The UK’s data on Covid is increasingly positive with vaccines reducing not only the seriousness of the impact of the virus but also it’s transmission.
With businesses reopening the UK is set for a huge economic bounce with some economists predicting 7 per cent growth later this year. This will be part of a global pattern as international trade regains its vigour. As fast as we can support humanitarian efforts around the world by adding vaccine delivery to medical support we will be doing so. This will help developing countries directly and ensure that they fully benefit from the global economic recovery.
Trade is the biggest dynamic for spreading global prosperity and trade is shifting. Even before Covid the Asia-Pacific region was taking a greater share of world trade – and it is predicted to exceed 40 per cent by 2030.
Following our new EU trading deal the UK has been able to pursue closer relationships with friends in the Indo-Pacific region – with an Australian Free Trade agreement in the offing and expectations rising about the UK joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the world’s fastest-growing trade bloc.
Our many friends in the Region (where we have been a member of the Five Power Defence Arrangement with Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand for 50 years) want to see the UK more deeply involved and see us, a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, as a positive force in supporting the international order.
This includes ensuring with our allies “freedom of navigation” in some of the world’s busiest but most dangerous sea lanes.
Reinforcing our commitment to the region and reassuring our allies, one of our new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is embarking to lead our first Carrier Strike Group to sail to the region in 20 years.
She is a hugely impressive ship, with a fleet around her. She has an ambitious programme ahead.
Longer than parliament and taller than Nelson’s column, HMS Queen Elizabeth can fly 72 fast jet sorties per day.
This is British engineering at its very best. Built by six UK dockyards more than ten thousand took part in the construction. Some 8,000 apprentices and hundreds of small companies were integral to the build.
The deployment will see units of the Strike Group travelling 26,000 nautical miles, visiting over 40 countries and undertaking over 70 engagements.
The UK presence is being widely welcomed and seen as a sign of our seriousness of purpose, to support our values globally and to support international trade: the most effective means of boosting prosperity at home and abroad. The benefits of these ongoing engagements will be felt for years to come.