The statement made by Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the Secretary of State for International Trade, in the House of Commons on 24 March 2022.
Today, the Department for International Trade is publishing a comprehensive set of documents setting out the UK’s strategic approach to an enhanced free trade agreement (FTA) between the UK and Canada. In line with our commitments to scrutiny and transparency, these documents have been published and placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
As a recently independent trading nation, the UK is now able to champion its own trade policy by securing agreements with new international partners, as well as by upgrading the terms of our existing continuity agreements to better suit the needs of UK businesses and the economy. We signed the UK-Canada trade continuity agreement (UK-CAN TCA) on 9 December 2020, which committed both parties to enter negotiations on a bespoke trade agreement by 1 April 2022. As such, negotiations will be launched today, 24 March 2022, with negotiations due to begin shortly afterwards. The negotiation objectives published today were informed by our call for input, which requested views from consumers, businesses, and other interested stakeholders on priorities for upgrading our agreement with Canada.
Canada is an important trading partner with a well-developed economy. Despite the slowdown to global trade in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, goods exports to Canada still increased by £478 million and Canada remained one of our top 20 trading partners (ranked 16th), with total trade in goods and services worth £19.2 billion.
UK exports enjoy an estimated £58 million less in duties under the UK-CAN TCA, relative to trading without one. An upgraded agreement can provide the opportunity to support further trade liberalisation and benefit businesses, including the 10,300 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) already exporting to Canada.
Enhancing the terms of our agreement with a historically connected partner like Canada can provide opportunities for businesses across the entire UK, support the UK’s transition to net zero and strengthen our vision for global Britain. We share a Head of State and work together across a range of bilateral and international initiatives including as members of the Five Eyes, G7, G20, NATO, and as signatories of the Paris climate agreement. These new negotiations are just another way in which our important partnership is delivering against all the priorities as set out in the UK’s integrated review. Further, these negotiations provide a valuable opportunity to pursue high ambition in areas of mutual interest including, championing, and supporting women’s economic empowerment through trade, updating our digital trade package, promoting innovation, and supporting our role as a global leader in climate action.
A bespoke trade agreement with Canada will also complement the UK’s accession to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership (CPTPP), of which Canada is an influential member.
The Government are determined that any agreement must work for consumers, producers, investors, and businesses alike. We further remain committed to upholding our high environmental, labour, public health, food safety and animal welfare standards, alongside protecting the national health service (NHS).
HM Government are committed to transparency obligations, and we will continue to update and engage with key stakeholders as well as Parliament and the devolved Administrations throughout our negotiations with Canada.