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STTAS EMEA Trade Report


The UK has accepted there will be customs checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea

The U.K. on Wednesday 20th May finally admitted there will be a post-Brexit trade border down the Irish Sea. In its plan detailing how the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland will function once the U.K. leaves the EU customs union, the U.K. government said there will be no “international border” between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. That is a very different thing to a trade border — and showed the journey Britain has been on. EU leaders had become increasingly frustrated at suggestions Britain was not taking seriously the scale of administration required to implement the Withdrawal Agreement Boris Johnson struck with Brussels last year. The deal will keep Northern Ireland in the customs union of both territories, in order to maintain an open border with the Republic of Ireland under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. It means Northern Ireland can reap the benefits of U.K. trade deals — a major argument for Brexit — but will have to comply with EU rules, placing a protective customs ring around the nation.

For many months, Johnson appeared unwilling to accept the full implications of what he had signed up for. The prime minister told Conservative members in November: “There will not be tariffs or checks on goods coming from GB to NI that are not going on to Ireland — that’s the whole point.” He said that if any business is asked to fill in customs declaration paperwork, they should telephone him “and I will direct them to throw that form in the bin.”

The U.K. got out of that one by insisting all the paperwork will be digital. U.K. authorities will have to apply EU customs rules to goods entering Northern Ireland, adding that it would entail “some new administrative process for traders, notably new electronic import declaration requirements, and safety and security information.” It insisted there would be no new customs infrastructure in Northern Ireland, before confirming that existing infrastructure for animal and food checks would be expanded to cope with the new workload. Livestock moves are already subject to checks, but food is not. Former Prime Minister Theresa May, whose solution to the Irish border conundrum was to maintain EU customs rules and create a border down the Irish Sea, allowed herself an “I told you so” moment. During a Commons statement on the announcement, she asked Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove whether the U.K. will have to abide by EU regulations on some goods — possibly indefinitely. Gove insisted the Northern Irish Assembly will have the chance to ditch the system in 2024, but admitted: “It is the case that there will be EU regulations … that will apply in Northern Ireland to 2024.” The European Commission appeared satisfied with the plan. A spokesman said the proposal “provides a stable and lasting solution to address the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland.” But officials in Brussels will study the document more closely to ensure it meets their demands on keeping the single market secure and respecting the Good Friday Agreement.



Britain not automatically entitled to any trade benefits

The European Union’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said on Wednesday (20 May) that Britain was not automatically entitled to any benefits that the bloc had previously granted to other partners on trade.

As the two sides attempt to negotiate a new post-Brexit trade and political partnership, London’s chief negotiator David Frost published a letter on Tuesday accusing Brussels of denying it trade benefits the bloc previously granted others.

“There is no automatic entitlement to any benefits that the EU may have offered or granted in other contexts and circumstances to other, often very different, partners,” Barnier said in his reply.

“The UK cannot expect high-quality access to the EU single market if it is not prepared to accept guarantees to ensure that competition remains open and fair,” Barnier said regarding the main sticking point in talks about so-called “level playing field” safeguards.

After Frost published a letter saying the EU was only offering Britain a “low quality” trade deal, Barnier said he rejected combative public statements and would prefer to engage in real technical negotiations.

He said Britain would have to commit to upholding standards on state aid, competition, climate, tax and labour in order for it to be allowed to trade freely with the bloc after the status-quo transition period following Brexit ends, which is currently due to happen on 31 December.

Talks on a new pact to cover everything from trade to fisheries to security from 2021 have reached an impasse before a key deadline at the end of June, when the bloc and London are to assess their progress.

They can then either agree to extend negotiations beyond the end of this year – something Johnson has rejected repeatedly – or face severe economic, financial and trade damage should Britain crash out, breaking its close-knit EU ties without a deal in place to cushion the shock.

“Success of our negotiations will only be possible if tangible and parallel progress is made across all areas of negotiations,” Barnier said, listing progress on a level playing field, governance and fisheries as needed “to avoid a stalemate”.



Middle East


Kuwait organisations in deal to build new industrial port

The Kuwait Port Authority has joined hands with the Public Authority for Industry (PAI) for the design and construction of an industrial port in the south of the country, reported Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).  The MoU, which also includes a joint study for the project, aims to elevate Kuwait’s position worldwide and enhance its local manufacturing capability, stated the report.  A public sector body run on a commercial basis under the Ministry of Communications, the Kuwait Port Authority manages three commercial ports in Kuwait namely Shuwaikh, Shuaiba and Doha ports.

The PAI was set up by the government to develop the industrial activity in Kuwait and romote it besides supervising it and develop the industrial base so that the strategic national economic goals are achieved.  The final agreement will be inked after getting the official nod from the boards of both authorities, remarked its General Manager Abdulkarim Taqi after signing the MoU with PAI Director General Sheikh Yousef Abdullah Al Sabah.  As per the deal, PAI will be responsible for the design, construction, and operation of the new port when the project’s studies are approved, while the Kuwait Port Authority will choose and supervise industrial activities, he added.




(South Africa) New platform launched to speed up cargo inspections

The launch of a new digital platform for cargo inspections is expected to speed up the process for clearing and forwarding agents.  According to Michael Henning, sales manager for software service provider Easyclear, which has launched the platform jointly with We Think software solutions and Inspections company Global DFS, managing all aspects of cargo online is essential in the modern business environment.

“This also applies to cargo inspection,” he said.“Using this platform agents can automate the initiation of the inspection process and receive the inspection reports electronically. ”Currently, in the first phase of roll-out, the platform is focused on the local inspection process and the automation of that.” But Henning said there was potential to do cargo inspections using this application from any mobile device before cargo even left the country of origin.

He said not only were the inspection processes initiated in real-time, but reports were also electronically received.“It removes the manual process entirely and saves time and cost in the long-run,” he said. This was because the system automatically provided all the necessary details and documentation required for the inspection process. “This will enable our customers to be more efficient and increase the visibility and predictability of supply chains. ”According to Henning this was a direct business enabler speaking to the trend of more and more processes being moved online. “It brings about more efficiency and visibility, while also ensuring more predictability of supply chains,” he said.