Digital trade presents huge opportunities for the UK. Just as Great Britain led the world in the first industrial revolution in the 1700s, we now have the chance to play a leading role in the digital revolution.
Digital technologies have already revolutionised the way companies do business – enabling them to reach a wider consumer base, trade more efficiently and cost-effectively, and to connect and grow their workforce across different regions of the world, sharing the benefits of prosperity. They have also been at the heart of how many of us have accessed services, purchased goods, kept in touch with loved ones or entertained ourselves over the last year, as the pandemic has illustrated just how important access to digital trade has become.
Digital trade is rapidly becoming the dominant form of trade. It has allowed British businesses selling goods or providing services to take what were previously local markets to a global scale. British companies providing innovative, high-quality digital services are continuing to expand around the world, from music streaming, video games and our award-winning creative industries to our strong legal and professional services sector. This is fundamental to our prosperity – in 2019, the digital sector alone contributed approximately £151 billion to the British economy, employing almost 5% of the national workforce.
Yet we cannot be complacent and simply wait for these opportunities to come to us. The road to our digital future is littered with potential barriers, whether in the form of poor digital infrastructure, the rising tide of digital protectionism, or the persistence of paper-based systems from the past. The international order has so far struggled to keep up with the pace of change, with the global rulebook on digital trade still largely unwritten. Digital trade needs champions who will make the case for a free, open and competitive international digital economy underpinned by common rules on digital trade that promote growth and the free flow of data, while also protecting businesses and individuals.
My vision is for the UK to be one of those champions and a global leader in digital trade, building a global network of next-generation trade deals that drive productivity, jobs, and growth in all areas of the country, and across all sectors of the economy. We are already the second-largest services exporter in the world, meaning that we are ideally positioned to take advantage of this new way of doing business. We have highly competitive, world-leading digital and services sectors, the third highest rate of technology investment globally, exceptional talent, and a wide range of innovative businesses and start-ups using digital technologies to develop new products and sell them to worldwide markets. Digitalisation of global trade can also help turbocharge our goods exports, worth £372 billion in 2019. Our leadership can help ensure that digital trade enhances prosperity, uplifts communities, and empowers women not only in the UK but globally, including in developing countries.
Embracing the opportunities that digital trade offers will keep us at the forefront of the technological revolution, ensuring we lead the way in digital trade and capitalising on the benefits this can provide for Britain, for our trading partners, and for the world.
The Rt Hon Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP
President of the Board of Trade and Secretary of State for International Tradedigital-trade-a-board-of-trade-report
To read the full report from The U.K. Board of Trade, please click here.