UK pledge to lead on international regulatory cooperation is good news for traders

Thu 3 Sept 2020
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

uk irc

The government yesterday (2 September) announced it will pursue greater international alignment in its post-Brexit policy and rule-making processes – a move which has already been praised by leading trade policy experts as good news for traders.

The pledge follows a review – conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – over how the country’s regulatory framework currently aligns with international rules and standards.

The government says it now hopes to “consider the opportunities to utilise international evidence, shape international norms and collaborate with international partners when designing and enforcing regulations”.

OECD review

The UK requested the OECD to conduct an ‘International Regulatory Co-ordination’ (IRC) review and it was published in May this year.

Although recognising the UK as a “leader in regulatory policy” the OECD did comment that IRC was “implicitly rather than overtly embedded” into UK policy and regulation, with no single body given oversight to ensure a “common narrative or policy to catalyse” international cooperation.

The review concluded that this resulted in an “ad hoc” approach to considering and shaping international rules and standards.

OECD recommendations

The OECD recommended the UK take the following actions:

  • Build a holistic IRC vision with clearly defined roles and responsibilities for oversight
  • Better embed IRC considerations in policy tools throughout the rule making process
  • Increase awareness and understanding about IRC across departments and regulators

Government response

Lord Callanan, the minister for corporate responsibility, presented the government’s response to the review yesterday, saying “international cooperation will be key as the world continues to recover from the pandemic”.

The government will now look to “develop specific tools and guidance” for policy makers to better implement IRC and will establish “networks to convene international policy professionals” to share experience and best practice.

Trade impact

The move will be welcomed by the country’s exporters and importers because it means the government is pursuing a “harmonised trading environment”, according to one of the UK’s lead policy experts.

Chris Southworth, the secretary general for the International Chamber of Commerce in the UK, told the Daily Update today (3 September) that he welcomes the government’s response to the review.

“We fully endorse this approach,” he said. “A harmonised regulatory environment is definitely favourable for the UK’s internationally trading businesses – particular for services, which comprise 80% of the UK economy”.

UK leading the way

Southworth said the announcement was further evidence of the prominent role the UK is already playing in leading international cooperation, including its role in WTO negotiations on regulatory barriers to trade.

He also said the UK is leading the way on IRC in financial services, telecoms and in relation to competition law.

“The UK is involved in positive initiatives, but more co-operation is welcome, particularly as regulatory barriers are on the increase,” he said. “The more co-operation we have, the more we can reduce risk.”

Call for evidence

As part of its response to the OECD review, the government is now also calling for evidence from regulators, standards bodies and other interested parties to help inform its future IRC strategy.

People can submit evidence here and the deadline to do so is 25 November 2020.