The COVID-19 pandemic has had unprecedented impact on global international trade, presenting individuals around the Commonwealth with unique challenges and opportunities. Bringing together parliamentarians, representatives from business groups and trade experts, CPA UK organised a webinar to explore this topic, focusing particularly on the UK and Africa.
Angus MacNeil MP, from the UK, began by outlining how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way parliamentarians work, providing the example of how he chairs the International Trade Committee virtually from his constituency in the Hebrides. He was followed by Lord Lansley, a member of the House of Lords, who emphasised the importance of parliamentarians continuing to scrutinise governmental trade policy; drawing upon his own experiences of seeking evidence and producing reports on the potential UK-US free trade agreement under hybrid proceedings.
Adjoba Kyiamah continued by detailing how the pandemic has impacted Ghanaian businesses and the steps taken by them to sustain viability. She also provided her view of the African Continental Free Trade Area, arguing that COVID-19 could increase intra-African trade and improve food security. Lucia Zitti then drew upon her experiences at the National Farmers Union to explain how COVID-19 has impacted and will continue to impact agri-business supply chains. Geoffrey de Mowbray concluded by outlining three major challenges to businesses: reduced access to finance, logistical problems and the issue of finding new markets. Looking towards the future, he outlined Africa’s strengths as a new market for UK businesses and predicted increased trade between the two partners.
In the second part of the webinar, panellists answered questions from participants, which spanned a diverse range of topics. These included the role of parliamentarians in scrutinising free trade agreements, the opportunities for businesses to gain access to new markets, how governments can best mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19 on trade and whether trade negotiations are being stalled by the pandemic.
The webinar concluded with panellists agreeing that international trade is likely to change substantially in the medium to long term.
CPA UK was delighted to be joined by the following panellists:
Lord Lansley, Member of the EU International Agreements Sub-Committee
Angus MacNeil MP, Chair of the International Trade Committee
Geoffrey de Mowbray, Co-Chairman – SME & Micro Exporters, British Exporters Association
Adjoba Kyiamah, Executive Director, UK Ghana Chamber of Commerce
Lucia Zitti, EU Exit and International Trade Adviser, National Farmers Union