From the progress of the Electronic Trade Documents Bill through Parliament to data highlighting a link between innovation and the likelihood of exporting, there’s been a lot going on in the trade policy world this week. Here, the Institute of Export & International Trade’s (IOE&IT) public affairs lead, Grace Thompson, rounds up the key events.
Electronic Trade Documents Bill
Earlier this week, the Electronic Trade Documents Bill had its Second Reading Committee session in the House of Lords. The Second Reading Committee session replaced the traditional Second Reading debate, a decision made to speed up the process slightly, as it is a relatively uncontroversial bill.
The session was short, given the cross-party support for the bill. Parliamentary under-secretary of state for science, innovation and technology, Paul Scully, repeated the many benefits the bill would bring, noting:
“It is only seven clauses long, but its impact will be huge. It will help boost the UK’s international trade – already worth more than £1.4 trillion – by providing benefits worth £1.1bn to UK businesses over the next 10 years.”
His Labour counterpart, Alex Davies-Jones, responded by assenting to the value of the bill and spoke also about the environmental good the bill would do, pointing to the estimate that 25 billion paper documents are generated and couriered around the world annually just to facilitate container shipping.
An interesting question raised Davies-Jones to the minister was which department would be responsible for overseeing provisions of the bill once it is on the statute book. The minister responded that details would be discussed in the Committee Stage (Lords), which the bill has now progressed to.
Link between innovation and exporting
The Scottish government released an economic evidence paper to support Scotland’s National Innovation Strategy. The paper highlights data from the Enterprise Research Centre (ERC) that suggests there is a link between innovation in businesses and the likelihood of them exporting. The report concluded that the evidence shows a strong correlation between exporting and innovation:
“Innovative businesses are more likely to export, and the experience of exporting can be a strong driver of investment in innovation and R&D, as businesses compete in new markets.
“Additionally, evidence from the ERC finds that internationally active SMEs are three times more likely to introduce innovative products or services than those focusing entirely on the their domestic market. Currently only one in five UK SMEs exports.”
However, estimates in the report suggest that between nine and 12% of non-exporting firms within the UK could become exporters.
New report – trade: key economic indicators
The House of Commons Library published new statistics this week on key economic indicators in trade. The statistics showcased a decreased in exports by 5.8% in cash terms in the three months to April 2023, while imports had decreased by 7.2%.
Overall, the report noted that, in 2022, the UK’s exports of goods and services totalled £815bn and imports totalled £902bn, with the EU accounting for 42% of UK exports of goods and services and 48% of imports in the same year.
New E-Commerce Trade Commission
The IOE&IT made trade policy waves of its own this week, when we launched the UK’s first E-Commerce Trade Commission. Its ambitious aim is to encourage 70,000 more small British businesses to trade and export online, in turn boosting the economy by £9.3bn.
The Commission is the first of its kind in the world and will act as an advisory group to the Department for Business and Trade (DBT). The Commission brings together some of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms, with board members including Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, Google and Shopify, as well as the Federation of Small Businesses, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and the Association of International Couriers & Express Services (AICES).
Opening the event, Kemi Badenoch, secretary of state for business & trade said: “I'm really pleased to be launching our E-Commerce Trade Commission this morning. I set a very clear priority that we need to increase UK exports to £1trn by 2030. And helping more UK firms to trade digitally will help us to reach this ambitious target.”
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