UK Trade. The New Agenda.
23 April 2021
In our first report we set out a four-point agenda for change. This next report in the series picks up on one of the action points: the need to clarify and reinforce what the UK stands for in global markets for trade and investment.
For more than 30 years, the UK's proposition to international investors was based, at least in part, on its membership of the European Union. The UK often positioned itself as the gateway to Europe’s Single Market, with unfettered access to 450 million consumers across mainland Europe. It was an easy message to get across: simple, straightforward and tangible. As such, it was front and centre of most glossy brochures promoting the UK to international investors. There was much more to our proposition than that of course, but in a world of clear messaging, membership of the European Union was generally first on the list.
In March 2021, the Government published the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy (the Integrated Review). Entitled ‘Global Britain in a competitive age’, it is a wide-ranging articulation of the Government’s vision for the UK’s post-Brexit place in the world. It sets out an ambitious definition of Global Britain, as well as a policy framework for what it means in practice.
Trade and investment is integral to this ambition. While not articulated as an objective in its own right, trade and investment is a crucial enabler of our ability to drive influence internationally, as well as prosperity at home.
The challenge is now to translate and reinforce this wide-ranging articulation of ‘Global Britain’ in a way which is relevant and useful for driving trade and investment outcomes. What does this vision mean for UK businesses, so that they can both benefit from ‘Global Britain’ and help make it a success?
We now need to revisit the messages we tell overseas business leaders about why to invest here, or why to buy our wares. This is what we mean by ‘clarifying the vision’. We now have an opportunity to make those messages much more compelling: to make them fit for the future, rather than rely on what has worked for us in the past; and to make them distinctive for us, rather than being based on the qualities of our neighbouring markets.
This is not just about brochures – any vision needs substance. For it to gain traction it needs to be repeated and reinforced at every turn, by everyone involved. So what our businesses, politicians and other leaders say and do matters. As we exit from a period of disruption and division, it would be great to see Government policy and the actions of our major corporations reinforcing a set of shared values that will help drive trade and investment.
We believe that the following four values could provide the much-needed connections between where we are now and where we want to be as ‘Global Britain’ in trade and investment. They highlight factors that transcend industries, sectors, technologies, and regions, and will help create an agile model that is fit for the new, competitive and multipolar world set out in the Integrated Review.
While far from unique on the world stage, innovation is fundamental to growth, productivity and prosperity, and we believe the UK needs to declare its innovation credentials more vocally than it has done in the past.
Now, more than ever, education is a common good that benefits everyone and should be a core component of the UK’s value proposition and soft power status in the world.
‘Togetherness’ represents a culture of collaboration not just between businesses, but across a wider ecosystem including research institutions, local and central government, the financial sector and different parts of the UK. It also captures the broader topic of ESG concerns, and the UK’s role as convener – capitalising on our location, language, and reputation as an open and welcoming place.
‘Trust’ reflects some of the UK’s traditional strengths that remain important to business leaders: the strong rule of law, shareholder protections, intellectual property protection, stable political system and high ethical standards in business dealings. It also seeks to reflect a response to new areas of concern for business leaders including cyber security, policy uncertainty, over-regulation and misinformation - which therefore provides an opportunity for the UK to differentiate itself.
Partner, Strategic International Markets, PwC United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)7932 007128
Senior Trade Adviser, PwC United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)7432 340942