The Week Ahead in International Trade: E-Commerce Week, interest rate decisions and Welsh leadership change

Mon 18 Mar 2024
Posted by: Benjamin Roche

This week is E-Commerce Week and the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) will be hosting two free public webinars exploring the subject.

A raft of interest rate announcements are due too, while EU heads of state will meet to discuss boosting the bloc’s defence sector and the potential accession of new member states.

E-Commerce week

‘E-Commerce Week’ starts today (18 March) and will include a series of events and webinars on the theme of how to ‘put the ease in e-commerce’.

Tomorrow (19 March), IOE&IT will host the first of this week’s e-commerce webinars, focusing on ‘How businesses can use e-commerce to grow internationally’. You can sign up for that here.

The second webinar is taking place on Wednesday (20 March), focusing on ‘the social value of e-commerce trade’, which you can sign up for here.

The week was created by the E-Commerce Trade Commission, which advises the Department for Business and Trade (DBT).

It includes some of the world’s largest ecommerce platforms, including Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, Google and Shopify. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and Association of International Courier & Express Services (AICES) are also members.

Drakeford bows out

It’s a big moment for one of the UK’s regions this week, as first minister of Wales Mark Drakeford holds his final cabinet meeting before his resignation tomorrow.

Drakeford’s successor will be Vaughan Gething, following the latter’s success in the Welsh Labour leadership contest on Saturday (16 March).

He is set to be confirmed in a final vote at the Senedd on Wednesday.

Interest rate shift

Throughout the week, there’ll be a series of central bank decisions on interest rates.

First, the Bank of Japan is set to announce its decision tomorrow. Reuters reports that it is considering ending the country’s negative rate following pay rises at the largest firms that outstripped expectations.

Naomi Muguruma, chief bond strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities, said that, “with markets already pricing in the chance of an exit, it would actually be a surprise if the bank forgoes ditching negative rates next week”.

Wednesday sees the US Federal Reserve make a decision on its own interest rate. Hopes for a cut appear unlikely to be satisfied following worse-than-expected inflation data for the US, published last week. The FT noted that it rose to 3.2% in the latest data, beating expectations that it would remain at 3.1%. It’s now expected that the Fed will maintain the current interest rates of 5.25–5.5%.

The Bank of England will make its decision on the UK interest rate on Thursday, though it appears unlikely that a drop in inflation will spark an immediate reduction in the rate. Those working in the City of London are increasingly expecting to have to wait until June for a rate cut, according to the Evening Standard.


The World Meteorological Organization will release its State of the Global Climate report tomorrow, providing “credible scientific information on climate and its variability”.

It comes after major changes to UK policy on its net zero goals from prime minister Rishi Sunak, and heightened pressure within the EU from farmers angry about new environmental targets.

EU meeting

Heads of state from across the EU will attend a European Council meeting on Thursday, as they discuss “how to strengthen the EU’s defence technological and industrial base”.

EU enlargement is also on the agenda for the meeting, with further discussion planned on the potential for Bosnia and Herzegovina to accede to the bloc following an expression of willingness from the EU last year should it meet requirements. The country is set to report on its progress towards doing so.

Other dates for the diary

Monday – “Landslide” victory for Vladimir Putin in Russian election

Tuesday – Zew Economic Sentiment release in Germany

Wednesday – Argentina’s GDP figures released

Thursday – Nuclear energy summit in Belgium

Friday – UK ratification of Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)

Saturday – National Puppy Day

Sunday – Senegalese presidential election