What is a trade agreement?
Trade agreements are made between two or more countries and set out the preferential rules for buying or selling goods or services between them.
They reduce restrictions on trade, which can make buying and selling easier and cheaper.
How many trade agreements does the UK have?
The UK has signed more than 70 trade agreements and most of these can be used by businesses right now.
We are also in the process of negotiating new or updated agreements with countries including Canada, Mexico, Israel, India and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) trading bloc.
The UK has also signed a deal to join CPTPP, a large Indo-Pacific and Americas trade group spanning 11 countries. For the first time the UK will have a trade deal with Malaysia, giving UK businesses better access to an economy worth £330 billion in 2022.
Check the list of current UK trade agreements to find out if there is an agreement with the country you are selling to or buying from.
Our market guides also provide information about doing business with countries across the world, including those we have recently signed trade agreements with:
How does the UK secure trade agreements?
The process for negotiating, signing and implementing a new trade agreement happens in three phases:
- pre-negotiations: the Government undertakes assessments to determine whether a trade agreement will be beneficial for UK businesses and will consult businesses to ask them to share their views
- negotiations: the Government launches negotiations with the partner country and will work together with them to come to an agreement on key areas
- post-negotiations and entry into force: once an agreement is reached, it is signed and then inspected by parliamentarians. Once ratified it is entered into force, which means it can be used by businesses trading with that country
How can trade agreements benefit my business?
Trade agreements make it easier and cheaper to do business overseas in a number of ways.
These may include:
- lower or removed tariffs
- better investment opportunities
- improved market access
- enhanced protections for businesses in areas such as data protection and intellectual property
These benefits will differ depending on what was agreed with the partner country during the negotiating process. Visit gov.uk to find out the benefits of a specific agreement.
How can I use a trade agreement?
Some of the provisions in a trade agreement will apply automatically. With others, there may be actions you need to take first before you can benefit.
The action(s) you will need to take depends on the type of goods or services you are buying or selling and the country that you are doing business with. For more information about trading with a specific country, visit the market guides.
If you are buying or selling goods from or to a market covered by a trade agreement, you can also use the check how to export goods tool to find out the steps you need to take to move your goods.
What help is available?
You can get help in a number of ways:
- if you have never exported before, sign up to access the resources on great.gov.uk which includes step-by-step guidance and lessons on how to get started
- consult our market guides to find out about local market opportunities, including all countries where a trade agreement is in place
- if you have an exporting plan, or want advice on setting one up, you can see if you are eligible for support from an International Trade Adviser (ITA) and the International Markets Service (DIT regional-based support overseas). You can also sign up for DIT’s Export Academy which will give you the know-how to sell to customers around the world by learning from experts in international trade
- when you are ready to export, you can use the Check Duties and Customs for Exporting Goods tool to see what paperwork is required
- you can reach out to the Export Support Service at any time during your journey for more support and signposting
Outside of trade agreements, the government is working to make it easier for businesses to sell their goods and services overseas by tackling a wide range of issues that slow down, limit or prevent UK businesses from exporting to or investing in an overseas market.
This can include resolving issues with complex trade rules and removing practical obstacles.
- tell us about market access barriers you encounter, so we can focus our efforts on the barriers that matter to business
- check for barriers to trading and investing in overseas markets to see the barriers that other businesses have found when doing business with a particular country