CTI Blog

CTI Blog - Brexit: The future of trade and the EUTR

This guest blog post is by David Hopkins, CTI Director and Managing Director of the Timber Trade Federation (TTF)

 

The triggering of Article 50 this week has started the long process of negotiation and withdrawal from the EU which could have major implications for the timber industry.

It was good to see, therefore, that the formal letter dispatched by hand to President Tusk was far more conciliatory and constructive in tone than much of the triumphalist rhetoric which has been circulating in recent weeks and months.

Whichever side of the debate one sits on, it is hard to deny that this will be a complicated affair, with emotions running high from all participants. It is in the UK best interest to acknowledge this and approach the talks positively, calmly and with everyone’s best interests at heart.

Certainly, the TTF view is that we should focus efforts on making this transition as smooth as possible for our trade. To do this, the most important part of the future arrangements with the EU must be to negotiate a mutually beneficial customs arrangement to ensure the same trading access as is currently the case. This would include ensuring the same regulatory environments for our industries and supply chains. 

Our view is that, if we cannot complete this process within the two year time frame – which seems a very tight window given the complexity of the negotiations - then a transitional arrangement must be agreed.

To be clear, it is not just tariffs that are the issue. Timber attracts relatively low tariff levels even under WTO rules. But, the potential to slow down trade due to suddenly having to make customs declarations and border inspections on all goods entering the UK would significantly slow down trade – especially as HMRC and other agencies are unlikely to have the staff or the know-how to make this work.

As our largest timber trading partner and an EU member state, Sweden’s views on the future of UK-Sweden trading relations must be taken into consideration. On March 15, Sweden’s National Board of Trade published a report summarising potential likely options for trade procedures between the EU and the UK. The report concludes that it is likely that any alternative situation negotiated will be less favourable than the current, with increased administrative requirements, higher costs and ‘reduced predictability in the flow of goods’.

Since this is an issue which will affect many industries in the UK, it should be given careful consideration. The exit negotiations must take these potential future burdens into consideration to ensure that trade can continue, freely and unhindered after we have left the EU in whatever form.

The next step within the UK following the triggering of Article 50 will be the implementation of ‘The Great Repeal Bill’ to repeal the EU Communities Act 1972 and begin transferring EU law into UK law for the interim period. With this in mind, there are a number of key items of EU legislation affecting the UK timber trade which will need to be addressed, mostly notably the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR).

The TTF and its membership believe strongly in the value and effectiveness of EUTR and advocate its retention post-Brexit.

The wording of the Article 50 letter stated: “We should…prioritise how we manage the evolution of our regulatory frameworks to maintain a fair and open trading environment, and how we resolve disputes.”  This is to be welcomed and supported and should not be undermined for supposed short term gain.

The timber industry is not alone in wanting to maintain the current regulatory status quo with Europe. The CBI, Chemical Industries Association, Institute of Directors, the City of London and many others have called for much the same thing. The regulatory regimes are priced into most of their business models and they see little to gain from undermining them.

TTF has already begun a programme of meeting with ministers and civil servants from key government departments such as Defra, BEIS and DfID about potential impacts to the timber trade. It is our view that the timber sector can show a very positive picture of free trade with nations across the globe, based on a common set of principles and regulatory regime.

As the talks continue, we will keep members updated and will be running regular MP visits to members businesses around the country.

We applaud the Prime Minister’s view that the UK should be seen as an innovative modern, global leader in international trade and want to ensure this is the outcome that prevails.

However, if the UK does want to be seen as a modern leader in global commerce, rather than a hand-delivered letter to Brussels, should Mrs May not have just sent an email? 

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-brexit-future-trade-and-eutr]

CTI Blog - Why Spring Budget looks good for business, but not so good for people in business

This guest blog post is by Iain McIlwee, CTI Director and Chief Executive of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF)

 

On the whole, the Budget is good for business, but not so good for people in business. The focus is on productivity and, as per our submission, it has picked up the areas of skills, business rates and investment. 

On the up side, it is positive that the Chancellor has addressed concerns around complexity of claiming R&D relief and on business rate valuations.  It is hard to say without the detail how much relief these reforms will provide, but we stand ready to work with those members worst affected to help them to present their case. 

