Two freeports are to be created in Wales for the first time in a bid to boost the country’s economy, the UK and Welsh governments have announced.
The Celtic Freeport covering Milford Haven and Port Talbot in South Wales and Anglesey Freeport in North Wales are expected to attract almost £5 billion in investments and generate about 20,000 jobs by the end of the decade.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the freeports, which are each backed by £26 million in UK Government funding, will see communities across Wales “go from strength to strength”.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said the freeports are expected to be operational by the end of the year and will “transform the Welsh economy, creating a stronger, fairer and greener future”.
Freeports are special areas within the UK’s borders where different economic regulations apply to incentivise investment and create global trading hubs.
Mr Sunak said: “Wales is a thriving part of the UK, and today’s new freeports will see businesses and opportunities for people in and around Anglesey, Port Talbot and Milford Haven go from strength to strength.
“Everyone deserves equality of opportunity and working closely with the Welsh Government has helped to deliver these fantastic new sites.
“Today’s freeports show the hard work being done day in, day out to bring new, high-skilled jobs to communities across Wales and deliver on my promise to grow the economy.”
Mr Drakeford said: “The Welsh Government has a clear economic mission to transform the Welsh economy, creating a stronger, fairer and greener future.
“The designation of these sites as Wales’ first freeports will reinforce that mission, building on the significant investments and partnerships we have made in these regions over many years.
“The joint working between Governments on the freeport programme should serve as a blueprint for future intergovernmental work on a whole range of issues.”
The two leaders are expected to meet in Wales on Thursday morning to officially announce the opening of the new freeports.
The pair will also hold an informal and private meeting to discuss how both governments can work together on job growth, sustainable regeneration and improving equality of opportunity in Wales, No 10 said.
Eight freeports have already been established in England and two green freeports in Scotland.
The Welsh freeports were decided on by both Governments during a joint bidding process which ended in November last year.
Both sites are said to have been chosen to exploit opportunities from renewable energies, and are expected to make a significant contribution to achieving the UK’s net-zero ambitions.
The Celtic Freeport plans focus on low carbon technologies, such as floating offshore wind (Flow), hydrogen, carbon-capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) and biofuels to support the accelerated reduction of carbon emissions.
Anglesey Freeport will focus on marine energy technology testing on the seabed, including tidal and wind.
The UK Government said its plans to create a low tax, investment zone in Wales, as announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in his spring Budget, will work “hand in hand with the freeport programme to generate sustainable economic growth and level up communities in Wales and across the UK”.
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said Wales has “huge untapped potential” and the freeports will help “grow the economy, level up and spread opportunity”.
Welsh economy minister Vaughan Gething said ports considered to be “an intrinsic part of our rich industrial history” will now be “an engine room of our future economy”.
“This will help harness our abundant, economic potential domestically and internationally, whilst promoting fair work and sustainability here in Wales,” he added.
Senedd member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Samuel Kurtz, said the announcement was “the beginning of a new chapter for West Wales”.