So you can imagine my delight on being appointed a Minister in the Department for International Trade with a specific responsibility to maximise Scotland’s businesses potential on the world stage and help them realise the global opportunities there are for them to sell their goods and services.
I take my position as an advocate for Scotland incredibly seriously, which is why I was determined to arrange a ministerial visit here so early on. I know my feelings are shared by the Secretary of State, Kemi Badenoch, which is why she made it a priority to come north of the Border after she was appointed.
Last month she met with key players in our vital scotch whisky sector – something close to my heart with several distilleries in my constituency – and celebrated the £100 million boost that’s been provided to the UK’s alcohol industry by the removal of trade barriers with multiple countries across South America and Africa.
But vitally important that it is, Scotland is about more than just Scotch. It is a world leader in so many areas and so many of these areas have so much to benefit from increased trade.
That was exemplified by businesses I met on my own trip to Edinburgh last week. I spoke to businesses from our incredible Fintech sector at the industry’s UK Symposium at Gogarburn, met a high-performance laser producer at Herriot Watt University, and then the founders of a company that helps others to defend themselves from cyber-attacks, exemplifying the sheer variety of innovation we have here in Scotland.
I also had the opportunity to meet some of Scotland’s newly announced export champions – each one of them leaders of fantastic and innovative businesses who will now be working with the Government to encourage others to consider exporting for the first time. Their support will be vital if we’re to reach the ambitious aim set out in our export strategy of increasing the value of UK exports to over £1 trillion a year.
One way in which we’ve been achieving this is through our ambitious programme of free trade agreement negotiations – building relationships with trading partners to break down barriers to trade and support growth. The UK has agreed trade deals with 71 countries plus the EU since 2016, partners that accounted for £814 billion of UK bilateral trade in 2021.
This year alone we’ve launched negotiations with India on a trade deal that could provide a huge boost to Scotland, in addition to starting talks with Mexico, Canada and the Gulf Cooperation Council, and accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a trade bloc with a combined GDP of £9 trillion, which we hope to join by the end of the year.
Our Export Support Service and UK Export Academy also offer advice and practical help to businesses needing help selling abroad, and through the UK’s overseas network in over 100 markets internationally, DIT offers access to global export markets and opportunities only achievable as a result of the UK Government’s truly global footprint. And as part of this United Kingdom, I want to see Scotland’s exporting potential flourish.
That’s why I want to see both of Scotland’s governments working together on this. Collaboration will be key to reaching our potential. That is why I’m determined to work with the Scottish Government, Scottish Development International, trade bodies and chambers of commerce across Scotland to ensure that Scottish businesses and the wider economy benefit from this support.
Together I’m confident we can see Scotland sell more of what’s made in Scotland to the world.