Trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt has warned unions that the
Government cannot use legislation to prevent UK jobs going overseas.
Speaking on the world trade panel of the CBI annual conference, she said
that in a global economy, every nation had the right to share in its wealth and
Hewitt said that conceding to the ‘siren voices’ calling for restrictive
trade tariffs or legislation to protect jobs from overseas competition would be
damaging to the world economy.
"We must resist protectionism. It is easy to see the short-term
benefits because of UK jobs and competitiveness, but we must take a long-term
view," she said.
She cited the textile industry in the Midlands as an example of where
overseas competition had forced the local economy to focus on the high-tech end
of the market, where the UK is now at the forefront.
"There is no doubt jobs have been lost because of overseas competition
but there’s no future for the UK in making low-cost, low-value products. We
need to concentrate on the areas where we are skilled and have a technological
advantage," she added.