'Stronger' trading ties

Minister says Scotland could benefit from free trade agreements

Port of Grangemouth

Gateway: Grangemouth now has a permanent rail link to Kent

New minister for international trade Conor Burns today told Scottish Government officials and business leaders that free trade agreements after Brexit could bring benefits to Scotland.

The government is prioritising new free trade agreements with the US, Australia and New Zealand, as well as potentially joining the CPTPP – the Pacific trade bloc.  

It says these agreements could open up new markets and increase demand for Scottish products overseas and build “stronger and deeper” trading ties with some of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies.

This comes amid growing global demand for quality UK produce, with exports of beverages including gin and Scotch whisky reaching a high of £8.3 billion in the year to February 2019, increasing by 7% on the previous year.

“Scotland will have a direct interest in the negotiations of future trade agreements as we prepare to leave the European Union on October 31, and I will be working with the Scottish government and businesses to ensure their voices are heard.”

DIT has already signed agreements with countries that account for more than half of the UK’s existing trade as well as securing market access wins for products including Scottish beef in Japan and Scotch whisky internationally.

Mr Burns, said: “Our new free trade agreements will bring benefits to people right across the UK.

For the first time in more than 40 years the UK will operate an independent trade policy, giving businesses across all four nations greater access to global markets, says the DIT.

Scotch Whisky has been served well by EU free trade agreements, reducing tariffs and other barriers to trade

– Dagmar Droogsma, SWA

Among those Mr Burns met were representatives of the Scotch whisky industry which achieved record exports of £4.7 billion in 2018 accounting for more than 20% of all UK food and drink exports. 

Dagmar Droogsma, director of industry for the Scotch Whisky Association, said: “Scotch Whisky has been served well by EU free trade agreements, reducing tariffs and other barriers to trade in some of our key global markets. It is vital these agreements continue to be rolled over and Scotch Whisky enjoys the same access as we do today. 

“But the opportunities for the industry from removing trade barriers are clear. In India, the world’s largest market for whisky, Scotch makes up just 1% of the market, held back by a 150% tariff. Reducing this tariff could pave the way for significant export growth. 

“By reducing tariffs, backing free trade and supporting the industry here at home through the duty system, the UK government can ensure Scotch Whisky can continue to go from strength to strength.”

The government has made clear its commitment to boost the economic strength of Scotland. The Prime Minister recently announced a £300 million expansion of Growth Deals, helping communities across Scotland thrive while ‘unleashing the productive power’ of every region of the UK.

Forth Ports rail deal

A rail service providing a regular weekend link between the Port of Tilbury and the Port of Grangemouth, Scotland’s largest port, is to be made permanent.

Following a successful trial, the new regular two-way rail link will serve Forth Ports’ customers in the South of England and Central Scotland from Friday.

The service which uses DRS’s state-of-the-art locomotives and wagon fleet has the capacity to travel with 36 containers and will be managed by Eddie Stobart, working closely with both Forth Ports and Direct Rail Services.

The containers travelling from Tilbury will carry cargo including retail goods, food and drink while the return journey will support Scotland’s export market with the movement of spirits, chemicals and fresh food.

The two-way rail service will provide Forth Ports’ customers with a cost effective and sustainable means of moving goods between ports while benefiting from reduced carbon emissions without using the already-congested UK road network.

The first train will leave Tilbury on Friday evening, via Dagenham, travelling overnight to arrive at Grangemouth on Saturday morning.

Business at our busy container terminals is growing rapidly

– Rob Mason, Forth Ports

Rob Mason, Senior Commercial Manager at Forth Ports, said: “The response from customers to our two-way rail service between the Ports of Tilbury and Grangemouth has been so encouraging that it means we can now operate the service regularly every weekend starting this Friday.

“Business at our busy container terminals is growing rapidly and it has become hugely important that we were able to connect these two ports by rail. This new service highlights our commitment to providing sustainable and cost-effective logistics solutions for our customers, helping them to grow and increasing their competitiveness in the supply chain.

“We look forward to partnering with Eddie Stobart and DRS on what is the first regular rail service linking our ports in Tilbury and Grangemouth and opening up a number of import and export opportunities for our business and customers.”

John Clark, Sector director at Eddie Stobart, said: “Following on from a successful trial in June, the service will start this week allowing the South of England to be connected by rail into Grangemouth at the weekend when road driving resource is at a premium. 

“Working in partnership with Forth Ports and Direct Rail Services we are extremely confident that this service will prove to be a real benefit for logistics companies at both ends of the country.”

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