High Commissioner tells MPs Canada wants UK to defend free trade

July 17, 2017

Caption: Her Excellency Janice Charette speaking at ABP’s Summer Lunch

Speaking in Parliament today, the Canadian High Commissioner called on the UK to stand with Canada in promoting free trade on the international stage.?

Her Excellency Janice Charette said: “It is important that countries like the UK stand with us on the international stage to speak for open markets and free trade to push back against the forces of protectionism.”

Commenting on the recently confirmed September 21 date for the provisional application of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), Mrs. Charette said the UK is “a hugely important market for Canada and prompt ratification of this agreement will send an important signal about the UK’s commitment to free trade.”

The Canadian High Commissioner was speaking at an event hosted by Southampton MP, Royston Smith and Associated British Ports. ABP, the UK's largest ports operator, owns 21 ports around Britain, including Southampton which is the UK's number one export port. Every year some £40 billion of goods are exported through the port with £36 billion destined for countries outside the EU. Southampton's status is in large part thanks to the success of leading UK manufacturers such as JLR and JCB which rely on the port for their access to international markets.

Also speaking at the event, ABP Chief Executive, James Cooper, said: "It was a privilege to listen to the Canadian High Commissioner and her remarks underlining the continued importance of trade between our two countries.

Mr. Cooper highlighted ABP's ongoing work with the Government to make sure trade can continue to grow and flow as smoothly as possible.

ABP has invested £100 million since the referendum in new facilities and infrastructure, helping its customers' businesses to grow. That investment includes new facilities to support automotive exports through the Port of Southampton and to double container capacity on the Humber where ABP handles £75 billion of trade, more than the Tyne, Tees and Mersey combines.

Mr. Cooper confirmed that ABP's £1 billion investment remained "on track."

"Brexit will bring challenges but it will also bring opportunities", he said.

"There is concern about the possible impact of leaving the Customs Union. Our job is to work with our customers and the Government to deliver the right solutions, making sure trade can continue to grow.

"It is well known that ports with limited space will struggle to accommodate additional customs checks for EU trade, if they are implemented. A number ABP ports, especially those on the Humber, do not suffer from this problem and are capable of continuing to offer customers sustainable and reliable trade links with mainland Europe."

Mr. Cooper's comments echoed Flemish Minister, Bem Weyts, who recently declared that Flemish ports such as Zeebrugge, Antwerp and Ghent stand ready to keep UK-EU trade flowing. Mr Weyts was writing in ABP's magazine 'Report', highlighting Flemish optimism about the future of trade post-Brexit.

On the opportunities created by Brexit, Mr. Cooper praised innovative policy ideas to unlock the full potential of ports as drivers of economic growth, citing Free Trade Zones as a leading example. Calling on ports and increasing exports to be front and centre of the Government's Industrial Strategy, Mr. Cooper said ports can be ideal locations for new manufacturing, as demonstrated by the new Siemens' offshore wind manufacturing facility at Green Port Hull which opened earlier this year.

"We are here to serve our customers, the economy and the nation", Mr. Cooper concluded.