CBI: Government must trade its way to post-pandemic recovery


The Government must trade its way to recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, the boss of the CBI will say.

Speaking at the first CBI international trade conference on Monday, director-general, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn will stress that now is the time for the UK to champion free, fair and open trade and urge the Government to use its leadership roles in 2021 to champion purposeful free trade globally.

The CBI boss is also expected to emphasise that better trade outcomes will create new jobs in all parts of the UK and underpin the Government’s levelling up agenda across the country.

The UK hosting COP26 and taking on the G7 presidency in 2021 presents an extraordinary opportunity for the Government to champion low carbon innovation and mark the UK as a top destination for foreign investment, Dame Carolyn will say.

The P&O freight ferry, MS Norbay heads down the River Mersey (Peter Byrne/PA)
The P&O freight ferry, MS Norbay heads down the River Mersey (Peter Byrne/PA)

Launching the CBI’s new report on trade, Partnership For Prosperity, she will stress to No 10 that trading success rests on a close partnership between Government and business.

The CBI will also recommend the creation of an office for trade impact to analyse UK trade policy success across regions and sectors, in line with international best practice.

Among other suggestions include for the Government to champion services in trade deals as a fundamental UK strength and launch a global campaign to protect services and exploit export opportunities, to lead a global drive for inclusive growth through the G7 and G20 and to integrate business thinking into UK foreign policy.

The CBI will also call for the Government to share a draft negotiating text with business and regularly consult the Strategic Trade Advisory Group (Stag) to provide real-time confidential intelligence in trade talks.

The UK should be the world’s champion for trade in services and innovation and the UK’s levelling up agenda “must be a central objective of the country’s trading ambitions”, Dame Carolyn is expected to say.

A ship n Southampton Docks (Andrew Matthews/PA)
A ship n Southampton Docks (Andrew Matthews/PA)

She will add that “our devolved administrations and metro mayors should also be far more closely involved in trade policy to harness local pride and dynamism and celebrate the jobs and investment that successful exporting can bring to a region”.

The CBI boss will also urge the Government to form a closer relationship with business on trade.

Dame Carolyn will add: “We need to hardwire collaboration between business and government across our work on trade and investment.

“The past few months have shown just how much business and government can achieve together.

“Now we need to bring that same collaborative energy to realising the UK’s full trading potential.”