The global trading system works when we all play by the rules
In 2018, the global economy is more interconnected and interdependent than ever before. The nature of international trade means that decisions made by governments and businesses in one country can have a deep and lasting impact on workers and high streets half a world away.
Any government that is serious about the economic prosperity and security of its people and businesses must have an international outlook, and must be prepared to reach out around the world and secure agreements abroad that ensure jobs and prosperity at home.
For a global trading nation like the UK it is doubly important, which is why I am travelling to China at a crucial moment in the history of both our countries.
As China opens up to the world, its fast-growing economy is already helping British businesses. It is creating new markets for a vast range of products, from milk to motorcycles to the latest innovative technology.
It is turning the spotlight on new partners that British innovators can work with to develop ideas and bring them to market. And it is delivering a new source of capital that — with the appropriate safeguards in place — can help us to invest in the future of our country.
Together, that means a stronger British economy and more and better jobs for British workers. In his address to last year’s Communist party congress, President Xi Jinping pledged to open up his country still further. On the back of 40 years of double-digit growth, China is now moving to a new focus on sustainable long-term economic development.
The sheer economic weight of China means that the way in which this happens will have a huge role in shaping the future of the world in which we live. I want that future to work for Britain, which is why, during my visit, I will be deepening co-operation with China on the key global and economic issues that are critical to our businesses, to our people and to what the UK stands for.
Our relationship with China shows what such co-operation can bring about. As early supporters of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, we have been able to play a central part in ensuring it follows international best practice. This will help the bank deliver major regional infrastructure projects that provide real economic benefit for people across Asia — and, in turn, for British business.
These significant commercial opportunities will only grow. The UK and China will not always see eye-to-eye. But as partners committed to global free trade we can work together to confront and tackle challenges that affect all of our economies.
So we will continue to look at what more can be done to tackle global overcapacity in sectors such as steel, and to ensure that, as our companies innovate and develop new products, they are confident that their intellectual property and rights will be fully protected.
We also need to protect the rules-based approach that underpins and enables robust, sustainable, free-flowing global trade. As we have long argued, all large economies have a special responsibility to show leadership on this front, demonstrating that we respect the rule book and collaboration through the World Trade Organization as we seek to open markets and embrace new opportunities.
Issues such as overcapacity, intellectual property and trade rules have a direct impact on the livelihoods of British workers and their counterparts around the world. And — just as with global challenges from international terrorism to modern slavery — they are best tackled not through unilateral action but global dialogue and co-operation.
I want to step up our relationship with China as it opens up its markets, spreads its prosperity and embraces free trade. And I want to see that this happens in a way that protects our values, ensures global security, and advances the multilateral system for which we have fought so hard. That agenda will not be delivered in one visit; it must be our shared objective over the coming years.
But I am confident that, as China continues to open up, co-operation and engagement will ensure its growing role on the global stage delivers not just for China, but for the UK and the wider world.