ICC United Kingdom launches inclusive post-Brexit “Trade Governance Model” at Annual General Meeting
The ICC United Kingdom has launched a practical framework for policy makers aimed at helping them navigate post-Brexit trade negotiations. A Trade Governance Model That Works for Everyone was unveiled at the company’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on May 10th, and was followed by the panel discussion involving the framework’s authors.
The framework, which includes contributions from the CBI, Unite the Union, the Federation of Small Businesses and many others*, encourages the UK government to establish a robust, modern, democratic governance model to oversee trade policy for the future. It is based on four principles: Consensus Building, Transparency, Democratic Oversight and Net Benefit for All.
The framework aspires to act as a practical tool for policy makers, both nationally and internationally. Aiming to foster more inclusive, transparent and democratic trade policies, the framework fits into the ICC United Kingdom’s objectives of enhancing trade and wealth for all stakeholders.
Addressing the audience, John Denton, ICC Secretary General stated that the challenges ahead are two-fold: guaranteeing that all companies can profit from equal access to the global trading system and, by extension, ensuring that the benefits of trade policy initiatives reach all parts of society. Denton acknowledged the legitimacy of concerns over globalisation, although responded by advocating a revised global architecture that remembers trade is focused on benefiting everybody, not just a global elite.
Denton remarked on the need for robust regulatory systems to ensure the fair distribution of economic benefits, for fear of losing popular support for globalisation. He emphasised that work should be undertaken by all stakeholders with the goal of creating a rules-based and progressive trade and investment agenda that safeguards universal values in relation to human rights, labour conditions, sustainability and the environment.
Denton insisted on the need for an inclusive trade governance model, achieved through thorough and regular interaction between members of the private sector and civil society. He thanked ICC United Kingdom, as well as its partners, for their efforts in defining what such a framework should look like.
A panel discussion followed, chaired by Emily Jones, Associate Professor at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School for Government. It inevitably started with the challenges of Brexit, though soon focused on the potential opportunities with respect to establishing a new framework. Each of the five speakers on the panel then addressed the floor.
Tony Burke, Assistant to the General Secretary at Unite the Union, elaborated on the potential for trade to act as a tool to raise standards, and hoped the UK would see future trade agreements as an opportunity to set such standards. He insisted on the need for greater transparency and scrutiny and deplored the reality of agreements impacting millions of people being negotiated behind closed doors.
Nick Crook, Head of International Relations at Unison, noted that trade agreements have become much more than a means of setting tariffs and quotas. They are also about public policy issues. Trade has become politically contentious, as people increasingly notice how it affects their daily lives, he said, before advocating increased stakeholder engagement throughout the entire trade agreement process.
Laura Cohen, Chief Executive of the British Ceramic Confederation, argued for the continuation of tariff and friction-free access to the European Union, explaining that half of her members’ exports are destined for the bloc. She also warned about the need for adequate and robust rules to ensure trade remains fair and accessible while suggesting organisations should be allowed to informally talk to officials about their concerns.
Completing the panel, Sir Mike Rake, Chairman of ICC United Kingdom, spoke about the public’s lack of trust in the establishment, and the need to understand the source of growing populism. It is initiatives such as this, he claimed, that can address the needs of those feeling left behind or living in divided societies and experiencing real inequality. He explained that high productivity levels in continental Europe resulted from higher, constructive, engagement levels with trade unions.
Following questions included an overarching theme of lack of trust in the establishment, lack of scrutiny in trade agreements and specific concerns relating to the Trade Bill currently working its way through the UK Parliament. With respect to the Bill, its lack of meaningful and transparent content contrasts with the need for clarity surrounding how the government will engage with all communities in the UK as well as what parliament’s role should be in overseeing trade.
Certainly, trade has moved to the top of many organisations’ agendas following the Brexit referendum. As trade policies were handled at the European level, this is an area where the UK government will need to tread carefully if it is to achieve the best outcome. The new Trade Governance Model, launched at the AGM, is a means by which this can be achieved.
* Trade Governance Model partners:
- ICC United Kingdom
- British Chambers of Commerce
- Confederation of British Industry (CBI)
- EEF - The Manufacturers’ Organisation
- Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)
- Greener UK
- Institute of Export & International Trade (IoE)
- Institute of Directors (IoD)
- Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC)
- Trade Justice Movement
- Trade Union Congress (TUC)
- Unite the Union