On 26 March 2018, the APPG’s Secretariat, ACCA convened a roundtable of the Sector Advisory Group Chairs and the Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox MP. at Portcullis House Westminster.
Since the second meeting of the sector advisory Chairs in January 2018, the advisory groups have been working on ‘challenge papers’ based on the initial scoping discussions between the groups. These papers attempt to identify existing barriers to trade, areas for improved government support or intervention and opportunities arising from prospective trade agreements on the horizon.
The Secretary of State opened with a brief introduction outlining the strengths of the Department since its inception in exports, investment and trade policy. 3.7% increase in global trade and a 13.2% increase in UK exports.
The Minister applauded recent data which shows that UK manufacturing has enjoyed 30 consecutive quarters of growth, the longest period of continuous growth in 50 years. He also highlighted the highest level of FDI ever in the UK last year despite a year which saw an overall fall in global FDI. Recent DIT surveys of investor sentiment shows that investors consistently choose the UK because of its robust and consistent legal system, skilled workforce, taxation environment as well as access to cutting edge technological developments and world class UK educational institutions.
The Secretary of State said the UK will continue to have access to EU third country agreements during the transitional period (around 40 in total) and will be taking the time allowed by the implementation period to move to more bespoke deals, including with the US, Australia and New Zealand.
Moderated by Chair of the APPG for International Trade, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, Advisory Group Chairs were given 2 minutes to present the main points of their paper to the Secretary of State with an opportunity for reply from the Minister.
Energy & Infrastructure
Stuart Thompson, Head of Public Affairs at Bircham Dyson Bell and Energy & Infrastructure Chair raised issues on clarity on improvements to globally relevant UK infrastructure and access to high volume, EU labour which underpins UK infrastructure projects.
The Secretary of State said there would be three levels of infrastructure across the UK that we would need to succeed; hard transport infrastructure, soft infrastructure such as digital connectivity and world-class talent pools.
Helen Brocklebank, CEO at Walpole and Consumer Goods Chair raised the groups desire to see a continuation of regulatory frameworks- particularly on IP protections and selective distribution, advance DIT support (inc Great Campaign) to help SME’s gain a foothold in-market.
The Secretary of State noted the recent boost in funding for the Great Campaign and appointment of new Trade Commissioners; people would need to be moved to where trade value is focused rather than just political centres.
Financial and Related Professional Services
Gary Campkin, Director of Policy and Strategy at TheCityUK and Professional Services Chair suggested the UK has an opportunity now to become a global ‘thoughtleader’ on standards and stressed the importance of cross-border data flows to businesses offering services globally and data localisation as a protectionist issue. Gary highlighted the need for access to global talent, including access arrangements for skilled financial professionals and mutual recognition of qualifications.
The Secretary of State said the lack of a single market for services has held UK services exports back- last year only 38% of exports to the EU were in services where over 50% of global exports were in services. The UK would be seeking to get away from identity of regulation to move towards regulatory equivalence. The UK would seek to move towards equivalence based on outcomes for global trade.
The Secretary of State said that he regretted that movement on global data flows had been held up at EU level.
John McVay, Chief Executive at the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television and Creative Industries Chair outlined the high proportion of SMEs of that fail to export in the sector. John said TAP Grants are vital and called for a new sector body to work with the Department to align funding. John highlighted the continued importance for the UK Fashion industry of Unregistered Design Rights across Europe and called for the exemption of audio-visual from FTAs as inclusion could impact the BBC.
The Secretary of State invited John to issue a brief ahead of his imminent travel to the US as well as noting that difficulties with SME investment can stem from SMEs being unable to take on projects for the volumes of capital investors look to deploy. The government would be looking to do the due diligence for SMEs to help them attract investments. The Secretary of State also reiterated that the rules for UK export finance had changed and businesses were now able to get this directly from the banks.
Smart Technologies & Digital Services
Matthew Houlihan, Director of Corporate and Government Affairs at Cisco and Smart Technologies & Digital Services Chair reiterated the importance of breaking down barriers and adopting a more globally consistent approach to global data flows would be important. The group felt that the regulatory environment should look for EU alignment, there are areas of emerging technology, such as AI, in which the UK can set out alone to become a home for innovation through its regulatory approaches. The UK should also sign up to the WTO IT agreement offering zero-rated tariffs on tech products.
The Secretary of State said that data flows will likely be one of the most difficult issues in EU negotiations because of disparity in member states approaches. This had held up TiSA and prevented further talks with the US which the UK could explore when it leaves the EU. The Minister said the UK should not prioritise today’s economy at the expense of tomorrows.
Process & Engineering
Mike Houghton, Managing Director for Process Industries & Drives Division at Siemens and Process & Engineering Chair raised a government level lack of strategy for the 4th industrial revolution and suggested the Made Smarter Review as a platform for progression.The UK must to do more to compete for FDI with investment frameworks and incentives.
The Secretary of State said that the key for manufacturing would be guiding investment through investor guidance for those new to the UK Market. Investors don’t come to the UK for a high yield environment but for stability and reliable returns; this would underpin the UK’s long-term growth.
Hospitality, Tourism & Leisure
Ufi Ibrahim Hospitality, Tourism & Leisure Chair outlined that he industry had grown however, comparative performance with other countries was lacking. Ufi’s group felt easing the visa requirements for Chinese tourist visitors would greatly help the industry and outlined the soft power of tourism stating analysis which shows that anyone visiting the UK was 20% more likely to subsequently invest in the UK. Availability of talent remains important to the industry.
The Secretary of State stated government awareness over issues with visas and recognised the mismatch between visiting Chinese students and tourists which demonstrates a willingness to come if the UK can provide what they need. The Secretary of State said much of problem came from a lack of air routes to China. The Great Campaign would also subsequently be looking at improving perceptions and getting tourists outside of London.
Agribusiness, Food & Drink
John Whitehead OBE, Director at the Food and Drink Exporters Association and Agribusiness, Food & Drink Chair said the UK’s current physical certification system could be streamlined by making better use of modern technology and raised the lack of Border Inspection Posts (BIPs) which could mean produce was held up at main ports upon leaving the EU. John called for greater technical, legal and standards guidance- including veterinary and phytosanitary counsel in UK embassies in foreign markets.
The Secretary of State acknowledged the need for a new border arrangement and said that this was an opportunity to future-proof border arrangements. The system needed immediate investment and new technologies such as blockchain could vastly improve border processes. The Treasury has made money available for this.
The Secretary of State said the Department was working on support overseas, with 22 UK Export finance people in-market to help with issues such as financing and insurance. This will also help get companies in to more risky markets with a new reasonably priced, political risk insurance offered directly by UK Export Finance to cover non-payment of government contracts and terrorism etc.
Healthcare and Life Sciences
Paul Benton, Managing Director at the Association of British Healthcare Industries and Healthcare and Life Sciences Chair’s group called for regulatory alignment with the EU over medicines and devices and highlighted the new opportunity for the MHRA to play a role in global harmonisation of regulation. Paul’s group welcomed any opportunity to work with government to reverse the decline of private patients coming to the UK for treatment. Paul raised concerns around time delays on just-in-time medical products as a result of leaving the customs union.
The Secretary of State said the government would look to align with the European Medicines Agency. The Minister said the UK industry had a history of not overproducing professionals for fear of professional unemployment. However, to grow services exports, he acknowledged the country would need more professionals including accountants, doctors, lawyers and health technicians.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a round-up of the meeting, full copy of the Challenge Papers presented by the groups can be found here: