I was delighted to be reappointed Minister for Investment at the Department for International Trade (DIT) last week by our new Prime Minister.
As a Yorkshire MP, I feel passionately about the role government can play in helping this country’s businesses thrive in a fast-moving global economy. My department was set up three years ago with a clear remit; to develop an independent trade policy for the first time in 40 years, to promote British trade and investment on the global stage and to champion free trade around the world.
Since then, DIT has been busy championing the economic interests of our country’s great regions abroad – Yorkshire pre-eminent among them – and I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved so far.
Exports are up. Between April 2016 and March 2019, DIT and its predecessor helped UK businesses export goods and services worth around £99bn. This month will be our 39th consecutive month of export growth. Yorkshire is feeling the benefit – goods exports from Yorkshire and the Humber region to the rest of the world grew by 7.6 per cent in the last financial year to a record high of £18.3bn. The number of exporters in Yorkshire is also at its highest level, rising 22 per cent to 14,500, according to the latest data.
Since DIT was established, more than 230,000 jobs have been created and safeguarded across the UK as a result of the foreign direct investment projects this department has supported – driving prosperity into all four corners of the country.
This means that we are not only delivering for the UK public, but also delivering for UK plc – attracting investment to our shores and making sure UK firms continue to thrive and succeed overseas. We’re putting businesses at the heart of our services: from government-to-government intervention at the top level to day-to-day support for small and medium-sized businesses looking to break into new markets.
For instance, in May, DIT supported 16 firms to travel to South Africa in order to attend the Africa Health 2019 trade fair as part of a trade mission organised by DIT and Medilink UK.
This included many businesses from the north of England, including Bradford-based Sunflower Medical and Leeds-based Medasil. The mission provided an unrivalled opportunity for the attending businesses to meet potential new buyers and learn more about overcoming barriers and breaking into new markets in Africa.
In June, DIT worked with Mumbai-headquartered global technology firm Mastek to support the announcement of a £12m investment by the company into a new digital skills graduate programme for 120 graduates in Leeds, creating 200 new jobs.
This investment will be invaluable to the local community, and will ensure the UK’s tech industry continues to thrive.
Under the new Prime Minister, we’re boosting our efforts in advance of the UK’s departure from the EU on October 31. We’re ramping up preparations to get businesses across the country Brexit ready, and are increasing preparations to sign Free Trade Agreements which will enable new trade flows between this country and the wider world.
Yesterday the Secretary of State launched a new Freeports Advisory Panel to advise the government on the establishment of up to ten Freeports after we leave the EU, ensuring Britain’s coastal towns, cities and historic ports are ready to take full advantage of post-Brexit opportunities. These include increased trade with the USA and fast-growing Asian markets as we sign our first free trade deals with global partners.
This new approach will help transform our great port cities and trading hubs to see even more manufacturing moved back to Britain and new businesses arrive on our shores.
Activity like this is just a small snapshot of what DIT is doing to support the UK economy and help British businesses up and down the country. We’ve proven our value and will continue to do so in the future. Now is the time to commit to giving British business the backing it needs and grasp the golden opportunity in front of us.
The world is full of opportunities for Yorkshire and UK businesses as we leave the EU and, in DIT, we have a dedicated trade department to help them realise it.