The Week in Trade: US-China talks, Florida MOU and Starmer's words on whisky

Fri 17 Nov 2023
Posted by: Benjamin Roche

newspaper on table with coffee

The week of the first Import Export Show also saw a host of smaller news items, such as US President Joe Biden’s meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the APEC summit in California and a dramatic cabinet reshuffle from UK PM Rishi Sunak.

The big picture: The Biden-Xi meeting yielded a little progress on a number of issues, not least among them climate change, with consensus on cutting methane emissions, which David Waskow of the World Resources Institute told the BBC was a “major step”. China is the world’s largest emitter of the greenhouse gas.

As well as offering cooperation on stamping out illegal fentanyl production and resuming military communication, Xi also suggested China could send pandas to US zoos. He wasn’t just in talks with Biden this week, either, as he also met with Japanese leader Fumio Kishida in San Francisco to discuss economic cooperation and hail the launch of a new export control framework.

Good week/bad week: There was some welcome news for business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch this week, as she signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) alongside the governor of Florida Ron DeSantis. The MoU is aimed at boosting trade between the UK and Florida, which boasts a £1.1trn economy, the fourth biggest in the US.

A less good week for Greg Hands, MP for Chelsea and Fulham, who got something of a demotion this week, moving from chair of the Conservative Party back to be a minister at the Department for Business and Trade, a role he has served three times before. The change came as Rishi Sunak served up a spicy cabinet reshuffle that included the unexpected return of former PM David Cameron as foreign secretary.

How’s stat? £2bn – the estimated cost saving for UK industry from mooted changes to UK Reach chemical regulations that would demand fewer data disclosures.

The week in customs: The UK’s talks with India over a trade deal rumble on, and this week saw reporting from ET Energyworld claiming that the UK is seeking customs duty concessions on exports of electric vehicles (EVs) to the Indian market. Maybe relevant to that request is the news that the EU market for EVs is slowing, as consumers seek cheaper options that are yet to come to market, per Reuters.

Defra has invited traders to take part in a survey evaluating how they are preparing for new SPS import controls under the Border Target Operating Model. The details can be found in their Border Bulletin.

Today, the Daily Update is also taking a look at how UK firms can negotiate the new sanctions on Russian iron and steel being introduced by the UK and EU.

Quote of the week: “Scotch should be something we’re knocking back, not knocking down. The nation’s number one export, Scotland is the beating heart of the world’s whisky industry. Nowhere is Scotch whisky more popular than India. We should be celebrating that fact.”

Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, on the need for a trade agreement with India that takes maximum advantage of Scotland’s large whisky exports.

What else we covered this week: The inaugural Import Export Show loomed large for us all this week, as the event saw insights delivered on digitalised trade and sustainability as well as panels on growing an exporting business and the announcement of the winners of the first International Trade Awards.

Beyond the big day in London, we also took a look back at last week’s International Trade Week events, with IOE&IT trade agreement specialist Ana Sofia German dubbing it a “great platform” for idea exchange on trade.

The introduction of a UK carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) in the Autumn Statement was also trailed, as insiders gave details on the policy, which follows a consultation earlier in the year.

True facts: Today is International Students’ Day, and for students of history in 1869 it was also an historic moment for trade, as the Suez Canal was inaugurated. Even more significantly, perhaps, 17 November is when Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor of California. We’ll be back next week with more.