Week Ahead in International Trade: Oil and gas debate and further freeport discussions

Mon 8 Jan 2024
Posted by: Danielle Keen

digital news: on laptop and phone

Parliament is back, with the Commons sitting for the first time this year today (8 January) and the Lords following closely behind tomorrow.

The world of trade has barely had a break, but Sunak’s controversial oil and gas bill will be met with interest. That legislation is facing its second reading in the coming days. There will also be further evaluation this week of the performance of UK freeports and investment zones.

Oil and gas bill

Rishi Sunak’s controversial oil and gas legislation will be debated in parliament today. First introduced in November, the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill would facilitate an annual licensing regime allowing for greater North Sea oil extraction.

The government claims that the bill will boost the economy, energy security and support the net zero transition, with commitments that the production of UK oil and gas will be less polluting than high-emission imports of liquified natural gas.

Energy security and net zero secretary Claire Coutinho said that “rather than importing dirtier fuels from abroad” the bill will “give industry the certainty to invest in jobs here and unlock billions of pounds for our own transition to clean energy”.

However, the bill’s green credentials have been roundly challenging, including from within the Conservative Party.Former secretary for business, energy and industrial strategy and COP26 president, Alok Sharma, criticised the bill, telling the Guardian he won’t be voting for it.

"What this bill does do is reinforce that unfortunate perception about the UK rowing back from climate action.

“Just a few weeks ago at Cop28 the UK government signed up to transition away from fossil fuels. This bill is actually about doubling down on new oil and gas licences.”

Red Sea hold-ups

On Tuesday (9 January), the Foreign Affairs Committee will be hearing from Lord Cameron in an oral evidence session.

Originally slated ahead of the festive period, the session was postponed in light of the continuing shipping crisis in the Red Sea, as sustained Houthi attacks on commercial vessels have led to most operators diverting ships around the Horn of Africa.

Freeports and investment zones

On Wednesday (10 January), the Business and Trade Committee’s inquiry into UK freeports and investment zones continues. The inquiry began in October with evidence submitted by IOE&IT director of strategic projects and international development Kevin Shakespeare.

As tax breaks and relaxed customs rules in freeports are designed to promote increased business activity and growth in the surrounding areas, it’ll be levelling up secretary Michael Gove taking the questions from MPs this time round.

Expectations are that questions will focus on how current policy has evolved and whether the current set of incentives are working effectively to create jobs in the selected regions, rather than diverting them from other parts of the UK.

Introduction to Incoterms

New Year resolutions are hopefully not waning by week two of the year, but if motivation is in short supply, IOE&IT can offer a chance to brush up on trade knowledge or learn something new.

Thursday (11 January) will see the return of the Introduction to Incoterms course – a one-day training session covering the essentials of this decade’s edition of the much-used commercial terms.

Delegates will learn about how they can benefit from the 2020 edition, how to choose the right terms for different movements and how the terms intersect with the new UK-EU trading relationship.

Other dates in the diary:

Monday – Launch of Peregrine 1, the first mission of NASA’s commercial lunar payload services (CLPS) initiative

Tuesday – International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) opens

Wednesday –ILO World Employment and Social Outlook Report and World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual Global Risk Report released

Thursday – OECD consumer price indices published

Friday – UK overseas trade figures released

Saturday – Taiwanese presidential election held

Sunday – National security advisers meet in Switzerland to discuss the war in Ukraine