The Week in Trade: BTOM countdown, International Customs Day and a great time for Scotch whisky

Fri 26 Jan 2024
Posted by: Danielle Keen

It’s an upbeat day in the world of international trade, as today is International Customs Day, celebrating all the work customs professionals do to keep borders safe and the flow of goods through them operating smoothly.

The knowledge and expertise they hold will be especially in-demand over the coming year as the UK’s Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) comes into force, beginning Wednesday (31 January). With a range of documentation requirements and goods checks introduced on the basis of new risk categories – understanding and interpreting new rules for traders has never been more important.

The big picture: Global shipping is still heavily disrupted by Houthi attacks on commercial vessels.

Maersk has continued to reroute vessels and China has increasingly been pulled into the fray this week.

Reuters reports that calls from the US for China to step in and apply pressure to its ally Iran appear to have been answered, while also noting that China has sent its own ships to service ports in the region given the perceived immunity enjoyed by its ships, per the FT.

Good week/bad week: A great week for Japanese car manufacturers as new data reveals that exports surged in December, led by sales of Toyota and Honda cars. A weak yen aided a 10% increase in exports on the previous year. 

Not such a good week for distributors working with brands supplied by alcohol giant Diageo. Wholesalers that don’t meet strict minimum order requirements of £2m of stock per year will find it more difficult to sell a host of lucrative booze brands like Smirnoff and Gordons. The Grocer reports that only 10 wholesalers in the UK currently make the threshold.

How’s stat? Almost 50% – the amount of UK services exports that come from London. Greater calls to diversify UK services exports have most recently come from the Resolution Foundation who highlighted Manchester and Birmingham as a source of untapped potential.

The week in customs: Ahead of the introduction of new border rules next week, the Joint Customs Consultative Committee (JCCC) has sent a reminder that goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain through Irish ports will be subject to import checks – including those introduced under BTOM.

This will apply if they are non-qualifying Northern Ireland goods, excise goods (alcohol, tobacco, and energy products) or they don’t move directly to an Irish port after leaving Northern Ireland, for example goods which are held in storage in Ireland.

You can find out which goods are qualifying Northern Ireland goods here.

Quote of the week: “With every stamp and every cleared line, customs officers weave a tapestry of global connection.”

Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, speaking ahead of International Customs Day.

What else we covered this week: There’s been no escaping BTOM this week. Executive editor William Barns-Graham began the countdown with a survey of the media landscape with a week to go until new regulations come into effect.

Richard Cree reported on the last-minute category changes to several items of fruit and vegetables.

Phil Adnett discussed the potential for a new sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) clause in a renegotiated Trade Continuity Agreement (TCA) with the EU.

True facts: Yesterday (25 January) was Burns Night, the day in which Scotland celebrates one of its greatest bards with toasts to its cultural heritage, often made with the country’s biggest export – whisky, which added £7.1bn to the UK’s economy in 2022.