FREE trade has been the cause of huge political ructions, including fighting outright protectionism, opposing “Imperial Preference” and various trade wars, but there remains a huge amount to do.

As the history of great empires and peoples confirm, trade is a powerful driver of political, cultural and economic progress. Trading is fundamental.

Locally, prospects for increased exports of our expertly manufactured products and well honed services will further enhance the rebalancing process of our economy leading to more jobs, and rising wages and salaries.

Already, the Valleys and Vale have good supply chain links with and final product sales to a wide range of destinations including the European Union, Latin America and Asia.

With oil drilling and infrastructure equipment (ARC, Eastington), diesel engine injectors (Delphi, Stonehouse), bio-fuel processes (Green Fuels, Stonehouse), measuring equipment (Renishaw, Nailsworth and Stonehouse) information technology for the health sector (INET, Painswick), health care equipment (Xograph, Ryeford), animal grooming (Lister Shearing, Stonehouse) and much, much more, exporting abroad happens in the Valleys and Vale and matters to us all.

All of this is excellent, but, to further increase economic growth, even more can be done.

This is why a trade agreement between the two biggest economic areas in the world – the European Union and the United States – will make such a difference. Together, these two areas would account for almost half of global gross domestic product and, already, account for 30% of international trade.

Independent assessments indicated an average family would save £400 per year on normal expenditure, huge reductions in regulatory measures through reducing testing (helping small firms in particular) would enable local firms to find new markets, and putting our accounting and legal professions on equal footing with those in the United States would encourage sharing best practice. All of this would also help to promote competition across Europe.

The next Festival of Manufacturing and Engineering (24-28 November) will focus on requirements to ensure the Valleys and Vale benefit as these trade talks produce results.

Naturally, there are issues to resolve but the Coalition Government’s long-term economic plan will gain further momentum with increased trade.