The Week in Trade: Biden mulls China probe, UK signs Texas agreement and IOE&IT Bristol event previewed

Fri 15 Mar 2024
Posted by: Benjamin Roche

In a week when the US House of Representatives passed a bill demanding TikTok shed its Chinese ownership or face a national ban, the country is also facing growing calls for an investigation into unfair industrial practices by the Chinese government.

It echoes efforts in the EU to clarify whether China is providing subsidies to help its industries undercut global competitors. Elsewhere, the UK signed a new agreement with Texas, and the Daily Update looked ahead to next month’s regional event in Bristol and prime minister Rishi Sunak ruled out a 2 May election.

The big picture: The FT reported on Tuesday that the US United Steelworkers union has urged president Joe Biden to investigate the economic practices of the Chinese government in shipbuilding and maritime logistics. The formal request requires a response within 45 days under the 1974 Trade Act.

David McCall, president of the union, said in an interview with the FT that “the Chinese Communist party [has] enacted a comprehensive strategy to dominate the full spectrum of global trade”, including “predatory trade practices” in heavy industries such as shipbuilding.

He added he wants to see the Biden administration “reviving our commercial shipbuilding industry, both ensuring a steady supply of needed goods and creating good, community-sustaining jobs”.

Biden is also due to take action over the purchase of US Steel by the Japanese firm Nippon Steel, according to further reports yesterday, in what an anonymous person familiar with the situation called a “signal of distrust regarding Japanese ownership of US companies”.

US Steel is based in Pennsylvania, a crucial swing state in this year’s presidential election, and the anonymous source argued that the renewed scrutiny of the deal is a consequence of “election year politics”.

Good week/bad week: It was a good week for “global Britain”, as the UK signed a new agreement with Texas, its latest memorandum of understanding (MoU) on trade with a US state and the largest one to strike such a deal so far, following last year’s deal with Florida. Talks on a new trade deal with Turkey also got underway.

A bad week for global bananas, as there were troubling noises from the World Banana Forum, where experts reported an “enormous threat” to the supply of the fruit from global warming. Rising temperatures could exacerbate problems with diseases, hitting trade in the world’s most exported fruit.

How’s stat? 11% - France’s share of the global export market for weapons, as it edged narrowly ahead of Russia, which fell from a 21% share in the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s most recent analysis.

The week in customs: HMRC published details of an update to the way supplementary declarations are completed and the way deferred duty is paid, covered here by the Daily Update.

Institute of Export and International Trade (IOE&IT) senior trade and customs specialist, Anna Doherty, explained the changes:

“This change will align timeframes in Great Britain for those applicable in Northern Ireland, meaning more uniform and centralised processes for many businesses. It will also allow them more time to gather necessary information required for supplementary declarations which could improve the overall compliance.”

What else we covered this week: A new series of IOE&IT Regional events gets started at M Shed in Bristol next month (11 April), giving businesses in the south west of England the opportunity to network and share trade insights. We previewed the events yesterday.

A ‘watershed moment’ for India’s trade ambitions was how Indian prime minister Narendra Modi described a new agreement between the country and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) nations of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein. It is expected to bring US$100bn in investment into India over the next decade, while allowing easier export from EFTA countries of processed food and luxury goods.

The Daily Update also launched its new Niche Trade series with a look at trade in antiques, with detailed insights on the industry from Kevin Hairsine of antique dealer and customs clearance specialist Hairsines.

True facts: Today is World Contact Day, established in 1953 by the International Flying Saucer Bureau (IFSB) to encourage people worldwide to communicate with extra-terrestrials through telepathy. An FTA with ET has yet to materialise.