Trade Bites, the UKTPO’s new podcast series, explores all things trade policy – including Brexit, Trade Wars, and the World Trade System.
Hosted by Chris Horseman, Deputy Editor of the Trade Policy News Service – Borderlex, and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the series aims to provide a cultural artefact on trade policy at a critical point not just for the UK, but for the wider world.
21 June 2021
Traditional types of trade are regulated by the World Trade Organisation, under rules which mostly date from 1995 – a time when data exchanges were accompanied by the screech of a modem, and were measured in kilobytes. So it’s perhaps not surprising that there are no meaningful global rules in place at the moment to regulate digital trade. But increasingly, as regional trade deals become more common, frameworks are starting to emerge to provide more legal and commercial certainty for those businesses which trade in cyberspace. But what happens when different jurisdictions have rules which aren’t compatible with each other? And how can we be sure that digital trade is regulated in a way which is fair for all?
To discuss all this and more, Chris Horseman is joined by Ingo Borchert, Eunice Huang, and Johannes Fritz. This podcast is co-organised in collaboration with the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Trade and Investment.
30 March 2021
Up until the end of last year, the UK was part of the EU single market, and British traders had enjoyed frictionless trade with Europe for several decades. But all of that has now changed. Customs formalities are a fact of life, with paperwork to be filled in whether you’re sending a lorry load of precision tools to a factory in Germany, or a few jars of Marmite to your auntie on the Costa Del Sol. Add to that the complexities of rules of origin for manufactured and processed goods, and the particularly onerous rules which now apply on EU imports of agri-food products, and life is suddenly looking a lot tougher for UK exporters. But to what extent do these issues represent teething problems which can be overcome in due course? What could or should the government be doing to make life easier for exporting businesses? And how are British firms coping with the new challenges that they face?
Chris Horseman is joined by Michael Gasiorek, Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory; Anna Jerzewska, Director of the Trade and Borders Consultancy, and Associate Fellow of the UKTPO; and Ian Henry, Owner and Managing Director of AutoAnalysis and Visiting Professor at the Centre for Brexit Studies.
19 March 2021
Disagreements over fisheries nearly sunk last year’s trade negotiations between the UK and the EU. A deal was eventually signed, which repatriated some – but not all – of the fish resources in UK waters back to UK control. However, despite leaving the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy behind, the deal left many in the fishing community somewhat underwhelmed. But what exactly has been agreed? Was it ever realistic to expect a better deal? And were we so preoccupied with establishing our rights to catch fish, that we forgot about the question of how we were going to sell them once they were landed?
To tackle all these questions and more, Chris Horseman is joined by Professor Michael Gasiorek, Director of the UKTPO; Barrie Deas, Chief Executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations; and Suzannah Walmsley, Principal Consultant and Fisheries and Aquaculture Business Development Manager at ABPmer.
04 March 2021
In the 21st century, international trade has almost universal scope, and the UK, like other developed countries, trades with pretty much every other country on earth, including those with some pretty repressive regimes in charge. So how can we shape international trade in a way which encourages our trading partners to uphold certain basic standards, and sanctions them effectively if they don’t? And to what extent is it realistic to expect that trade policy could be used as a tool for improving human rights standards in other countries?
In this episode, Chris Horseman is joined by Dr Mattia Di Ubaldo, Fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory; Dr Samantha Velluti, Reader at the Sussex Law School, and an expert on EU law and policy; and Dr Jennifer Zerk, Associate Fellow of the International Law Programme at Chatham House.
25 February 2021
The government has promised to create at least 10 freeports up and down the country, as a key strand of its new post-Brexit trade and industrial policy. There has been a bidding process for sea ports and airports to convert to freeport status, with the deadline for bids expiring on February 5th. But what actually is a freeport? What can you do in them that you can’t do in a non-free port? Enthusiasts for the scheme see freeports as a way of stimulating trade by minimising taxes and red tape, and creating employment in deprived coastal areas. Detractors, on the other hand, are less enthusiastic, citing problems which other freeports around the world have faced with smuggling and other nefarious activities. So are freeports a creative answer to the economic challenges of 21st century Britain, or more of a step back into Jack Sparrow territory?
Chris Horseman is joined by Dr Peter Holmes, Fellow of the UKTPO; Edward Farmer, Managing Director of the UK Free Trade Zone Association; and Paul Swinney, Director of Policy and Research at the Centre for Cities
19 January 2021
The UK’s Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU came into force on New Year’s Day. Since then, the focus has mainly been on the border issues, with supermarket supplies running short in a few areas, and lorry drivers’ ham sandwiches being confiscated by Dutch customs officials. But while the UK’s Michael Gove always said there would be ‘bumps in the road’ to begin with, where will the TCA deal ultimately lead us? What sort of an agreement is it, and could it yet be improved upon? And what will it mean for UK businesses which have dealings with the EU?
08 December 2020
This episode examines the question of food standards and how they will affect Britain’s post-Brexit international trade. As the UK leaves the EU, will we be diverging from the European food standards that have applied in Britain for the last few decades? What would be the benefit of diverging? What might be the risks of not diverging? And do the Americans really want to poison us as a core objective of their current free trade agreement negotiations – as you might be led to believe from some recent media headlines?