It is vital that the Chancellor doesn’t, however, just chuck the inadequacies of this system over the fence to the new regional mayors - the situation needs to be monitored carefully, ringfencing Business Rates to support local government is very different to ring fencing them to support local businesses and further rises could be a brutal reality in some parts of the UK. 

It is worth noting that some of the gains for business will be offset by changing the tax structure for business owners, the Chancellor is in danger here of taxing hardworking SME business owners in a blunderbuss attack on disguised employment.  

Our disappointment is really on skills - more funding for Further Education is welcomed, and yet again we heard of the importance of parity of esteem, but we remain unconvinced that the reforms announced will put this behind us. The ‘T-levels’ may simplify (although the scope of these qualification makes the 'T' somewhat misleading) and we have already started the process of mapping our qualifications, but this is not the root of the problem.  It is simply wrong that we push the brightest towards the academic routes regardless of their wider skills and the UCAS process exacerbates this. 

Adopting a UCAS equivalent process is something BWF has been proposing for quite some time now, it is great to see that it has been taken forward by tte Industrial Strategy, but waiting til 2021 is not an option, we need prompt action to break the behaviours that are holding back recruitment for our sector. 

Finally I heard a lot about making things better for the next generation when it comes to wealth, but not so much on natural resources – it is concerning that sustainability seems to refer to the resilience of fiscal policy rather than treading lightly and not leaving future generations an environmental as well as a monetary mess to deal with.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-why-spring-budget-looks-good-business-not-so-good-people-business]

CTI Blog - Structural Timber Offsite solutions can massively help solve UK Housing crisis

This guest blog post is by Andrew Carpenter, CTI Director and Chief Executive of the Structural Timber Association (STA)

This feature is part of STA response to the launch of the Government Housing White Paper

 

As Sajid Javid outlined what he called ‘the bold radical vision for the housing market’ and the government’s commitment to support offsite factory built homes, the CTI and the STA firmly believe that offsite timber construction is the only way to reach the specified target of one million homes by 2020. We welcome the government’s commitment to act as a catalyst for change in the wider housing market, through supporting offsite manufacturing techniques.

With four out of five new homes in Scotland being built from structural timber – we know that offsite timber solutions address many government concerns associated with public procurement of housing including speed of build, environmental impact, lifetime energy efficiency and cost performance – these factors are all largely beneficial not only to government plans but to the wider community.

Offsite manufactured structural timber systems have advanced greatly in recent years and can offer house builders cost, programme and performance assurances. Structural timber solutions outweigh other sectors in regards to volume of materials – the sector is quick to respond and can add capacity at a relatively rapid rate to meet demand. Shortages in other traditional construction materials will continue to encourage larger builders and specifiers to look to alternatives.

Innovation in the structural timber product range has broadened the appeal – the industry is no longer defined simply by the supply of timber frame kits and panelised solutions. It is driven by intelligent and integrated construction solutions, such as closed panel timber frame, structural insulated panel systems and volumetric modular options. Manufacture in well managed factory conditions, with stringent controls in place - minimises waste and optimises both quality and productivity.

As the government pledge support for small and medium size developers, as well as initiatives for self and custom builders – in theory there is a lot of positive content in this White Paper. Making the planning system more accessible and releasing land that is currently in public sector ownership, will certainly have an impact but only time will tell how it works in practise.

The time is right for the construction industry to embrace innovative timber technology and offsite techniques to develop better buildings at a rapid rate to meet government targets, to overcome the shortfall in housing stock and produce energy efficient buildings - particularly important for the social housing and private rental sectors, together with home owners and occupiers.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-structural-timber-offsite-solutions-can-massively-help-solve-uk-housing-crisis]

CTI Blog - Speaking with one voice to grow UK Timber Industry

This guest blog post is by David Hopkins, CTI Director and Managing Director of the Timber Trade Federation (TTF)

This feature originally appeared on the Timber Trades Journal

 

Recent months have certainly seen major political upheaval. But, with this comes great opportunity.

