UK and overseas territories trade summit kicks off

The first International Trade Summit was launched at the Kimpton Seafire on Thursday, with the aim of building stronger trade ties between the UK and its overseas territories.

In his welcome address, Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin said the event, organised between the UK and the Overseas Territories, marked a significant milestone in the continued development of the relationship.

Leading a Cayman Islands delegation to the GREAT Festival of Innovation in Hong Kong last year, at the invitation of the UK government, had been a “real eye-opener”, the premier said.

“I saw firsthand the potential for a dynamic and creative partnership between the UK and ourselves in the territories,” he said.

The UK had shown its willingness to open doors and to offer support and expertise, but it was down to the overseas territories to exploit the opportunities that membership of the UK family brings, he added.

“This summit is designed to be a catalyst for that thinking, as we develop our mutual understanding of both the current picture and of the key areas for potential development.”

Lord Tariq Ahmad, the UK minister of state responsible for the overseas territories, noted the aim of the summit was to build a stronger relationship and stronger trade links between the Overseas Territories and the UK, and to support the territories in attracting inward investment and with outward trade.

Ahmad gave several examples of the type of support the UK government already provides to the overseas territories. The UK recently supported the establishment of the Cayman Islands’ new trade office in Hong Kong, which will be formally launched next year; it helped develop new trade links involving Montserrat’s Soufiere spring water company, and supported sending a trade representative from the Falkland Islands to South America. The UK government also helped facilitate trade trips to China for the British Virgin Islands and Cayman.

The two-day trade event kicked off with presentations by the UK Department for International Trade outlining how the overseas territories may be able to benefit from the department’s trade promotion efforts and expertise in analysing and reducing international trade barriers.

Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon speaks at Thursday’s trade summit. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox said, in a recorded video message, that Brexit was one of the factors driving the UK to re-evaluate its trade ties with the territories.

“As we begin to shape our new relationship with the European Union, it’s naturally right that we look to strengthen our other global relationships, and there is no better place to start than close to home with those overseas territories that form part of the global British family,” he said.

Fox said the UK and its territories together constituted a large portion of the global market for financial services. They are also connected by common law legal systems.

“The practice of British law throughout the overseas territories contributes to its position as the accepted corporate standard for the execution of contracts throughout the globe,” he said, adding that these factors helped the UK promote free and fair trade around the world.

The trade summit, which is intended to become an annual event, should result in closer working relationships and the sharing of best practices related to international trade and branding, the trade secretary said.