01 December 2020
Since the Brexit referendum, the trade policy focus has been primarily about how UK businesses will trade with their counterparts in the EU and around the world. But what about intra-UK trade? Surely it stands to reason that there won’t be any problem for a business in England to trade with a business in Scotland? However, closer examination shows that when you strip away the legal framework provided by EU membership, and simultaneously devolve regulatory powers to the administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, some rather unexpected problems can result. The UK Internal Market Bill, currently making its way through Parliament, forms part of the Government’s response to these challenges. But will it solve the problems, or simply exacerbate them?
26 August 2020
The UK imports around twenty-five billion pounds’ worth of pharmaceutical products each year from a wide range of supplier countries. Even during the worst phases of this year’s COVID-19 crisis, we have not run short of essential drugs. But how confident can we be that such a disaster would never happen? Are too many of our pharmaceutical eggs in one basket? What role is there for public policy and trade policy in ensuring that our pharma supply strategy is the right one? And how might Brexit complicate things?
08 June 2020
Britain left the EU on 31 January 2020. But for the time being, hardly anything has changed in terms of the country’s trade with Europe. We’re in a transition period which will run until the end of the year, and during that period the UK needs to negotiate a whole new trading relationship with the EU. But is that period going to be long enough to get everything sorted out? There is an option to extend the transition period, but what difference would that actually make? And how might the COVID-19 pandemic impact on the negotiations?
29 May 2020
COVID-19 has had a profound effect on trade. A global recession is always going to have an impact on trade volumes, but this pandemic has had the effect of completely choking off demand for some goods and services, while pushing demand for others through the roof. And that has posed acute trade policy challenges. Is it ever right to impose controls on exports of sensitive products? Were we naive to put so much faith in global markets and the ability to source the goods and services we need from around the world? And when the pandemic finally starts to ease, what sort of a global trading system will we be left with?
Trade in services is generally reckoned to account for about 80% of the UK economy. The UK financial services sector alone makes a contribution to the economy that is worth the equivalent of the entire GDP or Bulgaria and Croatia combined. So why do we hear so little about services in the context of the trade negotiations that are just getting underway with the EU and the US? Is the UK missing a trick?
26 March 2020
For many people, the idea that the National Health Service may be ‘up for sale’ in the UK’s upcoming international trade negotiations is a cause of great anxiety. But what does that phrase even mean? The NHS offers a massive range of services, from brain surgery to cleaning the hospital windows. So if any of these services are subcontracted, who is allowed to bid for them? To what extent do health care services form part of the discussions in international trade negotiations, such as the one the UK has recently commenced with the US? And are there international rules about what can, or should, or may not be on the table?
19 March 2020
For the past few years, the United States and China have been at each other’s throats, with the Trump administration slapping a series of punitive tariffs on Chinese imports and Beijing responding with its own retaliatory measures. The US accuses China of not playing fair when it comes to global trade. So what is it that China has done to incur the wrath of the White House? What lies behind the tensions between Washington and Beijing? And why should Europe care about what is going on? Are there opportunities that UK businesses could exploit, or will UK exporters just get caught in the crossfire?
17 March 2020
Back in early February, the Department for International Trade announced that it was seeking the views of stakeholders on what sort of tariffs the UK should apply on its imports of goods. As an EU member, the UK applied the same tariffs as the rest of the EU, but as from next year it can do what it likes tariff-wise. So is this a chance for ‘Global Britain’ to tear away the protectionist trappings of the EU and embrace the free market at last? Or might Britain’s manufacturing and agricultural industries want to retain some tariff protection against cheaper imports from overseas? And how do UK import tariffs actually affect businesses, consumers and the UK economy?
After almost half a century as an EU member state, the UK is about to become an autonomous member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). For some, this represents an exciting opportunity. But what is the value of WTO membership? And given the multiple challenges that the rules-based trading system is facing at present, can Britain be a force for good in securing a more reliable trading environment?
5 March 2020
The question of the Irish border has always been one of the most contentious issues in the Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU. Boris Johnson has claimed that his Brexit deal is the best of all worlds, maintaining frictionless trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. But is this case? What does the settlement reached in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement actually mean for trade between Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic and the rest of the EU?
27 February 2020
Now that the UK has left the European Union, the Government has promised to complete a whole string of Free Trade Agreements with the EU, the United States, and various other trading partners around the world. But is there a catch to doing these negotiations? Are there trade-offs involved – and what are they likely to be? And how easy will it be to work towards a closer trade relationship with the rest of the world, while still in the process of disengaging from the EU?
20 February 2020
Boris Johnson promised to ‘get Brexit done’ when he won the UK General Election in December 2019 – and on one level he achieved that aim on 31 January. However, there is still much to be decided as the UK begins the process of disengaging from the EU. Can a Free Trade Agreement between the two sides be achieved by the transition deadline of 31 December? What happens if a deal can’t be struck? Does the Brexit cliff-edge loom once more?
13 February 2020
As the UK enters the post-Brexit transition period, Boris Johnson has made clear that a trade deal with the US is as big a priority, if not more so, than a deal with the EU. But are Britain and America natural trade partners? What benefits could a transatlantic trade deal deliver? And what about chlorinated chicken?
This podcast is brought to you by the UK Trade Policy Observatory, in association with Borderlex.