Department for International Trade comment: New trade deals can unleash Scotland’s potential

Burns wants to reassure Scottish businesses and families that they will have a say. Picture: contributed
Burns wants to reassure Scottish businesses and families that they will have a say. Picture: contributed
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International trade is the cornerstone of the Scottish economy, with Scottish exports worth more than £30 billion in the first quarter of 2019 alone. Scotland now has an opportunity to increase the amount it exports and the amount of investment that it attracts. It is time we unleashed the productive power of the whole of Scotland.

That’s why we’re working on new free trade agreements to increase demand for British goods and encourage investment throughout the UK. It’s why we’re encouraging investment and creating thousands of high-skilled jobs in left behind areas.

Earlier this week I was in Edinburgh, meeting with businesses and Scottish Finance Minister Derek MacKay to ­discuss how, together, we can make the most of this opportunity. As a minister at the Department for International Trade, it is my job to promote Scottish businesses abroad, help strike new, ambitious free trade agreements and ensure UK firms are prepared as we leave the EU on 31 October.

Be assured that the UK government is listening. We have already consulted on future trade deals with the US, Australia, New Zealand and a group of 11 Pacific nations which received a large volume of input from businesses in Scotland. I want Scottish businesses and people to keep shaping the UK’s trade policy agenda.

New free trade agreements will open up new markets and increase demand for Scottish products overseas. In 2018, the UK exported £1.27bn worth of goods to the US through Scottish ports. Businesses across the region will now have the opportunity to increase exports, encourage investment and create jobs for local people.

As the Union, we can build stronger and deeper ties with some of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies. Together we are a global brand and I look forward to promoting our great United Kingdom to nations worldwide.

Scotland is home to some of the UK’s greatest exports, including Scotch whisky, already worth £4 billion in exports a year. I want to make sure businesses of all sizes have the resources to increase their global footprint, as demand for quality British produce is rising around the world.

Scotland’s food and drink sector is a powerhouse of international trade. Earlier this week I paid a visit to Glenkinchie Distillery, which is helping to drive exports of world-famous Scotch. By backing a global rules-based and free trade agenda, we can help make sure Scottish industries continue to go from strength to strength.

Scottish beef is also enjoying new ­popularity and we recently secured a deal, worth an estimated £127 million over the next five years, for Scottish farmers and food producers to export beef and lamb to Japan. As well as securing greater access to markets around the world, we’re also ­working to attract jobs and deliver growth here in the UK. Elsewhere, Scotland remains a major ­centre for financial and professional services and is Europe’s fourth-largest asset management centre. Scotland also continues to attract ­foreign direct investment, benefiting from 141 investment projects, creating 4,000 new jobs last year.

All this means Scotland should and will have significant input into future trade negotiations and I want to reassure Scottish businesses and families that they will have a say. Scottish industries should rest assured that we will never compromise Scotland’s ­global reputation for high food and agricultural standards in any future agreement. This government is committed to boosting the nation’s economic strength and has already committed to a £300m expansion of the Growth Deal, helping communities thrive across Scotland.

On a personal note, I will continue to work closely with the Scottish Government and businesses across the region to ensure free trade deals work for the whole of our UK.

Together, we can make sure Scotland realise its full economic potential and make sure her reach is felt throughout the world.

- Conor Burns, minister of state in the DIT.