2019 is the most significant year for British trade in a generation.
It is the year we leave the European Union, hopefully with a deal that allows us to continue to trade freely with the EU whilst enabling us to establish new trading links with some of the world’s fastest growing markets.
We will take up our independent seat at the WTO and be able to exert more influence over the organisation that governs the global rules-based system, working to reform it so it can succeed in the future.
This is the year we again become an independent trading nation able to do what is best for our businesses and our people, trading with old allies and new friends around the world.
With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that my first international visit of the New Year is to the United States for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the world’s biggest trade show. The event takes place across 11 locations and will showcase the latest technological innovations.
The US is already our largest single country trading partner. We have over $1 trillion invested in one another’s economies and our businesses employ one million of each other’s people.
But there is room for improvement and our governments are working together to build an ambitious trade relationship.
A free trade agreement between the US and the UK has the potential to set the global standard for how two leading, open and mature economies can trade with one another including in the key area of services.
Together, we can look to revolutionise the rules on the digital economy, unleash the economic power of data and lead the world on emerging technologies like AI and the internet of things – tackling together the new challenges and sharing the rewards they present.
This is where government can add value to dynamic and innovative companies on both sides of the Atlantic – by making it easier for them to do business, removing restraints and encouraging collaboration. And it is these businesses that have drawn me to CES in Las Vegas.
Every year, close to 200,000 people flock to Las Vegas to demonstrate cutting edge tech and this year I have been accompanied by a delegation of firms from across the UK, many of which have been funded by my department, where they will sign deals worth millions of pounds and represent our truly world-class tech sector on the biggest stage there is. The show really demonstrates innovative Britain at its best.
From young companies like Kokoon who are using intelligent audio to help people get a good night’s sleep and Planet Computers from Bromley who have reinvented the palm-sized keyboard, to automotive revolutionaries like Coventry-based Envisage, the full spectrum of British innovation will be on display. These are the innovators that will drive Britain forward into the future.
It’s time to stop the self-defeating pessimism and sell Britain abroad with optimism and confidence.
Investment in UK AI businesses now exceeds £3.8bn and is growing. Our exports of digital services are worth more than £39bn. UK companies attracted more venture capital investment in tech than France, Germany and Sweden combined and London is the world’s leading fintech hub, it’s top destination for tech talent and home to half of Europe’s fintech unicorns.
These are signs of a country on the rise.
Leaving the EU is not about the UK turning its back on the world. Quite the opposite – it is about capitalising on new opportunities to lead it.
By developing and deepening trading relationships with our most important partners and embracing the technologies and industries of tomorrow we will do just that.
CES calls itself the Global Stage for Innovation and, with our companies in attendance, the UK will be right at its heart.