What a year for our trade campaign!

31 May 2018

This time 12 months ago, trade ministers were jetting round the globe racing to set up secretive trade talks with almost any country that would talk to them. The desperation was palapable as trade sectretary Liam Fox talked of “shared values” with the Philippines’ murderous dictator Rodrigo Duterte, and Theresa May refused to take the NHS of the table in talks with the US.

We knew we had to act quickly. If we didn’t step up, the government would be able to sign what they liked, with whoever they liked. With no mechanism for democratic scrutiny over trade deals, parliament would have no way to stop them.

So a year ago we launched our campaign for trade democracy. When I look back, we’ve done so much and come so far in the last 12 months it’s hard to believe it’s only been a year. It’s not over yet. But as we continue our fight for a trade system that puts people and planet first, it’s also important to take time to acknowledge our achievements and draw strength from them.

Moving quickly

From the word go, we moved quickly on the campaign, responding to events as they unfolded. By the time of the general election in June, all opposition parties, except the DUP, had committed to the democratic scrutiny of trade deals in their manifestos. By July, we’d researched and published three new in-depth briefings and got an EDM (Early Day Motion – a type of parliamentary petition) laid down, which our supporters across the country called on their MPs to sign.

At the same time, supporters were joining their voices with a quarter of a million other citizens in a joint petition with our allies that called on the trade secretary, Liam Fox, to make the trade process democratic and transparent.

We ramped up the pressure on politicians as we headed to party conferences in October. And held fringe meetings to persuade both Labour and the SNP to start developing radically 

Our  campaigner Guy Taylor handing in our joint petition to trade secretary Liam Fox.


Meanwhile, the government put out its consultation on trade policy. And we helped mobilise over 60,000 people to send in their submissions. Then in November, when Liam Fox published his new Trade Bill, we officially launched the campaign in parliament to ramp up our work informing and lobbying MPs – the ones who will vote on the bill. Insiders tell us we really made a splash.

As we moved into 2018 it was clear Global Justice Now had become an established and trusted voice on trade. We’ve given evidence in both Westminster and Holyrood, been quoted by the governenment’s International Trade Committee and the Scottish parliament, and worked with Green Party co-leader, Caroline Lucas, to draft and table a key trade democracy amendment to Liam Fox’s dangerous trade bill.

And we’ve featured multiple times in the press. Just last week the findings of our new in-depth briefing on trade and e-commerce were picked up by The Guardian and elsewhere.

At the same time we’ve continued to mobilise the public to raise awareness and pile the pressure on Liam Fox. Our joint Trade Bill Takedown event in February was a big success. Having ruffled the trade secretary’s feathers, we then took the campaign to his own backyard. Dressed as chickens, our group in Bristol launched our new opinion poll, showing just how many of Fox’s own constituents are against a US deal which allows chlorinated poultry into the UK or facilitates the slow destruction of the NHS.

Our campaigner Guy Taylor handing our opinion poll to Liam Fox.


All in all it’s not going well for the trade secretary. He’d hoped to have his power-grabbing trade bill through parliament in two months. He’s still waiting.

What’s next?

It’s been a busy year and one in which we had to react quickly to events as they unfolded in the real world. To do all this we depend on our supporters and members – from every email sent, to every extra name signed up to a petition, to every donation made. In coming together we have made each and every success on this campaign over the last year possible.

And, collectively, we can continue to do so. We still have a lot more to do to oppose trade deals which put corporate interests above people and planet. With our supporters and members on board, over the next few months we plan to:

  • Mobilise maximum support for our amendment to the Trade Bill to secure trade democracy
  • Work with the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales to withhold their consent from a trade bill that doesn’t include parliamentary scrutiny
  • Keep ‘trade watching’, alerting MPs and the public to the dangers in Fox’s new trade deals as more and more come to light
  • Expand our work fighting corporate courts (ISDS – the worst part of many trade deals)
  • Continue to work with our exisiting allies, and create new ones, as we push for progressive trade alternatives
  • And more.

If you’re not already a member, one of the ways that will make a real difference to our ability to do all this is by setting up a direct debit today. As an independent organisation, Global Justice Now relies on regular gifts from our thousands of members to be able to carry out our campaigns. And when we have to be able to react quickly to a changing world, and remain unafraid to speak out against politicians who would seek to silence us, those regular gifts become even more important. (If you are already a member, then thank you! We couldn’t do it without you!)



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