Vehicles have been confirmed as Britain’s most valuable trade good, with export revenues reaching £27bn in 2020, according to a report from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The UK automotive sector as a whole generated a total trade revenue of £74 billion, underlying its monumental importance to international trade, with more than 80% of British-built cars and more than 60% of light commercial vehicles destined for export.

With this in mind, the SMMT has called on the government to put the automotive sector at the heart of future trade negotiations. In a release, the trade body said that the UK’s trade policy must now take advantage of the opportunities presented in a post-Brexit, EV led world to restore growth and jobs to the sector.

In particular, the SMMT would like to see future trade deals to include dedicated automotive annexes and provisions to reduce tariffs and regulatory barriers. It also recommends establishing Rules of Origin that will reflect the UK’s future supplier base as manufacturing moves away from the combustion engine, as well as ensuring manufacturers have the ability to recruit top talent from around the world to drive growth.

Trade policy, according to the trade body, should also ensure that Rules of Origin reflect appropriate sourcing of batteries for electric cars, so that UK-built zero emission vehicles can be freely exported around the world and play an essential role in reducing emissions.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “As the world re-emerges from the pandemic, the diversity and importance of Britain’s automotive industry is the UK’s competitive advantage for restarting growth, creating jobs and tackling climate change.

“With automotive at the heart of future trade policy, and negotiations focused on removing both the tariff and non-tariff barriers that stifle growth, we can drive forward the growth of Global Britain and sustain our place as an economic, industrial and environmental leader.”

The report follows the latest statistics from the SMMT revealing the weakest September performance in the new car market since 1998, despite battery electric vehicles (BEVs) recording their best ever month.