Brits who may be despairing at the lack of progress on Brexit, as Britain’s political class trade blows and the process becomes bogged down in politicking, have been told “there is a small corner of a government department that they can turn to for cheer”.
This is the office of New Zealand’s Crawford Falconer, Chief Trade Negotiation Adviser at the Department of International Trade, described by the Daily Mail as
“… a man of immense experience in such matters. And, in contrast to the doomsayers, his message about Brexit is one of almost unbounded optimism.”
The article goes on to say:
He is convinced that after a period of psychological and economic adjustment to being outside the EU, Britain’s fortunes will thrive. He cannot understand why people are ‘so negative about our future’, and says the world is ‘begging’ to do trade deals with us.
Some will scoff, of course, saying his upbeat comments are simply the pipedream of a pro-Brexit ideologue.
But that could not be further from the truth. For Falconer is a man with 25 years of experience in international trade negotiations.
The Daily Mail wrongly says he he was New Zealand’s ambassador in Britain (although born in Scotland, he was brought up a Kiwi). But he certainly was our permanent representative to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), among several important jobs he held at our Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade.
His knowledge of the working of the Geneva-based organisation is crucial, considering its role trying to tear down trade barriers, lower tariffs and resolve commercial disputes between nations. Indeed, the fact is that if Britain leaves the EU without a deal, all our world trade relationships will be in the hands of the WTO.
Yet his verdict on a post-Brexit Britain could not be more upbeat.
‘The opportunities are enormous,’ he told the Sunday Times. ‘There are so many, where do I start? In ten years, maybe even quicker, people will look back and say: “Oh, why were we so negative about our future?” ’
Indeed, his enthusiasm is so infectious it makes you think that if he was in charge of Brexit, the whole thing would be wrapped up by now.
And far from being pie-in-the-sky, his reasoning is based on solid evidence.
The Washington-based International Monetary Fund forecasts that over the next ten to 15 years almost all significant global growth will originate outside Europe.
By 2020, China’s middle class — who are powerful engines of economic growth — will have expanded to 600 million people. India’s already numbers up to 300 million. It is estimated there will be 1.1 billion African middle classes by 2060.
Falconer says those populations will be desperate for British services and goods.
‘The world is the UK’s oyster,’ he says. ‘We produce the best professional services in the world. Our banks are the best in the world. Our insurance companies the most reliable. Our architects, our designers, our lawyers, our accountants: they are world-class.
‘We have intellectual property rights to die for. It is these services that the fastest-growing economies in Asia and Africa crave. The world is begging for the UK to be able to trade with it. We’ll be pushing on an open door.’
He sees huge export opportunities in goods from cars to aircraft wings and foodstuffs.
‘The world is crying out for protein and safe food generally. In East Asia, that’s what they want. They don’t trust their domestic production, with good reason. The UK makes world-class produce. We can now negotiate with countries in a way that’s specifically tailored to getting our salmon and our venison on tables.’
It’s a shame he isn’t back here, infecting us with his optimism and contributing has enormous expertise to promoting our export push.
And we can only imagine the British press were encouraged to chat with him after reading this post about him in Point of Order.