Countries shouldn't pull in different directions on trade: Theresa May

Prime Minister Theresa May at the World Economic Forum yesterday. She said Britain would continue to advocate for free trade after Brexit. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

DAVOS (Switzerland) • British Prime Minister Theresa May told business leaders in Davos, Switzerland, yesterday that countries must not start pulling in different directions on trade.

She said the World Trade Organisation must go further in its reforms.

"Too often, our rhetoric in support of free trade here in Davos is not matched by our actions," she said. "The World Trade Organisation still needs to go much further in its reforms, ensuring its rule book keeps pace with developments in the global economy."

She also vowed that Britain will continue to advocate for free trade after Brexit, and urged businesses and governments to work together by using technology as a force for good.

She cited an example of a drone that saved two boys last week from drowning in Australia, after it dropped a float to them. Research has also shown that technology can reduce breast cancer cases by a third, she said.

In her speech, Mrs May also warned tech companies over extremist content and child pornography, saying investors should put pressure on social media companies to be more responsive to such content, which should be "removed automatically".

"Investors can make a big difference here by ensuring trust and safety issues are being properly considered - and I urge them to do so," she said.

Mrs May later met United States President Donald Trump, who had just arrived in Davos. Mr Trump said discussions were under way between the US and Britain that would lead to a "tremendous increase" in trade between the two countries.

He also dismissed as a "false rumour" reports that the two leaders have clashed.

"There was a little bit of a false rumour out there, I just wanted to correct it," said Mr Trump. "We love your country. We have the same ideals, and there is nothing that would happen to you that we wouldn't be there to fight for you."

Relations with Britain, one of America's oldest and closest allies, have been tested over the past year with arguments over anti-terror measures, intelligence leaks and Mr Trump's social media clashes with the mayor of London.

Mrs May said that "we continue to have that really special relationship between the UK and the United States, standing shoulder to shoulder because we are facing the same challenges across the world and, as you say, we are working together to defeat those challenges."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2018, with the headline Countries shouldn't pull in different directions on trade: Theresa May. Subscribe