Government report sets out how UK aims to be global digital trade leader – move welcomed by IOE and IT

Fri 26 Nov 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

A new report by the Board of Trade published today outlines the huge opportunities digital trade presents for boosting UK exports – an initiative welcome by the IOE&IT as it promotes the benefits of digitalising trade.

International trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan launched the report as part of a two-day visit to Northern Ireland, a region that has more than 100 cyber-security firms.

Trevelyan said the UK was building a global network of next-generation trade deals, incorporating digital provisions.

“By addressing digital protectionism on the global stage and championing a free, open, and competitive digital economy, more UK companies will be able to export their innovative, high-quality services and goods globally,” she said.

Report recommendations

The report recommends that the UK leverages its trade agenda to be at the forefront of the digital revolution by:

  • Focusing its digital trade policy around five goals: open digital markets; free and trusted data flows; consumer and business safeguards; digital trading systems; and partnerships to shape global rules, norms, and standards
  • Concluding accession to CPTPP and building a pipeline of modern digital FTAs
  • Pushing for substantial progress in ongoing WTO e-commerce negotiations
  • Using the UK’s G7 Presidency, and membership of the G20, OECD, and World Trade Organization to advocate for an open, inclusive digital economy
  • Pursuing the Digital Economy Agreement with Singapore
  • Continuing to promote UK exports globally and showcase the UK as a strong and competitive place to invest and do digital business

IOE&IT: ‘Britain can lead digital trade revolution’

Marco Forgione, director general of the IOE&IT, said:

“Following hot on the heels of the publication [during International Trade Week 15-19 November] of the government’s Export Strategy, the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) welcomes the Board of Trade’s report into digital trade.

“The rules for digital trade are largely unwritten and it is essential for the UK to take a leading role in their development. By embracing change, British businesses can become world leaders in this digital revolution and vastly boost their exporting capabilities in the process.

‘Cutting bureaucracy’

Forgione said there was “no doubt that digitalising trade will cut red tape, increase efficiencies, reduce the cost of doing business, as well as unlocking a potential $9tn in growth. Digital trade will allow for more sustainable practices and the removal of key barriers to entry to international trade for companies of all sizes.”

During International Trade Week the IOE&IT published its own report on digital trade, called The Digitalisation of Trade: SMEs Driving Innovation, highlighting the transformative effect of digital innovation. “We are here to support British businesses on their digital journey and ensure that they can trade more efficiently, faster and compliantly,” Forgione added.

Booming sector

In October, Britain helped broker a deal between the G7 nations on principles to govern cross-border data use and digital trade in a first step to reducing barriers.

The Board of Trade, which champions exports and inward investment, said Britain should aim to build on the G7 agreement, working with other countries to update the “global rulebook” on buying and selling goods and services online, the Independent reports.

Digital deals

Digital provisions have been built into British negotiations for free trade agreements with Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

The UK is also negotiating a Digital Economy Agreement with Singapore, one of the most digitally-advanced countries in the Asia Pacific.

Celebrating cross-border Ireland trade

In Northern Ireland yesterday, Trevelyan described that the growth in sales by local companies to those in the Republic of Ireland since the introduction of the Northern Ireland Protocol as “fantastic”.

Last week the minister told the Telegraph that Article 16 was unlikely to be triggered before Christmas as dialogue between Britain and the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol continues.

She said that Protocol discussions were “progressing rather slowly and painfully” and that the two sides “will plod on doing the work that negotiators do,” adding: “I don’t think anyone’s calling Article 16 before Christmas, absolutely not.”