Tag Archives: free trade

The Brexit Horror Show: It’s Going To Be Rocky!

We all like to watch a good horror show.. but UK customs trying to manually process our imports? Entertainment it is not!

Are you ready to watch the Brexit horror show unfold?

The National Audit Office (NAO) pubilished a report last Thursday reviewing HM Revenue & Customs’ development of the new Customs Declaration Service (CDS).  The system is being developed in an attempt to manage the predicted 255 million UK customs declarations per year (an increase from 55 million)  once the UK leaves the EU.

But, with a significant amount of work still to be completed before March  2019,  many are concerned about what chaos might ensue.

Amyas Morse,  head of the NAO, did little to disguise his own concerns when he briefed the media on the report this week. He warned of a potential “horror show” at customs if the transition to CDS is not made by January 2019.

He said “What we don’t want to find is that, at the first tap, this falls apart like a chocolate orange.”  (Yep, we were confused by this too – it’s well known that Terry’s Chocolate Oranges are not known for their fragility; hence the marketing slogan “Don’t tap it, whack it!”.)

“It needs to be coming through as uniform, a little bit more like a cricket ball” he continued.

What Is The Customs Declarations Service?

The CDS is a new system, which will be installed to manage all imports and exports post-Brexit, replacing existing system, Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF).

CHIEF can currently process only 100 million declarations per year.  This leaves no question that a new system is needed given that HMRC are estimating an increase to 255 million once new trade and customs agreements are made during Brexit.

Completion of the installation is forecasted for January 2019 which doesn’t allow much room for error or delay given that the UK will officially leave the EU in March 2019. Indeed, the report confirms that there is still a “significant” amount of work to complete and a number of vacancies to fill, which means there’s a pretty good chance that the full functionality of CDS won’t be ready in time.

Ironically, in 2016, the UK came fifth out of 160 countries in the World Bank’s ranking of the efficiency of the border clearance process, including customs. Time will tell if this can be maintained post-Brexit!

Why Should Businesses Be Concerned?

The National Audit Office believes the government is only just starting to realise how difficult Brexit will be.  In a worst-case scenario it would become impossible for customs to collect the £34bn of duty, excise, and VAT taken at the border every year.

Customs officials might have to manually process imports and exports if the new electronic system is not in place, which would of course be a nightmarish scenario for businesses and their supply chains.

Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said “It’s extremely concerning that the UK’s new customs system may not be ready in time for Brexit, potentially resulting in massive delays to trade and leaving thousands of businesses in the lurch.” And hat’s not to mention a lack of confidence businesses will feel in the UK if their flow of goods is disrupted.

“Can government actually step up in these very difficult circumstances and deliver a unified response?” Morse asked. “I’m not seeing it yet.”

The report, and the alarming comments made by Amyas Morse will no doubt increase the pressure on the prime minister to re-evaluate Brexit progress and policy, but will it be in time to stop a customs horror show?

Let us know your thoughts on the NAO report in the comments section below. 

In other procurement and supply-chain news this week….

Bangladesh Factory Blast

  • Major European buyers of apparel supplied by a Bangladesh garment plant have started investigations after a boiler explosion in the plant killed 13 people and injured dozens
  • The explosion occurred during maintenance work at the factory, whose top buyers include Finnish fashion chain Lindex, which is part of Stockmann
  • Stockmann communications manager Anna Bjarland confirmed to SM that the factory supplied garments to both Stockmann and Lindex saying that the company was investigating

Read more on Supply Management

Hazardous chemicals in Tesco’s clothing supply chain

  • Tesco has joined a growing list of major high street retailers in beginning to remove chemicals thought to be hazardous from the supply chain of its clothing brand
  • Greenpeace said Tesco will immediately begin the process of eliminating 11 groups of hazardous substances from its F&F brand, including phthalates, brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, chlorinated solvents and heavy metals
  • Alan Wragg, technical director for clothing at Tesco, said: “This commitment is part of our goal to protect the environment by sourcing products sustainably and responsibly for our customers.”

Read more on Business Reporter 

Could China lead the way with AI?

  • In the battle of technological innovation between East and West, artificial intelligence (AI) is on the front line. And China’s influence is growing
  • China has invested massively in AI research since 2013, and these efforts are yielding incredible results. China’s AI pioneers are already making great strides in core AI fields
  • It is becoming clear that belief in U.S. dominance of the tech world is flagging. As it stands, China is in the driver’s seat

Read more on Venturebeat

Should Procurement Pros Be Concerned About Global Trade?

