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Tariff-free CV trade is crucial for green growth

19 October 2023 #TNB News

We’re living in a globalised world and Britain’s commercial vehicle industry is no different, trading with every continent bar Antarctica – exporting six in 10 of all CVs produced this year, while imports of finished vehicles, parts and components from all round the world came to our shores. But we must remember it’s our neighbours across the Channel that are our number one trading partner, and by some considerable distance. The bulk of our exports go to Europe and that’s likely to grow with new electric vans being made at Ellesmere Port, conveniently located near the Merseyside docks. The preservation of a relationship that’s free from friction, tariffs and quotas should be a given.

Trade agreements are seldom high on the British public’s list of priorities, but the UK-EU TCA was hoped to double trade of all types of electric vehicles across the Channel in three years, securing net zero growth and all the economic and environmental benefits that comes with that. That’s threatened if there is no change to rules of origin requirements for batteries, however, which are due to come into force in little more than two months – damaging competitiveness for UK-built models in Europe and vice versa.

As the clock ticks down, SMMT, along with our European counterparts ACEA, has called for both parties to strike an immediate agreement to avoid damaging tariffs affecting EVs. It was promising to hear from Kemi Badenoch, Secretary of State for Business and Trade, at yesterday’s SMMT Global Trade Conference that she’s “very optimistic” of finding a deal. It could be the cornerstone for accelerating Britain’s global trade ambitions, and a brand-new SMMT report, Open Roads – Driving Britain’s global automotive trade, outlines key recommendations to make that happen, from FTAs and diplomacy to regulatory challenges and securing UK and European supply chains.

Innovation and R&D have long been strengths of Britain’s automotive sector and are essential to driving our global competitiveness too, so today’s announcement that funding for the Zero Emission Road Freight Trial will deliver up to 370 battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell trucks is excellent news. The sector has developed a large range of zero emission vehicle options with more than 30 such trucks and buses already available to order, so it is vital that operators don’t delay their decisions to transition if we are to deliver all of our net zero goals. But as SMMT has said before, we urgently need an infrastructure strategy as operators will only buy vehicles in great numbers if they’re confident of using them to their full potential.

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