24th May

Britain can expect to benefit hugely if a comprehensive free trade agreement can be negotiated between the European Union and the USA.

Yesterday the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to start negotiations on the largest bilateral trade deal in history. This deal would not only boost exports in key sectors such as motor-manufacturing, but it would also make Britain a potential magnet for inward investment from America, a win-win for UK plc.

I am a long-standing supporter of free trade and for the UK alone national income could see an increase of between £4-10 billion annually - an increase of up to 0.35 per cent in gross domestic product.

The sector to benefit most from an ambitious deal covering non-tariff barriers would be the car industry, which would see an increase in exports of between 1.7% and 7.3%. This would be a huge boost to firms which employ thousands of people in the UK.

Another aspect of an agreement would see the EU and US striving to shape global rules and standards on trade in a future world with players such as China, India, Brazil, Mexico and so on. The two sides are already each other's main trading partners and enjoy the largest bilateral trade relationship in the world. In 2011, EU imports from the US amounted to 11 % and the exports to 17 % of its extra-EU trade.

However for all its value, the relationship still suffers from numerous obstacles to trade. The EU Commission estimates that a comprehensive deal with the US would benefit the EU to the tune of €120bn. This could mean an extra £400 a year in disposable income to the average British family.

The opportunity is immense, which is why we have the most open approach possible to negotiations at this stage. No red lines, no restrictions, nothing off limits.

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