The Week in Trade: Common User Charge concerns, UK pivot from China and Canadian gold rush

Fri 5 Apr 2024
Posted by: Danielle Keen

A worrying week for the UK’s small businesses, as the Common User Charge (CUC) for imports was announced this week. Nearshoring could be accelerating, meanwhile as China’s share of UK goods trade fell according to UK in a Changing Europe’s (UKICE) latest trade tracker, and it’s been a bumper month for Canadian gold exports.

The big picture: Proving that important things are often best discussed in person, this week’s phone call between US president Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, their first conversation since November’s comparatively productive meeting in San Francisco, seemed less successful. Trade was high on the agenda with Biden insisting that China’s non-market practices damage the global economy, and Jinping warning that China would not “sit back and watch” while the US continues to control exports of tech.

Good week/bad week: A week of ill portents for small business, as the Common User Charge (CUC) rates to be applied to UK food imports was announced by the Department for Environment, Farming & Rural Affairs (Defra). With consignments potentially costing as much as £145, IOE&IT director charge Marco Forgione warned that the high cost could “wipe out” profits for smaller businesses.

Canada posted a forecast-beating trade surplus of C$1.39bn in February thanks to the export of wrought unwrought gold – gold being the country’s fifth largest export behind oil and gas products and cars. Stuart Bergman, chief economist at Export Development Canada, couldn’t resist celebrating with a pun, calling February a "golden month for exports".

How’s stat? 7.9% – China’s share of UK goods trade in 2023. Down from the 10% enjoyed in 2021, according to UKICE’s latest trade tracker.

The week in customs: A busy week in customs where, in addition to the CUC, there was news that the Single Trade Window (STW) projects will be looking for new volunteers to help with the next phase of the development. The project, which will create one portal through which traders can enter all necessary customs information, will begin user testing shortly. If you’d like to get involved, you can sign up here.  

Quote of the week: “This would be a step backwards for the progress of digital trade and lead to significant impacts on small and medium-sized businesses engaging in ecommerce in those countries which choose to impose tariffs.”

Marco Forgione, director general of IOE&IT, speaking about the possibility of the moratorium on digital trade tariffs ending after this year’s extension, in what would be another blow to small businesses.

What else we covered this week:

Phil Adnett covered an important deal between a Canadian refiner and mining group that could stamp out human rights abuses in the cobalt supply chain, in the latest Commodity in Focus.

Kuwait went to the polls yesterday (4 April), and Danielle Keen looked at the oil-exporting nation’s economy and trade profile.

Benjamin Roche reported on the EU US Trade and Technology Council, which met yesterday to discuss how trade in goods can be used to support the green transition.

True facts: Europe is concerned about the imminent onslaught of cheap solar panels that China will be unleashing on global markets. However, the FT reports that some plucky European firms have begun using them to build fences in Germany and the Netherlands. Trade not, want not.