Kemi Badenoch is flying to Switzerland for talks aimed at modernising the UK’s trade agreement with the country as the Government continues its attempts to forge post-Brexit economic ties outside the EU.
The Trade Secretary will meet her counterpart, Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, in the capital Bern to discuss what a “services-based” deal might look like.
The UK Government hopes to update its current agreement, which is effectively a rollover deal from when Britain was an EU member, to make it easier to export services – financial, legal and architectural, among others.
Most of Britain’s services exports to Switzerland are delivered electronically but the existing deal was signed in 1972, before the advent of the internet, and does not cover investment, digital or data, the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) said.
Ms Badenoch said: “As two of the world’s leading service economies, there’s a huge prize on offer to both the UK and Switzerland by updating our trading relationship to reflect the strength of our companies working in areas ranging from finance and legal, to accountancy and architecture.
“The UK and Switzerland are natural trading partners and today’s launch will play to our strengths as services superpowers, while also boosting investment in emerging technologies, data innovation, and digital trade.”
A scoping assessment, which will give more detail on specific trade opportunities to be focused on, is due to be given later.
During her visit, Ms Badenoch will go to the SIX Swiss Exchange, Europe’s third biggest stock exchange, and meet female business leaders at Advance, a network of around 140 Swiss companies committed to increasing the number of women in management positions in the country.
The DBT hopes the new deal could lower tariffs on UK exports to Switzerland, which it says could reduce annual duties for British businesses by around £7.4 million.
It comes after Britain’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a major Indo-Pacific trade bloc, earlier in the year.
That represented the UK’s biggest trade deal since leaving the EU, cutting tariffs for British exporters to a group of nations which – with Britain’s accession – has a total gross domestic product (GDP) of £11 trillion.
However, critics have said the impact will be limited, with official estimates suggesting it will add just £1.8 billion a year to the economy after 10 years, representing less than 1% of UK GDP.