Trade News

Misuse of EU country code is causing huge errors and creating a false picture of UK trade

The 'EU' country code is increasingly being used to declare the Country of Dispatch or the Country of Origin on import customs declarations. In some cases, it is both. This is causing considerable errors within Trade Statistics processing, according to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). As a consequence, the government ultimately gets a false idea of trading patterns and makes it harder for them to help traders

It only came to light after an examination of UK trade statistics data by HMRC's

software developer support team. The biggest mistake is assuming that the EU is a country, whereas the customs officials want to know whether it came from Belgium or France or Germany.

In response, the HMRC support team has appealed to traders to take its advice on using the right country code for the Country of Dispatch and the Country of Origin.

"Where an EU country is appropriate for either of these data elements, for EU countries, the individual country code of the member state in question (such as FR for France) should be used. The "EU" country code must not be used." says the advice from HMRC. The software team says that option will be removed from systems shortly.

"We respectfully ask that you also pass on this message to your clients to make them fully aware that the "EU" country code should not be used when making import customs declarations, and that the code will be removed from CHIEF prior to 1 January 2022. The code will also be removed from CDS," says Ray Cameron, HMRC CDIO EPS of Enterprise Integration Services.

Antwerp is now UK's best gateway to Europe

The Port of Antwerp has outlined how eager it is to help UK exporters to solve their customs clearance and logistics problems.

A new merger of the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge into the super Port of Antwerp-Bruges gives it a natural advantage when serving British exporters, Port of Antwerp international development manager Wim Dillen told Loadstar.

Major shippers have re-engineered their supply chains for containerised cargo to avoid the bottlenecks caused at Eurotunnel and French ports.

Ferries are increasing their accompanied capacity with additional sailings and chartered-in vessels, container traffic has increased.

Dillen says a modal shift has seen a diversion of trade through Antwerp whose UK volumes rose seven per cent in the first nine months of 2021. Box cargo is much simpler and most of the admin burden at the border is avoided because, for British trade to the EU, the customs process starts six hours before the container arrives at the port. "By the time the ship moors at the port, most of the administration is a done deal," said Dillen.

At Dover, the advantage of the "short strait" has been demolished by the long wait, so Antwerp becomes a more viable option. Another factor is that carriers want to call into port closer to the end destination for their cargo. That means vessels will use ports across the UK, particularly the north, where they are close to the manufacturing centres of Great Britain, with the midlands being Britain's most industrious zone.

Ferry operators DFDS and CLDN have announced new services between terminals in Rotterdam and the UK's Humber ports of Immingham and Killingholme. Representatives of Port of Antwerp-Bruges visited Hull and Liverpool this month as they become increasingly important hubs for container cargo, with a rise in traffic to the Humber region.

Meanwhile, Zeebrugge has emerged as a specialist for unaccompanied ferry cargo, and a sensible alternative for accompanied cargo transport between the UK and Europe.

Subject to approval from the EC's competition authority it will be completed by January and from March it will be "one port with two locations," said Dillen, "We are stronger in all other trade lanes. If we combine both ports we have sailings for 1,400 ports all over the world."

Antwerp-Bruges, which is 90km inland, is the best gateway to Europe, said Dillen, because that penetration makes good get to their chosen markets faster.

Department for International Trade launches 12 point export strategy including campaign, support service and academy

The Department of Trade (DIT) has published details of its 12-point export strategy to double exports by making customs easier.

The Gov.UK details exporting advice, a new UK Tradeshow Programme aimed at those outside London and the South East and an expansion of its Export Academy, launched in October, to all points of the UK.

Only one in ten GB businesses currently export, which compared badly against Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands, so the campaign is mostly aimed at new entrants to the import/export markets.

The parts of the Made in the UK, Sold to the World campaign relevant to the existing traders will be an expanded Export Support Service which now offers a single point of contact for exporters to Europe with a new export hotline and online service.

The UK Export Academy is for SMEs in all parts of the UK but could be a good free resource for training staff in the technicalities of exporting. Meanwhile, credit agency UK Export Finance is expanding its offering with new products and a wider delivery network to make it easier for UK exporters to secure business from overseas buyers.

The Export Champions scheme could be a good vehicle for publicity, where existing exporters are held up as an example of how they succeeded, creating opportunities for business-to-business networking and peer-to-peer learning. An Internationalisation Fund, open to small to medium-sized businesses in England, offered grants for attending Trade Fairs. So far it has dispensed £4 million worth of support.

In November the Chancellor of the Exchequer awarded UK Export Finance a 20 per cent increase in its budget as part of the Government's latest Spending Review.

