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Image of Alan Winters30 May 2024 – Ingo Borchert is Deputy Director of the UKTPO, a Member of the Leadership Group of the Centre for Inclusive Trade Policy (CITP) and a Reader in Economics at the University of Sussex. Michael Gasiorek is Co-Director of the UKTPO, Co-Director of the CITP and Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex. Emily Lydgate is Co-Director of the UKTPO and Professor of Environmental Law at the University of Sussex. L. Alan Winters is Co-Director of the CITP and former Director of the UKTPO.


A general election is underway, and the parties are making various promises and commitments to attract voters, and both the main parties – the Conservatives and Labour – are keen to persuade the country that they have a credible plan. Now it might just be that the authors of this piece are trade nerds, but one key aspect of economic policy has not yet been clearly articulated, or even mentioned – and that is international trade policy.

In our view, this is a mistake. As a hugely successful open economy, international trade constitutes a significant share of economic activity, supports over 6 million jobs in the UK, spurs innovation, and enhances consumption choices. In short, trade and investment flows are an important element in leading to higher economic growth and welfare. In addition, trade and investment relations intertwine considerably with increasingly fraught geopolitics. Against this backdrop, the UK cannot afford to give trade policy short shrift.

Admittedly, though, trade policy is complex. It is also, more than ever, linked to other dimensions of public policy – and that does make it harder to have simple soundbites. That is no doubt part of the explanation why trade hasn’t been mentioned. The other part is that discussions of trade policy are closely intertwined with the ‘B’ (Brexit) word, and those discussions have become somewhat toxic.

Nevertheless, we argue that sound trade policy is a high priority for the UK. Listed below are some practical, feasible, and specific policy proposals that would help to ensure a better and more coherent UK trade policy, and thus lead to more equity in trade outcomes as well as higher rates of economic growth for the UK.

Process and consultation

1. Publish a Trade Strategy, which should elucidate principles as well as concrete policy objectives and intentions. Recognise the importance of both goods and services trade policy for the UK economy, nationally and across the regions.
2. Reduce executive power over trade policy, through establishing an independent Board of Trade, strengthening Parliamentary oversight over Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and improving consultative processes with devolved nations and with stakeholders in trade.
3. Ensure and commit to transparency in UK trade data, good access to data for researchers and be transparent about the analyses undertaken by government.

Policy Areas:

4. Plurilateral / Multilateral / World Trade Organization (WTO):
a. Ensure that UK trade policy remains consistent across its various partner countries and across the different free trade agreements notably with regard to regulatory approaches.
b. Ensure that trade policy supports the rules of the multilateral trading system. Work on policy areas, such as supply chain security, bilaterally and multilaterally in ways which are at a minimum consistent with this, if not designed to strengthen multilateral cooperation.
c. In the absence of an effective WTO dispute settlement mechanism, join the Multi-party Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement (MPIA).

5. Bilateral trade relations:
a. Do not expect too much from further, notionally comprehensive, free trade agreements with more countries. Focus more on improving the workings and utilisation of existing agreements.
b. Work to reduce costs of trade with the EU in both goods and services, e.g. by mutual recognition agreements on standards, qualifications and certification and negotiating an EU-wide youth mobility scheme. As a first step seek a veterinary agreement.
c. Seek to cooperate with the EU on environmental regulation that impacts upon trade, most immediately by linking ETS schemes with the EU and introducing a compatible CBAM.
d. Review rules of origin with the EU and seek improvements where there may be benefits to both parties (eg. Electric vehicles and car batteries).

6. Domestic:
a. Provide better resourcing and introduce more robust border checks to uphold the UK’s high food standards and prevent the introduction of pest and animal diseases.
b. Work closely with industry to make sure that the implementation of new border arrangements, including the Border Target Operating Model and the Windsor Framework/UK internal market, are understood by businesses and don’t create perverse incentives to UK internal trade, imports or exports. SMEs are likely to face particular challenges.
c. Have a clear digital strategy which deals both with the digitisation of trade transactions and processes, and the rise in digital trade. This strategy should set out the balance of objectives with regard to consumer protection, cyber security, and competitiveness.

This is by no means intended as a comprehensive list, but focusses on some key principles, and specific priorities which are feasible, would make a difference, and could be immediately focussed on. When the manifestos are published it will give an opportunity to assess the parties’ approaches to trade policy and to see whether proposals go beyond broad statements of intent by providing practical details and commitments in line with any of the above.


Disclaimer:
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the University of Sussex or the UK Trade Policy Observatory.

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May 30th, 2024

Posted In: UK - Non EU, UK- EU

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Share this article: Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail16 June 2023

Chloe Anthony, Doctoral Researcher at University of Sussex Law School and Legal Researcher for the UK Environmental Law Association’s Governance and Devolution Group.

