Page 1: Introduction
Businesses and consumers in the UK are buying and selling goods and services in ever more diverse and distant markets as globalisation increases. Trade is vital for a country’s prosperity, economic growth and the creation of jobs. This applies equally to poorer developing countries as to wealthy industrialised countries such as the UK.
In the UK and the rest of the European Union (EU) exports now account for more than a quarter of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Many developing countries are also working to increase and diversify their trade with the rest of the world.
Firms’ competitiveness depends on their ability to source materials, components and services on a global basis. Consumers’ living standards depend on their ability to buy goods and services from the widest possible range of suppliers. If conditions are created so that businesses can compete fairly worldwide, the global economy will flourish. This means they should not face prohibitive tariffs, discriminatory regulations or unnecessarily complicated procedures. It is also important to ensure that expanding trade does not create harmful effects, whether social or environmental.
The FCO, working with other British Government departments, has an important part to play in ensuring that the benefits of globalisation are shared by all. The FCO has a wide network of Embassies, High Commissions and other representative offices. Its staff plays a significant role in ensuring that trade policies adopted by the international community protect the interests of British businesses and the nation’s economy.
Through its Embassies and other missions abroad, the FCO is involved in negotiations – often long and complex – on important agreements which have wide-reaching effects. These effects are felt by British consumers and businesses, as well as people around the world, especially in developing countries. The FCO often works with or on behalf of other Whitehall departments.
This case study focuses on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office's (FCO) involvement in world trade policy.