Renowned economist and Big Ideas Speaker Dr Linda Yueh explains why CPOs needn’t panic about the President Trump administration but there are causes of concern. 

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

Donald Trump made good on a campaign promise on the first day of his presidency by signing an executive order indicating the United States won’t ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

Though expected, the move caused a media storm and a flurry of responses from politicians and businesses all around the globe. But what does this mean for supply managers?

Many CPOs are understandably nervous about the Trump administration’s policies with regards to global trade. The resurgence of protectionism in the U.S., coupled with the continuing fallout and trade effects of Brexit, has left many procurement professionals wondering which region of the world they should plan to source from in the future.

The TPP was a massive free-trade agreement advocated by the Obama administration, aimed at deepening economic ties between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, cutting taxes, and fostering trade to boost economic growth in the process. Trump argued on the campaign trail that the agreement would be harmful to the U.S. manufacturing sector. As he signed the withdrawal order, he called it “a great thing for the American worker”.

Economist, broadcaster, author and Big Ideas Summit guest speaker Dr. Linda Yueh’s message to CPOs is one of caution but it’s not time to panic.

Don’t panic

According to Linda, there are three reasons not to panic about what Trump’s protectionist tendencies will mean for procurement, trade, and global supply chains.

  • We need to keep in mind that trade takes place under WTO rules. China is the U.S.’s biggest trading partner, despite no free trade agreement being in place. Of course, if Trump were to pull out of the WTO, then that would be a game changer. But, globalisation, especially e-commerce and the Internet linking markets and people, will mean that trade is likely to continue across borders as it’s hard to see a significant roll-back Costs of trade, of course, are another issue to be focused on.
  • Luckily, the Trump administration hasn’t honed in on e-commerce, which is good news for procurement and supply chains. Currently, one in ten transactions are already undertaken via e-commerce, and this figure will continue to grow.
  • Trump may have moved quickly to sign the TPP withdrawal order on his first day in office, but that wasn’t a formal agreement. Extricating the United States from NAFTA for instance will require renegotiation time and then a period of notice before that free trade agreement would end. Even then, most trade agreements include implementation periods, so a “cliff edge” is unlikely which gives businesses time to plan. Therefore, there’s no need to panic or overhaul your supply chain immediately. But, of course, forward planning and following economic policies would be wise. Also, take Brexit as an example – if Britain succeeds in triggering Article 50 in March 2017, then the UK is scheduled to leave the EU by the end of March 2019 – almost three full years after the people’s vote. And even there, the Prime Minister has indicated that there may be an implementation period to allow more time for businesses to adjust to leaving the Single Market.

Things to watch

So, Linda warns that supply managers should keep an eye on certain factors as global trade adjusts to these seismic political shifts.

1) U.S. border taxes – recently, Trump threatened BMW with a 35 per cent border tax on foreign-built cars imported to the U.S. market. This isn’t an isolated incident and American companies are under even more pressure to produce in the U.S.. Congress is also considering a similar tax, so that is worth bearing in mind as that would have the force of legislation.

2) U.K. Tariffs – one of the consequences of a “hard” Brexit where the UK leaves the EU without any preferential trade deal, which would include no agreement on the Single Market, Customs Union, is the re-emergence of customs for EU trade. Right now, significant customs procedures only apply to non-EU shipments. But, with around half of UK exports going to the EU, taking leave of Britain’s membership in the EU with no deal would means the end of free movement of goods. More customs declarations and duties would raise costs, slow down supply chains and certainly add time at border checks. A potential ‘hard border’ would be a particular issue for Ireland.

3) Resourcing Brexit – the UK Government also needs to think about the resourcing challenges involved in ramping up staff as well as IT systems to cope with the doubling of customs checks on the UK border.

4) NAFTA – As mentioned earlier, Trump has also flagged that the North American Free Trade Agreement (between Canada, Mexico and the U.S.) is up for renegotiation. If you’re a U.S. company, you need to start making plans now about how these changes will affect you. The same applies to any other of America’s free trade deals with 20 countries that Trump would have the authority to re-examine.

What about China?

Globalisation has helped China become a manufacturing powerhouse, but with numerous closed markets.

However, there are very good reasons to continue to do business with China. Wages may be rising but that helps businesses to think about China as a market as well as one production locale in a supply chain. Plus, with growing protectionism in America, China’s President has signalled that China may take more of a lead in globalisation. There’s a lot to watch for.

In short, Linda’s advice to CPOs around the world is keep calm, but keep an eye on the details as the globalisation landscape is shifting significantly. Global trade won’t end tomorrow but it will likely look rather different in the coming years.

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 in London.

Can Procurement Lead the Fight Against Protectionism?

