The Week in Trade: China, Cornwall, salmon and cucumbers

Fri 11 Aug 2023
Posted by: Richard Cree

Newspapers with coffee

This is meant to be the silly season. But even with parliament in recess and the law courts on vacation, trade news doesn’t stop for summer. So the Daily Update is this week launching its new look back at the week just gone.

The big picture: China is never far away from the trade news headlines, but this week seemed to be all about the world's second-largest economy. There were stories about the parlous nature of its economy, with worse than expected trade data and deflation, and the announcement of a US ban on certain tech investments. No wonder Joe Biden described China’s economy as “a ticking time bomb”. 

Good week/bad week: It was a good week for Cornish mining. The green transition means we’ll require huge quantities of the commodities needed for batteries, such as lithium. And this week startup Cornish Lithium announced it had received £54m from three investors to bring its plans to extract lithium from an old tin mine a step nearer, potentially creating 300 jobs.

But it was seemingly a bad week to be a business whose name starts with a W. First Wilko went to the wall and then WeWork warned it has “substantial doubt” it can stay in business.   

Worth finding time for… Regarding the green transition, the FT began an insightful series of in-depth reports looking at how it will create a new generation of commodity superpowers. It began with this fascinating long read on the DRC, home to 70% of the world's cobalt.

How’s stat? This was a big week for economic data. UK GDP and trade data results were slightly better than expected. But in China there was some eye-catchingly bad trade data, including a 14.5% slump in exports (the biggest decline since the early days of Covid-19) and a 12.4% drop in imports. The numbers suggest China is facing combined challenges from a global slowdown and a diplomatic rethink by some major trade partners, as well as a potential domestic slump.

The week in customs: IOE&IT continued to solicit views from across the industry on proposed plans to introduce accreditation for customs brokers and other intermediaries, with the balance of responses to date suggesting it should be a mandatory scheme. 

Quote of the week: “As a succession of crises buffet the global economy … world trade has lost momentum, with trade growth slowing in 2022 and remaining weak into early 2023. That said, global trade growth has remained positive, underscoring how trade has been a force for economic recovery and resilience.”

WTO director general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in the World Trade Statistical Review

What else we covered this week: Executive editor Will Barns-Graham rounded up the latest export controls stories, including regulatory changes and licence updates, while content editor Phil Adnett got both pragmatic with a story on semiconductors and a bit woolly with the latest in our commodity in focus series.

We also welcomed a new member to the Daily Update team (welcome Danielle Keen) and immediately set her the fishy task of reporting on digital certification and the UK salmon industry.  

True facts: The first recorded use of the term silly season has been dated back to 1861. Across the Atlantic they use the more prosaic “slow news season”, while the French know it as the “dead season” and the Germans as “the summer hole”. But in plenty of European countries the silly season is known as “cucumber time”.