Liam Fox has called for an end to the “obsession with Europe” in economic matters, saying the focus should be on “growing markets” around the world.
The international trade secretary said because the proportion of the UK’s exports that go to the EU was falling, “we’ve got to be focussing on the growing bits of the global economy”.
He was speaking to the BBC during a visit to China alongside Theresa May.
Mr Fox also defended Mrs May from the recent criticism she has faced.
The prime minister has come under pressure from Eurosceptics worried about concessions in the Brexit talks, while other MPs have called for more direction on domestic policies.
Speaking to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, Mr Fox praised the prime minister’s “vision” and said he wished people saw her the way she was perceived around the world, rather than by “internal tea room discussions in the UK”.
As International Trade Secretary, Mr Fox is responsible for striking international trade deals that will come into force when the UK leaves the EU.
He said the UK would be able to “roll over” 40 existing trade deals it is part of as an EU member, as well as reaching its own arrangements with the likes of the United States, India and China.
China, Mr Fox said, was a “real success story” for the UK, with exports rising by 25% in the past year.
“All of this adds up to a much improved trading performance,” he said.
And while the UK wants an “open and liberal partnership” with the EU, he added: “We’ve got to get away from our obsession with Europe in terms of its relation to the global economy – according to the IMF – in fact according to the European Commission – 90% of global growth in the next 10 to 15 years will be outside the European continent, clearly that’s where we have to focus our attention.”