As the United Kingdom heads towards its exit from the European Union, it is continuing to sign up to one-on-one trade deals with various nations.
In recent days, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has concluded deals with both Singapore and Vietnam.
The agreements bring the UK a step closer to joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a high-standards agreement of 11 Pacific nations.
Deepens relationships in the Pacific region
According to the British government, these “will deepen relationships in the Indo-Pacific region and deliver vital certainty for UK business”.
“It is the latest step in the UK’s strategy to create a network of trade agreements with dynamic economies far beyond Europe, making the UK a hub for services and digital trade,” the Department for International Trade said in a statement.
“The UK is already one of the world’s biggest exporters of services, with remotely delivered services exports worth £207-billion in 2019.”
The Singapore continuity agreement, with the UK’s largest trading partner in South-East Asia, is intended to provide a gateway to Asia for UK businesses.
Digital Economy Agreement in the offing
Truss and her Singaporean counterpart, trade and industry minister Chan Chun Sing, also announced their intention to launch negotiations for a Digital Economy Agreement (DEA). This would be the first DEA that Singapore has struck with a European country.
The Department for International Trade said the agreement would enable the UK to become a hub for digital trade with strong connections to Asia, cutting red tape for UK businesses and setting global standards in key areas such as cyber-security and emerging technology.
Singapore and the UK are both global players in the digital economy and 70% of UK services exports were delivered remotely to Singapore last year. These exports were worth £3.2-billion.
Trade with Vietnam triples in nine years
Truss also travelled to Vietnam to conclude a separate trade agreement intended to maintain a trading relationship that has tripled between 2010 and 2019 in nominal terms to £5.7-billion. Almost all tariffs will be eliminated after seven years, including on machinery and pharmaceutical products, the UK’s top exports to Vietnam.
“Both these agreements are vital for the UK’s future as an independent trading nation,” Truss said.
“Not only do they lock in billions of pounds worth of trade, they also pave the way for new digital partnerships and joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This will play to the UK’s strengths as we become a hub for tech and digital trade with influence far beyond our shores.
“This is an important part of our vision for a Global Britain that sits at the centre of a network of deals with dynamic nations across Asia-Pacific.”