Protectionism will never produce a win-win situation. And it can be a huge wall for procurement to work around.

protectionism

Few procurement professionals view their role through the lenses of either protectionism or free trade. But the protectionism-free trade dimension is a crucial topic for procurement, so it is certainly worth thinking about the impacts on procurement the world over.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines protectionism as, “the theory or practice of shielding a country’s domestic industries from foreign competition.” Further, protectionism is a mind set as much as formal policy; it is the intentional or inadvertent preference for domestic industries over foreign industries.

Free trade meanwhile is “international trade left to its natural course without tariffs, quotas or other restrictions”.

The translation into procurement is fairly simple. Protectionism is limiting access to domestic procurement markets to foreign suppliers, and the preference for awarding public contracts to domestic rather than foreign suppliers. Free trade is the absence of this.

Protectionism is largely, or partly, illegal between numerous countries with free trade agreements (FTAs), such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or are part of a trade bloc such as the European Union. But protectionism includes more subtle biases.

Ideas around boosting the local economy, creating local jobs and protecting the local environment are all protectionist when preferred over equal boosts to an economy, job creation, or the environment elsewhere.

Protectionism – A Zero Sum Game

The first strand of this article is that protectionism harms economies, jobs and prosperity, locally and globally, for two reasons.

Firstly, it is intuitive to think that sourcing goods and services locally has positive impacts, creating jobs and economic growth in the local area. But this is a zero sum game.

Protectionism is normally reciprocated. If one country has policy preference for domestic businesses, then other countries respond in the same way, offsetting the benefit. Protectionism may allow Country A to create more local jobs by awarding contracts to domestic businesses. However, when Country B does the same, export jobs in Country A are lost.

No more jobs are created and no additional economic growth is produced by procuring from domestic suppliers. Domestic industries get some short term benefit and exporters lose out.

Should We Really Favour Our Own Country?

Protectionists argue that public procurement in their own country should favour domestic businesses. In the UK, the contract for a large rail project in London was awarded to Germany’s Siemens, ahead of UK-based Bombardier. Cue outrage at job losses in the UK factory because the government awarded to a foreign business.

Unless protectionists believe they deserve double standards, this logic dictates that Bombardier should not have won contracts with Trenitalia, Italy’s main train operator. Nor should British architects have been awarded the contract to build the dome for the German Reichstag.

These created British jobs from German and Italian taxpayers. Hundreds of thousands of British jobs rely on British businesses winning public contracts outside the UK through non-discriminatory competition.

In the USA, incoming president Trump has riled against other countries “stealing” American jobs. However, he does not seem to oppose German, Japanese and Korean car manufacturers employing hundreds of thousands of workers in American factories. But surely the British and American governments’ obligations are to their own workers and businesses?

Maybe so. A country having an obligation to help domestic businesses and workers more than the rest of the world is understandable, but there is not actually any gain. Protectionism also makes British and American citizens and workers worse off.

Reducing Choice & Raising Costs

This leads onto the second reason. Protectionism gives citizens fewer choices of what they can buy and increases their living costs. The belief that protectionism helps local communities at all is flawed.

Free trade allows consumers to have the best goods, regardless of location. In the developed world, the UK is bad at growing bananas and the USA makes expensive toys, so free trade enriches citizens by allowing better bananas and cheaper toys.

Free trade allows businesses and citizens in the developing world to access the best technology and equipment that is not or cannot be effectively produced locally. In essence, protectionism limits the goods that citizens can buy, to everyone’s loss.

Hamstrung by Protectionism?

This has the exact same impact on procurement and the second strand of this article is that the procurement industry is hamstrung by protectionism. Protectionism harms both the procuring entity and ultimately the users of public services.

If a hospital needs new radiotherapy machines, it should procure the machines with the best combination of quality and price. In a world of 7 billion people, the best radiotherapy machines will probably not be made locally, and maybe not domestically.

Basing buying decisions on nationality rather than value for money and effectiveness of the radiotherapy machines hurts cancer patients and increases costs for taxpayers. As protectionism is reciprocated, it decreases consumer choices and increases import costs. This is without even a net benefit for domestic industries or workers.

This conclusion that should therefore be reached is that every protectionist move has pros and cons, but the pros are directly and equally offset by counter-moves, leaving only the cons intact and everyone worse off. Hardly a desirable outcome.

So in the context of the Brexit vote, Trump’s victory and the stagnation in global trade, the case needs to be made now more than ever that protectionism on net harms prosperity. Procurement functions have a large role and responsibility to their organisations, countries and the world to avoid it.