The Year Ahead in International Trade

Fri 5 Jan 2024
Posted by: Benjamin Roche
Features

Year ahead in 2024

After a major year for UK trade in 2023 with the agreement of the Windsor Framework and a number of other big moments, we’re taking a look ahead to what 2024 might hold.

From UK and US elections to the imminent implementation of the Border Target Operating Model (BTOM), it will be a big year for trade and for the politics driving it.

Winter window

Important early dates in the UK political calendar include 8 January, when the House of Commons comes back from its recess, and 18 January, the deadline for a decision on the return of power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

For the EU, the month also marks the 25-year anniversary since the launch of the euro, while Taiwanese elections on 13 January may also make their mark on the shape of trade in the coming months. There is also the 54th World Economic Forum meeting to look forward to in Davos, Switzerland.

The end of January will see the Border Target Operating Model enter force, too, though there have been concerns expressed by some that exporters and importers in the EU are not yet fully prepared for the changes it is likely to bring.

The Bank of England will have its first interest rate decision of the year to make come February, and the pressure will be on for them to lower the current rate of 5.25% should inflation continue to fall.

The UK economy will be in the spotlight too, as Q4 2023 GDP stats confirm whether the UK avoided or slipped into recession following a 0.1% contraction of the economy in Q3, while on the international stage the World Trade Organization (WTO) will hold its 13th Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi 26–29 February.

Spring in their steps?

With a spring election seemingly ruled out by prime minister Rishi Sunak yesterday (4 January), Labour Party poll preparations may have to continue into the autumn, while the Liberal Democrats could be waiting a while after their 15 March spring conference to test their election mettle.

Two days later comes the Russian election, which is unlikely to spring any surprise results with most rivals to president Vladimir Putin excluded from the ballot. Ukrainian elections at the end of the month, meanwhile, are in limbo as arguments continue over whether they can realistically be held during wartime.

April is the coolest month for former UK prime minister Liz Truss, who will be treating readers to her new book, Ten Years to Save the West. Even more significantly, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank will hold their spring meetings in Washington from 19–21 of the month.

If there are to be any electoral earthquakes in UK politics this year, tremors might first be felt on 2 May, when English local elections and the London mayoral election will be held.

Summer elections

While the 2024 editions of the Euros and the Summer Olympics are likely to get many excited, trade eyes will be more firmly fixed this summer on the European parliamentary elections, held 6 June.

These could produce major changes with implications for trade, as the EU contends with the consequences of the Ukraine conflict and voter anger on the issue of migration that many saw as responsible for Geert Wilders’s success in the recent Dutch election. Hungary taking over the six-month presidency of the EU could also throw up some controversy.

On 30 June, meanwhile, comes the deadline for Big Four accounting firms to abide by a Financial Reporting Council order to separate their audit practices from their main business.

Autumn meetings

UK politics will kick up a gear in September as party conferences will likely focus on preparations for an election, should one not have been held already.

Internationally, the UN Summit of the Future will take place 22 September, followed by a UN General Assembly General Debate. The European Commission president will also be giving a State of the Union address in the same month.

October will be another month for international meetings too, as the 27th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) takes place in Samoa on 21 October, and there will be a new NATO secretary general taking office.

The US will hold its presidential election on 5 November, most likely a second tussle between current president Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump, with considerable implications for the nation’s trade policy resting on the outcome. Following it will be even more international engagements, with the COP29 climate summit in Azerbaijan and a G20 summit in Brazil both taking place before the turn of December.

The last month of the year will mark Sunak’s last chance to call a UK election for January 2025. On the very last day of the year, the country is set to adopt the second pillar of a set of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) tax recommendations that aim to establish a minimum 15% tax on global corporations operating in their territory.