The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill is part of the Government’s ‘Brexit opportunities’ agenda. It is currently in its final stages in Parliament, going back and forth between the Houses, in a debate on the inclusion of clauses that aim to safeguard parliamentary scrutiny and prevent the lowering of environmental protections. It returns to the Commons on 20 June. (more…)

June 16th, 2023

Posted In: UK- EU

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8 June 2023

Michael Gasiorek is Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory and Co-Director of the Centre for Inclusive Trade Policy. He is Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex Business School. Peter Holmes is a Fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory and Emeritus Reader in Economics at the University of Sussex Business School. Manuel Tong Koecklin is a Research Fellow in the Economics of Trade at the UK Trade Policy Observatory and University of Sussex Business School.

Recently, there have been a series of reports in the media focussing on the challenges that electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers are likely to face, from the end of this year, in exporting electric vehicles tariff-free to the EU. The concern it because of the changes in the rules of origin (ROOs) requirements (for EVs and batteries) which will become more difficult from January 2024, and again from 2027 and 2028 onwards. (more…)

June 8th, 2023

Posted In: UK- EU

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19 May 2023

Michael Gasiorek is Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory and Co-Director of the Centre for Inclusive Trade Policy. He is Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex Business School. Nicolo Tamberi is Research Officer in Economics at the University of Sussex and Fellow of UKTPO.

Earlier this week Vauxhall announced it may withdraw from producing electric vehicles in the UK owing to difficulties from meeting ‘rules of origin’ on EU exports. The car manufacturer called for a revision to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the EU and then UK, notably regarding rules of origin (ROOs). Ford and Jaguar Land-Rover have also warned of the difficulties and called for a revision to the TCA and German producers have also expressed concerns about the meeting these ROOs. (more…)

May 19th, 2023

Posted In: UK- EU

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Image of Alan Winters17 February 2023

L. Alan Winters is Co-Director of the Centre for Inclusive Trade Policy, Professor of Economics at University of Sussex Business School and Fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory.

Given the recent discussions about future UK-EU relations and the review of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) after two years, I have started reading the Brexit literature again.  A recent paper – ‘What impact is Brexit having on the UK economy?’ by Graham Gudgin, Julian Jessop and Harry Western (GJW) from October 2022 argues there is no hard evidence of harm and that studies that claim to find harm are biased and/or incompetent! In this blog, I consider a few of their points in four areas. (more…)

February 17th, 2023

Posted In: UK- EU

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Share this article: Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail12 September 2022

Michael Gasiorek is Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory and Co-Director of the Centre for Inclusive Trade Policy. He is Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex Business School.

Once again, the UK has a new Prime Minister, a new cabinet, and thus a new Secretary of State for International Trade. This is the 4th Secretary of State for trade in five years! (more…)

September 12th, 2022

Posted In: UK - Non EU, UK- EU, Uncategorised

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Share this article: Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail22 August 2022

Peter Holmes is a Fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory and Emeritus Reader in Economics at the University of Sussex Business School. Guillermo Larbalestier is Research Assistant in International Trade at the University of Sussex and Fellow of the UKTPO.

After time in the shade, Freeports are back in the news. The policy has been embraced and a subject of discourse by both PM candidates, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, as part of their “benefits from Brexit” claims and “levelling up” strategies. There has also recently been concern by some commentators that Freeports risk becoming ‘Charter Cities’. (more…)

August 22nd, 2022

Posted In: UK - Non EU, UK- EU, Uncategorised

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Share this article: Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail18 July 2022

Michael Gasiorek is Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory and Co-Director of the Centre for Inclusive Trade Policy. He is Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex Business School.

Boris Johnson was elected on the slogan and promise of ‘Get Brexit Done’. It is perhaps somewhat ironic, then, to see disagreement between the contenders to succeed him as to whether Brexit has actually yet been done. (more…)

July 18th, 2022

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31 May 2022

Ruby Acquah and Mattia Di Ubaldo are Fellows of the UK Trade Policy Observatory and Research Fellows in Economics at the University of Sussex Business School

Tensions over the Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP) have intensified as the UK Government (henceforth HMG) announced plans to introduce legislation that would enable it to disapply parts of the Protocol.  The UK has often demanded the re-negotiation of the NIP due to its economic costs, and a too strict application by the EU. Recently, Assembly elections in Northern Ireland escalated the urgency of resolving the issue, as the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is currently refusing, as part of its protest against the NIP, to participate in the power-sharing executive. (more…)

May 31st, 2022

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Share this article: Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail23 May 2022

Peter Holmes is a Fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory and Emeritus Reader in Economics at the University of Sussex Business School

UK trade with Europe has significantly fallen off (see UKTPO BP 63 for an early assessment). UK GDP has fallen by 4%. If we cancel the Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP) – which is all the talk at the moment – the economic consequences of Brexit will get worse and let’s not even think about the political consequences. Is any of this fixable? Yes, if we look ahead to 2025 when the Brexit agreement with the EU—formally known as the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) —is up for its 5-yearly review. UK stakeholders, including political parties planning their manifestoes ahead of the next UK general election in 2024, should consider their Brexit positions now – but it’s not a case of leave or remain, rather a case of ‘tweak the Brexit agreement to something that better suits us’. (more…)

May 23rd, 2022

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