The UK government should take stronger measures to boost exports and attract foreign direct investment (FDI) as the country continues to trail its trade rivals, according to a report from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

The Global Britain Challenge report suggests the UK should provide a “stable framework for business investment and growth”, put more emphasis on services exports in trade deals and set up an FDI council.

The report highlights the need to create a “positive business environment”, including “tax incentives, appropriate regulation, availability of a skilled workforce with a rapid work visa turnaround time and a planning system that considers the investment implications of decisions”.

The BCC also recommends creating a “Team UK” to champion the country and advises the country to step “out of Brexit’s long shadow”.

“Despite new free trade agreements and a raft of other deals, the intensity of our exports and imports is lagging behind our main rivals,” says Martha Lane Fox, president of the BCC and chair of the business council.

The UK remains “the only G7 country yet to regain its pre-pandemic level of trade intensity”, the report notes.

Lane Fox says the influence of Brexit is preventing politicians from addressing problems “because of how they may be viewed either side of the Brexit divide”.

“[Politicians] must set out a strategy on how we manage EU regulation and, where it makes sense, to diverge so that British business can benefit,” she says.

“We must also do more to improve the flows of investment into the UK, by going after the big fish – the nations with the biggest and deepest pockets,” Lane Fox adds.

Peter Mandelson, chairman of strategic advisory firm Global Counsel and former European trade commissioner, says the next government should explore other means of “commercial diplomacy” as opposed to relying on free trade agreements alone, which he describes as providing “insufficient gains for the effort expended”.

The BCC also calls for the UK government to finish the ratification process and formally join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The UK’s prospective membership of the CPTPP has drawn recent criticism from the Business and Trade Committee, an independent group of MPs set up as a watchdog for the Department of Business and Trade.

Last week, Liam Byrne, committee chair, said ministers were “dodging full and proper scrutiny” of potential consequences of joining the CPTPP after failing to allow a debate over the terms of the agreement.

For example, the committee questioned the partnership’s impact on the UK’s agri-food standards, such as pesticide use and deforestation linked to palm oil, and found that “the terms of UK accession raise contentious issues”.

Potential economic benefits are difficult to determine, the committee says, and the government is unclear on whether it would support China joining the CPTPP.

The bloc currently includes 11 nations – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

“This is a change of era as we shift from a world of free trade to new world of trusted trade where new questions of economic security are at the top of the agenda, alongside old questions of economic growth,” Byrne says. “That is why MPs must be allowed to debate all those issues in the round and come to a balanced overall judgment.”

The committee has also flagged the impact of joining the CPTPP on the UK’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions, which enable foreign investors to bring legal challenges against state governments.

According to the committee’s February 19 report, Leo Verity, senior political adviser for Trade Justice Movement, a coalition of civil society organisations, is “particularly concerned about the prospect of the UK entering into ISDS arrangements with Canada under CPTPP”, due to a history of Canadian investors bringing cases under climate and environmental regulations.

The UK has already signed agreements with Australia and New Zealand enabling both sides to opt out of the ISDS regime.