U.K.’s Top Diplomat Sees Trade as Extension of Foreign Policy
Liz Truss is one of the star attractions at the annual Conservative conference. She’s the most popular Tory among party members and has just been promoted to be the country’s top diplomat. She also appears to be still very attached to the old job: Trade.
“I think the fact that we have got a separate trade department, under the leadership of Anne-Marie Trevelyan as additional to the work we do at the Foreign Office,” Truss said at a fringe event in Manchester on Tuesday. That invited the question from the moderator of whether trade should fall under her. The answer was no: “It is a 24-hours-a-day job.”
Her overarching interest in the topic though is evident and in some ways, the idea of a merger is not beyond the realm of possibility. It was only last year that development was folded into the foreign office. The trade job was created on the heels of the Brexit referendum and is a highly-political post reserved only for those with a very strong conviction that Brexit was a way to sell “Global Britain” and seal all kinds of free-trade deals overseas.
For all intents and purposes it’s a natural extension of Truss’s foreign policy remit and she continues to talk at length about an area of policy that no longer falls directly under her. Trade was mentioned a dozen times in her own keynote speech. One of the issues dogging the U.K. is why it hasn’t secured a trade deal with the U.S., which was promised as the biggest prize of Brexit. It’s been kicked into the long grass and Truss was asked about that too.
“There has been a reaction against trade” in the U.S., she went on to say. “And it’s significant in the 2016 U.S. election that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump advocated not pursuing the Trans-Pacific Partnership and so I think it’s an issue with trade and the debate about trade in the United States rather than an issue about the U.K.”
She said she sees the relationship with the U.S. as “special but not exclusive,” comparing the jostling of nations positioning to be close to the U.S. as a “beauty contest.” The U.K. shouldn’t be “worried like some teenage girl at a party if we’re not considered to be good enough,” she added. “I don’t I just don’t see it like that.”
Though she voted to stay in the European Union back in 2016, Truss became an ardent and outspoken believer in Brexit once the die was cast. She served as Chief Secretary of the Treasury before being promoted to a cabinet post and has her eye on the top job (she considered running for leadership before backing out.)
She’s topped the ConservativeHome website’s monthly league table of cabinet ministers since December and is seen, alongside Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, as a potential prime minister after Boris Johnson. She joked that she didn’t know how the poll is compiled and that she hasn’t engaged in any bribery “yet.”
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