We live in a world where we are more connected than ever before. The UK and India enjoy a unique relationship through our ties of business, friendship, and our common interests. As Prime Minister David Cameron never fails to stress, the UK wants to see its partnership with India become stronger, wider, deeper.
Such international connections offer huge potential for growth in trade and investment, as long as markets are open and countries are able to trade freely with one another.
The UK and India agree that sustained strong and inclusive growth goes hand-in-hand with reducing trade barriers. We agree that, to realize this potential, we must commit to open markets globally and not slip back into protectionism.
The UK government has set its ambition in our trade and investment white paper, which we published on 9 February: a strategy to nurture international trade and investment relationships, strengthen the multilateral system, build up our domestic business environment, and enable developing countries to build their own paths to growth. The paper underlines that trade and investment are critical for the UK to achieve strong, sustainable and balanced growth in the future.
It makes the case for: open markets and the dangers of protectionism; removing trade and investment barriers and improved market access for UK business within the EU and beyond; helping to conclude the Doha Development Round of trade talks in 2011; working to strengthen the WTO; supporting early conclusion of priority EU FTAs (free trade agreements), such as that with India; supporting trade and regional integration in Africa; and working with G20 members towards these goals. Our most immediate task is to finalize the Doha trade negotiations. This historic agreement, once signed, will boost the world economy by £110 billion. We must all move quickly to make 2011 the year that the Doha trade talks are finalized. Momentum is building. We will be working on plans and road maps to meet this goal.
A result here will benefit us all. Trade is not a game where some countries win and other countries lose: quite the reverse. We all become richer when trade increases. This helps people to pull themselves out of poverty.
That is why the UK is also redoubling its efforts to enable developing countries to follow their own paths to growth through trade and investment, and to build the capacity for this, especially in Africa. We will do all we can to support African leaders to implement their plans outlined in the 1991 Abuja treaty—to develop free trade areas in each regional economic community (REC) as building blocks for a continent-wide customs union and ultimately an African Economic Community.
We are launching an African free trade initiative to help break through trade barriers such as bureaucracy and prohibitive tariffs. We will support Africans in making trade in Africa faster and easier, and encourage African entrepreneurs to grow their businesses by opening up access to new markets. We cannot do this alone and we call on international partners to join us in this effort. We recognize the important and growing role that India plays in achieving this objective and hope we can work together on this.
We also want to provide greater market access for the poorest. India has set an example by providing considerable Duty Free Quota Free Access. The UK urges all G20 countries to provide 100% Duty Free Quota Free Access to their markets for least developed countries. This could increase their exports by over 40%. India is in a strong position to offer leadership to others.
And all of us need to ensure all developing countries can negotiate trade agreements, and that global trade rules reflect the needs in all countries, and not just a select few.
Finally, we want to build the networks that help us grow in partnership, and to get behind businesses to support them in trading with the world. British government ministers have embarked on a programme of overseas visits with business delegations for exactly this reason.
We have visited all partners in the major emerging markets, as well as the US and our partners in Europe. The business leaders that accompanied us say that this opens a huge number of doors to them for trade and collaboration with businesses in other countries.
Investment is the other side of the coin. The UK is an international hub for investors and currently the world’s second-biggest investor, with firms such Vodafone, Standard Chartered Bank and Marks and Spencer represented here.
We welcome overseas investment. The UK has more European headquarters than any other country, and is one of the easiest places in the world to do business. We plan to remain so by cutting regulation and corporation tax.
So a big challenge is before us. It is to keep building an open global economy and trading system that benefits us all. This will drive growth, jobs, and create wealth around the world. We are confident this is a challenge which the UK, side by side with India and its other international partners, is able to meet.
Vince Cable is UK secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, and Andrew Mitchell is UK secretary of state for international development.