How the UK can pioneer digital free trade

Outside of the EU, it is vitally important that the UK develops a trade policy that is structured around the specific strengths of the British economy. One such strength is the trade in digital goods and services.

The government should therefore focus on and champion an area that is often overlooked in trade negotiations: – digital trade. Last Tuesday, the UK made a welcome statement confirming its intention to collaborate at the multilateral level in this sector; but given the limits of this forum – particularly at the moment – it will also need to look beyond the WTO and champion more radical plurilateral (multi nation) agendas, too.

Today, trade experts from across the remain/leave divide have come together with a Joint Statement urging the UK government to launch one such initiative. The Digital Economic Partnership Agreement (DEPA), is a new plurilateral digital trade agreement that has recently been signed between New Zealand, Chile and Singapore. It is the first trade agreement of its kind: created by like-minded countries dedicated specifically to building radically close relations in digital trade. The Joint Statement also urges the government to adopt the broader strategic approach to trade policy that conceived DEPA in the first place: “Concerted Open Pluralism”.

This approach should be pursued because it could have significant benefits for the UK economy. Services account for over 80% of the British economy, the highest of all G7 countries, and these services are becoming increasingly digitised. We are a services superpower and we are increasingly becoming a digital superpower as well.

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