The trade winds that launched Denby and Muggi - two polar opposites exporters

When Korean TV show Squid Game featured Denby's Halo Tea and Coffee Cups in episode nine on Netflix, it created a boom in exports.

Denby's British-made ceramics already had cult status in Korea but Netflix's global influence has come into force. Denby has set up an Instagram page specifically for South Korean fans with 18,000 followers following its ceramic and homeware trends.

The younger generations in Korea like table-setting with beautifully crafted British-made ceramics reports Vikki Irvine, Denby's head of brand. "People in Korea love Denby, as the quality is great and they're drawn to the Made in England element," said Irvine.

The British brand has had to extend its range. Though nesting, deep noodle, ramen and straight-sided rice bowls are especially popular in the Korean market they are now being offered worldwide.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the drinks market, Cornish start-up Muggi has developed the 'world's most versatile drinks carrier. Founder David Trotter got the idea while trying to transport multiple hot drinks around a ship during a force seven gale. His durable drinks tray is stable in any environment but it probably wouldn't compliment a high-end Denby teacup.

It is used by sailors, motorhomes, restaurants and offices where spills threaten safety.

Muggi makes the products out of recycled plastics and ghost fishing nets sourced off the coast of Cornwall. That 'source of origin' spin impressed Innovate UK's access to finance specialist Phil Tellwright to develop a three-year business plan to secure a £23,000 finance package from HSBC. The funds will be used to fuel growth in the US market and fulfil an order of 16,400 units from the American shopping channel network QVC.

Muggi is now exporting to The Netherlands, New Zealand and the Nordics. Trotter reports that exports of its novel drinks tray is 'growing rapidly year on year despite the pandemic'.

Meanwhile, Innovate UK has also announced it is changing its relationship with its Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) to create Innovate UK KTN.

DIT says it removed 217 trade barriers in 74 countries in 2020–21

The Department for International Trade claims the removal of trade barriers has created new opportunities for British exporters. Statistics released on November 25th suggest 217 trade barriers in 74 countries were removed during 2020–21.

The DIT says complex negotiations opened poultry export opportunities to Japan which could boost the sector by £65m in five years. Pork can also now be exported to Mexico for the first time which has the potential to create sales worth £50 million in the first five years.

"Each and every one of these 217 trade wins is fantastic news for our UK businesses who sell their products abroad," said international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, "we will continue to open doors for more export."

Other barriers were dismantled with the Jordanian government, which changed labelling rules to open up British food exports worth £32m in a market that imports £2.5bn worth of food annually. The DIT unlocked access to finance in Hong Kong so that UK education providers could build new schools. India is now open to more UK ownership and investment in its £4bn insurance market. In Columba, the threshold for foreign ownership rose from 49 per cent to 74 per cent which helped British asset managers enter a green investment market worth £835m per year. Finally, there is good news around Covid as UK businesses in Bulgaria can now get products to develop cutting-edge technology that will extend the life of vaccines.

No Northern Ireland Protocol resolution before Christmas says EC commissioner

European Commission VP Maros Sefcovic says talks over the Northern Ireland protocol will drag on into 2022 unless there is "decisive progress" before December on the issue of medicines moving between GB and NI.

Negotiations over customs and food checks won't be finalised this year, said Sefcovic, who blamed a lack of "clear political will from the UK".

A deal on medicines could see the other Protocol issues being solved "one by one" but the medicines agreement is needed this week as the EU will need several weeks to implement it.

US politicians are intervening over Article 16 and speculating about the economic damage that could be caused. "A lot of members of Congress who care deeply about the Good Friday Agreement and many of us feel that exercising Article 16 could plunge Northern Ireland into economic chaos," said Democratic Senator Chris Murphy.

Article 16 of the protocol sets out the process for taking unilateral "safeguard" measures if either the EU or UK concludes that the deal is leading to serious practical problems or causing diversion of trade. It amounts to suspending parts of the deal.

However, the UK's international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan's said that Article 16 would "absolutely not" be triggered before Christmas.

The US is a guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement and this gives American politicians license to intervene and talking tough can be a great vote winner on the US domestic market.

President Biden has repeatedly made his own contributions.

However, the US media has queried the President's own Proof of Origin.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Biden had admitted to plagiarising a range of output, starting in law school and continuing in politics, falsely attributing the life stories of US statesmen Bobby and John Kennedy and Britain's Neil Kinnock.

The New York Post says Biden's poll ratings have hit a new low for any US president and Biden needs to do something to gain popularity.

US Senator Murphy, at least, admitted that Brussels needed "to come to the table and agree to be flexible on the implementation of the Protocol".

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