It was a real privilege to be given the role as Minister for Trade Policy at the Department for International Trade last month and it’s fair to say my feet haven’t touched the ground since.
Getting up to speed in such a role is a big task and I have very much enjoyed doing so while starting to make a contribution to UK trade policy as we move towards leaving the European Union.
It’s vital that the government is committed to free trade because that is the best way for us to prosper post-Brexit. Free trade is a fantastic and progressive means of stimulating economic growth, creating jobs and providing greater consumer choice. Protectionism does quite the opposite.
Of course, we will soon have the means to enter into our own trade agreements and many countries want to reach a deal with us as soon as possible and this is very positive news.
My job, in a nutshell, is to develop, coordinate and deliver a new trade policy so that countries can know what we want and that the UK is open for business.
Part of my role is also to meet UK businesses to talk to them about the policy and I have been to quite a few parts of the country to do just that. I will also be travelling to other countries to meet up with trade bodies, officials and government ministers to discuss the UK’s position.
It’s certainly very important we make sure everyone knows that Britain wishes to be a global trading country and, obviously, this work will become even more significant when we leave the EU.
The role has also led me back into speaking in the House of Commons for the first time in a number of years. My roles as a Whip and a Parliamentary Private Secretary excluded me from speaking, so I cleared my throat when I led on the Trade Bill earlier this month. It’s fair to say I have never been a great fan of speaking in the chamber so my knees were knocking a little. Thankfully my colleagues were very kind.
Although I voted to remain in the referendum, I'm firmly of the view that the UK will prosper outside the EU and since I became a minister this has become even clearer to me. The UK has areas of global excellence in services and goods that others countries want to buy.
There are many countries like the USA, Canada, and Japan that have enormous markets and they want to trade with us as easily as possible.
Both the UK and Japan, for example, want a bilateral trade deal quickly post-Brexit that will be worth billions for UK exports going forward in areas like chemicals, cars and even food and drink.
A year ago, the Prime Minister and the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, agreed to ‘work quickly to establish a new economic partnership between Japan and the UK’.
The UK-Japan Trade and Investment Working Group, established last year, is tasked to deliver on this commitment and met for the second time in May.
So, much work is being done with Japan and many other countries to ensure the UK can prosper in trade post-Brexit. It is exciting and an honour to be part of that work.