Tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of the UK voting ‘yes’ to leave the EU in the referendum on membership. It’s been a twisty and rocky road to making this happen – with challenges, detours and hurdles aplenty.
Which is why as IOE&IT’s journalists searched recent national news headlines for global trade stories today (so that you don’t have to), it gladdened the heart to find three encouraging pieces that point to more positive times ahead.
1. US retail sales soar – online and on the high street
As US lockdown restrictions began to be relaxed, the country’s retail sales in May posted a record jump nationwide.
The Daily Telegraph reports that official US data shows retail receipts were up 17.7% in May, the steepest jump since records began in 1992, albeit from a low base in March and April.
E-commerce, we know, has prospered in the COVID-19 pandemic, aided by logistics and delivery companies raising their game to great heights. Overall US spending at online retailers, including Amazon and eBay, rose 9% in May.
However, forecaster Greogry Daco from Oxford Economics sounded a cautionary note in the Telegraph’s article:
“The recovery in consumption will continue as the country emerges from lockdown. [However] the prospects of elevated unemployment, weaker wage growth and depressed confidence mean that it could take a while to see a full recovery of the US economy’s main engine.”
Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell echoed this sentiment, saying that “a full recovery is unlikely” until the public is reassured the virus has been contained.
2. Hopes rise for a UK-EU trade deal
In an article headlined ‘Brexit: why hopes are rising that EU and UK could find compromise’, the Financial Times reports on a more upbeat mood among both sides of negotiators since prime minister Boris Johnson’s summit with his EU counterparts last week.
As part of a ‘greater readiness to do business,’ the FT article goes, both sides are willing to consider ‘tentative compromises’ on sticking points, aiming for a tariff-free, quota-free trade deal by October in time for transition’s end on 31 December 2020.
Top of the compromise league would be the UK accepting tariffs on exports if it deviates from EU ‘level playing field’ rules on state aid, labour and environmental regulations.
3. Government ‘bounce-back’ plan for UK food and drink sectors
As the Daily Update reports today (Monday 22 June) the UK government has unveiled a package of support for local agriculture, food and drink exporters to “turbo charge” what is the country’s single biggest manufacturing sector.
DEFRA and the Department for International Trade are working together to support farmers, food and drink manufacturers and agri-tech firms in recovering from coronavirus.
The plan involves exporting masterclass webinars, showcasing UK exports to new markets overseas and the launch of an ‘SME ‘E-commerce Accelerator Pilot’ to boost international e-commerce backing for small and medium-sized firms in the sector.