WTO Brexit with well-designed trade, immigration, agricultural, fishing and regulatory policies would, far from being a ‘disaster’, have an excellent chance of delivering substantial long-term net benefits.”
Exciting opportunities across a wide range of sectors are open to Government as we move forward.