The Week in Trade: BTOM delays, customs overhauls and cruise clashes

Fri 1 Sept 2023
Posted by: Danielle Keen
Features

Newspapers with coffee

The UK border is due a spiffy overhaul next year, as new provisions were announced this week.

The government published the revised Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) timeline on Tuesday (29 August). The model will introduce risk-based checks on sanitary or phytosanitary (SPS) imports from the EU.

The checks were originally meant to be introduced in 2021, and have now been delayed five times. The latest delay pushed checks on SPS goods at the border back to 31 January 2024.

The BTOM announcement came the same week as a set of recommendations following government pilot schemes on digitising the border and a consultation on strengthening intermediary agents used by traders to ship goods internationally (read on for more).

The big picture: The UK crept closer to completing a trade deal with India, while also making softer overtures to China.

Both the UK and China are increasingly looking towards ASEAN nations for the future, as the Indo-Pacific was pushed as a key axis for economic growth and diplomatic focus by a foreign affairs committee parliamentary report this week. The report was also critical of current UK-China mood music.

Good week/bad week: A good week for Grant Shapps, who was announced as the new secretary of defence, taking over from Ben Wallace. The role brings Shapps job number five in his year-long, whistle-stop tour of the cabinet, having also served as secretary for transport, business, energy and industrial strategy, energy security and net zero, and an entire week as home secretary under Liz Truss. Claire Coutinho steps up to take his old role as energy and net zero secretary.

It was a bad week for the P&O Cruises passengers caught up in a storm off the coast of Mallorca. The BBC reported that a gale sent the MV Britannia directly into the path of a freight carrier, as torrential downpours battered the Balearics. Thankfully there were no serious injuries, although several passengers were flown straight back to the UK.

How’s stat? $22bn – the value of India’s diamond trade last year. This could be hit by global sanctions against Russia, the nation’s greatest source of unrefined gems. Two unnamed Indian diamond firms are currently petitioning the US government to release $26m in frozen assets, after being hit by punitive measures for allegedly trading with Russian mining group Alrosa. Here’s hoping the tech behind faux-diamonds continues to advance.

The week in customs: In addition to HMRC’s BTOM-drop, there was promising news about the digitisation of the UK border. The ‘Ecosystem of Trust’ (EoT) may sound like second-rate Illuminati, but in fact describes a series of government pilots aiming to enhance border UK efficiency. Using the latest in supply chain technology, officials were able to glean better data insights. If rolled out, the EoT could save traders a lot of time and money when moving goods across the UK border.

There was also consensus from IOE&IT members on the need for a standards regime for customs intermediaries. Responding to a consultation from HMRC, almost two thirds of participants agreed customs brokers, freight forwarders and other intermediaries should be accredited.

Export sanctions updates: The Export Control Joint Unit has updated its list of military and dual use items that require authorisation. IOE&IT members are advised to check the online checker tool to see if their goods are controlled.

Quote of the week: “Given that new and unclear conditions for admission to the European Union are always emerging from Brussels, I believe that Bosnia and Herzegovina should submit an application for membership in BRICS.”

Milorad Dodik, Bosnian-Serb leader, wanting admission to the hottest ticket on the world stage right now.

What else we covered this week: We brought you news from the ASEAN nations as they continue to flex their economic might; supporting a weakened China while hoovering up their lost manufacturing contracts.

Our executive editor, William Barns Graham, reported the results of the EoT pilots, analysing implications for the UK border.

Content editor Phil Adnett explored the future of the green transition and electronics’ staple commodity cobalt, looking at how threatened the industry is by dangerous mining practices (not very) or green manufacturing innovating the mineral into obsolescence (just a bit)?

True facts: Storm clouds gathering round the global economy can’t diminish the fact that global GDP topped the $100trn mark in the last year.

One to watch: BAE, the UK’s largest defence contractor, is ramping up operations in Ukraine. It has set up a local entity and has signed deals that it hopes will increase arms sales to help Ukrainian war efforts.