Parliamentary round-up: Electronic trade documents bill approaches and the Atlantic declaration

Mon 17 Jul 2023
Posted by: Grace Thompson, Charlie Bowden

UK Parliament

Our latest Parliamentary round-up looks at the continued progress of the Electronic Trade Documents Bill as well as questioning of supply chain experts on the Atlantic Declaration

Digital trade moving ever-closer

The third reading of the Electronic Trade Documents Bill (ETBD) took place in the House of Commons last Monday (10 July).

Though the debate went into the evening, parliamentarians from all sides of the Commons hailed a new dawn for electronic trade documents with celebratory remarks on all sides. Speaking on behalf of the government, minister for digital economy, Paul Scully, led the positive remarks.

He advocated for the “transformational” nature of the Bill, which he claimed is a “fine piece of work”, adding that it will not just propel the UK ahead of other G7 nations, but the whole world, in a legislative move that sets the approach other nations will seek to follow on the digitalisation of trade documentation and the “future digitalisation of all trade”.

The devolved debrief

Representatives of the devolved nations also expressed congratulations but weren’t shy in expressing concerns regarding the parliamentary process. The SNP’s Patrick Grady highlighted some issues that had arisen during the Bill’s passage.

Grady noted that it was not until the committee stage that the UK government was “finally able to bring forward amendments that would provide Scottish ministers with the reassurances they needed to recommend that Holyrood consent to the Bill”.

The Glasgow North MP added that, despite relatively short scrutiny by the relevant committees of the Scottish Parliament, the committees agreed that the Scottish Parliament should, in the end, grant the Bill legislative consent.

Going forwards, Grady expressed a hope that the attention of UK parliamentarians can turn to “the implementation of the provisions of the Bill” such as the easing of “bureaucratic burdens” and focus on the “innovation in information and data exchange” that producers, traders and other stakeholders in supply chains use on a daily basis.

An Atlantic ‘agreement’?

The Business and Trade Committee met on Tuesday (11 July) to discuss last month’s Atlantic Declaration. Agreed between UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, and US president, Joe Biden, the partnership was touted as a strengthening of ties between the two nations.

Labour’s Andy McDonald said that the committee was experiencing some confusion as the point of the agreement.

Chris Rogers, head of supply chain research at S&P Global, was questioned on the impact of the declaration.

Rogers remarked that “compared to a status of zero, it is more than zero” but assented that the agreement does not specify for “X thousand tonnes a year of shipments by X date” and commented this is not satisfactory to businesses or investors.

With critical minerals taking up a large proportion of the agreement’s aims, the chair of the committee asked Rogers what this would mean for UK businesses.

Rogers said the simple answer is that UK exporters have the opportunity to provide a strong export market but added that the inclusion of critical minerals in the declaration signifies a “global shift in manufacturing supply chains”.

He added that, if UK exporters want to be a part of this shift, then they “need to be a part of the global agreements”.

He didn’t suggest a universal or global agreement, but rather for the UK to have a seat at the table at most of these bilateral agreements, where possible.