The Week Ahead in International Trade: Saudi trade expo, TCA talks and IOE&IT events

Mon 13 May 2024
Posted by: Danielle Keen

A packed week of events as the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) holds a regional event, public webinar and the next meeting of the export control Special Interest Group (SIG). In the wider world, a UK trade delegation will head to Saudi Arabia and the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement council is set to convene.

Saudi trade expo

Tomorrow, deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden will lead a 300-strong delegation to Riyadh for the ‘Great Futures’ business, tourism and cultural expo. The event will coincide with business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch’s visit to the region in an attempt to progress ongoing efforts to secure a Guld Cooperation Council (GCC) trade deal.

The visit marks the launch of a year-long campaign to increase UK business engagement with Saudi Arabia in which trade will be heavily promoted. This includes showcasing the UK’s services capability with the aim of supporting ‘Vision 2030’, Saudi Arabia’s programme to diversify its economy away from oil. The programme’s five key projects are expected to attract over US$3trn in investment by 2030.

Dowden described the expo as “an important opportunity to forge partnerships for the future between the UK’s most creative and innovative companies”.

“Our two nations work closely on security and energy. We look forward to strengthening those connections in new areas that feed the Vision 2030 agenda.”

The events will aim to forge closer ties across two key areas: 

1) technology and cultural, with greater collaboration in research sectors such as clean technology, sustainable construction and disruptive technologies

2) art, fashion, media and tourism

The planned meeting isn’t without controversy. Last week, Politico reported significant protests from human rights groups concerned by Saudi Arabia’s alleged use of ‘lethal force’ to clear land for a new £400bn mega-city in the desert.

IOE&IT events

Tomorrow will see the fifth meeting of IOE&IT’s Special Interest Group on export controls, where members can join experts to receive the latest policy updates and practical tips surrounding protected goods.

Wednesday will bring a public webinar on the UK-EU TCA, with executive content editor William Barns-Graham welcoming experts from UK in a Changing Europe (UKICE), the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and the Institute for Government, along with IOE&IT’s EU and international director Fergus McReynolds. With EU and UK elections looming and a review of the agreement slated for 2026, the webinar will look at how political change could affect the implementation of the agreement.

Thursday (16 May) is another important date in the calendar, with the first of our IOE&IT Regionals taking place in Newcastle. The event is a chance for businesses to network and learn from expert panels, supporting efforts towards export-led growth.

TCA Council meeting

The TCA is also on the political agenda, with UK foreign secretary David Cameron co-chairing the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement Partnership Council meeting on Thursday.

As the EU continues to try and cut down on Russian energy imports, having recently proposed plans to impose restrictions on liquified natural gas (LNG) imports, discussions on energy security will lead the agenda.

Trade will also feature prominently, with fisheries set to be considered along with consumer protection and product safety measures. This comes in the context of new EU General Product Safety Regulations (GPSR) entering into force in December, for which UK exporters will need to prepare.

Europe’s foreign ministers meet

Another European gathering on Friday (17 May), as the Council of Europe’s annual foreign ministers’ meeting gets underway, led by Liechtenstein foreign affairs minister Dominique Hasler, who served as president this year.

Representatives from the 46 member states will address issues including human rights, migration and trafficking, and the council’s ongoing response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The meeting comes almost a year after the signing of the Reykjavik declaration, which committed states to the support of Ukrainian children and to increased cooperation on environmental and human rights issues.

The presidency will pass from Liechtenstein to Lithuania at the end of the week.

Other dates for the diary

Monday: Andrew Mitchell speech on UK foreign aid

Tuesday: OECD Digital Economy Outlook

Wednesday: US consumer price index announced

Thursday: UN World Economic Situation and Prospects, mid-year update

Friday: IEA Critical Minerals Outlook 

Saturday: World Whisky Day 

Sunday: Education World Forum opens