UK auto sector must be heart of future trade policy to lead global switch to EVs
The Government is being urged to put the automotive sector at the centre of future trade negotiations, driving growth and jobs as well as ensuring the UK leads the worldwide switch to electric vehicles.
Despite the disruption of the global pandemic, vehicles were the UK’s most valuable exported good in 2020, worth £27bn.
And although it fell 26% during pandemic-hit 2020, the UK automotive sector as a whole still generated a total trade revenue of £74bn, according to new figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) in its Driving Global Britain report.
Revealing the report today (12 October 2021) at the SMMT’s inaugural Global Trade Conference, chief executive Mike Hawes said: “2020 was a year like no other, with the global pandemic, the like of which has not been seen for over a century. As the virus spread, markets were closed, production shut down, trade became stilted. As we publish the numbers for 2020, we do so with a sense of relief, and more importantly we make the case for relief.”
The UK’s automotive trade body is calling on the Government to ensure its trade negotiations are focused on removing both the tariff and non-tariff barriers that stifle growth.
With more than 80% of British-built cars and more than 60% of light commercial vehicles destined for export – and with hopes rising worldwide that the pandemic is now in retreat – the SMMT said long-term global car market growth provides a major opportunity to accelerate economy.
As such, it says trade policy must now take advantage of the opportunities from a post-Brexit, post-fossil fuel world to restore growth and jobs with automotive central to this ambition.
With the global car market expected to grow significantly in regions such as Asia and Eastern Europe, the SMMT is calling for future trade deals to include dedicated automotive annexes and provisions to reduce tariffs and regulatory barriers.
It also recommends establishing Rules of Origin that will reflect appropriate sourcing of batteries for electric cars, so that UK-built zero emission vehicles can be freely exported around the world and play an essential role in reducing emissions.
And it says the Government should ensure manufacturers have the ability to recruit top talent from around the world to drive growth.
Hawes added: “We must be allowed to seek talent from around the world. Indeed, the UK must become a hub of global talent for a long-term vision for growth, rather than short term visas and crisis.”
He continued: “To quote the prime minister, who in turn showed us his familiarity with 1970s TV shows by quoting the Six Million Dollar Man, ‘We have the technology’. What we need is investment, the framework and the capacity to trade freely to deliver that technology, because the UK can be a leader in this technological transition.”
To access the SMMT’s Driving Global Britain report, click here.