The UK Warehousing Association (UKWA) has submitted a response to the Government’s Freeports Consultation on behalf of the warehousing & logistics industry, collated by a specially convened Steering Group and based on UKWA members’ feedback, gathered via an online survey.
CEO Peter Ward comments, “On the whole, UKWA supports the key principles of Freeports. We recognise the potential benefits of simplified customs procedures aligned to tariff and tax exemptions and other financial incentives to entice the development of hubs geared to international trade.
However, our view is that the overall success of Freeports would be a long-term outcome and likely to be modest at best in the foreseeable future. We are aware of the success of Freeports in other parts of the world, notably in emerging markets; but believe the appeal is less beneficial in a mature market such as the UK.”
In its response to the consultation, UKWA has highlighted that whatever the outcome of negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement with the EU, the UK’s current trade with the EU will require customs declarations and processing, which will be a massive burden on export and import traders. The association calls for government to prioritise the protection and sustainability of the UK’s existing export and import trade, current manufacturing industries and companies that provide jobs for many thousands of employees.
For existing businesses with well-established supply chains, UKWA believes the current definition and location of Freeports is unlikely to prove attractive, Ward says. UKWA challenges the proposed geographic basis for Freeports and suggests instead a more zoned approach, to include multiple ports/airports and other transport nodes, and recommends industry-specific schemes aimed at specific locations or regions.
“It is essential that the government understands the importance of this sector, and provides the necessary support to ensure it thrives and expands to serve the needs of new businesses established within proposed Freeport/Freezone areas,” Ward concludes. “UKWA considers that current proposals lack ambition. We would like to see further consultation with industry representatives, backed by cross government joined-up thinking, to address both imminent and long term challenges, whilst capturing the opportunities for increased international trade.”