The “un-democratic” nature of the European Union has been rejected and in its place we have a new Prime Minister appointed by a handful of MPs from one ruling party, without all that bother of voting or asking the electorate. It’s certainly efficient.

One thing is for sure, we can no longer use Europe as an excuse for inaction in our own economy and our own society. As we enter a new phase of trading arrangements, our politicians will have to show, very clearly, what they are doing and how their policies are making a positive difference right here at home.

As I write, the new Prime Minister is assembling a new team and putting forward a new agenda for Government. So far, the mood music sounds good with housing, skills and an industrial strategy at the centre of her opening speech.

With the policy ground shifting beneath our feet, it is important that the timber sector stands up to make its own voice known in this debate. We have a lot to offer. But, to do this effectively, we must stand together as a united timber supply chain.

That is why it has been so important that BWF has now joined the Confederation of Timber Industries (CTI) as an equal partner with STA and TTF. Working together we will be using the umbrella of the CTI as a focal point for our public affairs work, to promote the opportunity that the timber sector offers as a high-performance, low-carbon growth sector.

Each trade association is already leading on a variety of issues, together we can present them as a single voice.

The TTF will be leading on sustainable procurement, responsible sourcing and international & domestic trading issues. We are a proud trading nation with great links to producer countries across the world and are already working with DfID on a number of projects to aid links with key supply routes. The TTF will be ensuring that whatever the future looks like outside the EU, we maintain our international outlook and sustainable credentials.

The BWF has been leading on skills development, helping create ‘Centres of Excellence’ across the country. This is vital if we are to campaign to put skilled trades back at the heart of the UK economy and at the heart of every community. There are currently around 2,000 woodworking apprentices in the UK, the highest ratio of apprentices in construction for any sector. If we are to grow the sector we need to grow the pool of skilled labour it requires.

The STA has been doing sterling work in improving productivity throughout its expanding manufacturing base in the UK, as it works to take even greater market share and help deliver much needed sustainable housing across the country.

Together these actions – and others – will help us grow the £10 billion supply chain in the UK and gain the political recognition we deserve as a vital trade and manufacturing sector.

The first focal point for this will be our Parliamentary Conference and drinks in November. I look forward to seeing you there.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/ttf-blog-speaking-one-voice-grow-uk-timber-industry]

CTI Blog - CTI historic conference to be held on 26 October 2016

This blog is by Dirk Vennix, CTI Chief Executive 

I have often been asked the question over the last few months. When is the CTI’s conference taking place?  It is with great pleasure that I am now able to provide you with a date for the diary: Wednesday 26 October 2016.

And I’m also delighted to announce that Nick Boles, Minister of State in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, has agreed to address our inaugural industry conference at 10 am on Wednesday 26 October 2016.

Thanks to premium sponsor Nexus CIFS - well known for its credit insurance offering in the timber industry and one of the UK’s leading underwriting agencies – and co-sponsors including Danzer, Lathams and SCA the CTI is able to host this historic conference at a prestigious venue in the heart of Westminster. The location will be announced shortly.

At the major conference the construction and skills minister will talk about the Government’s views on growing the use of sustainable timber and addressing skills shortages. The CTI will also be presenting its policy reports on business growth, skills and sustainability in the timber supply chain. This will be followed by a debate about its policy recommendations with around 200 decision makers and opinion formers from the industry and Westminster.

Thanks to the strong financial support of Arbor Forest Products the CTI has been able to commission Egan Consulting to produce a Value and Growth policy report. This will include an overview of timber consumption in the UK as well as forecasts relating to markets such as sawmilling, timber trade, wood based panels, processed wood, fencing, builders’ merchants, construction, furniture, pallets, pulp and paper.

You will also recall that the CTI launched the largest employer skills questionnaire ever undertaken in the UK's Timber Industry Supply Chain in January. We got a very good response with nearly 150 senior executives and other company representatives giving us their views on a wide range of topics from schools to skills shortages. The survey results are being collated in a policy report by Sector Skills Council Proskills and kindly sponsored by International Timber.

Last but not least, Charlie Law, Managing Director at Sustainable Construction Solutions Ltd, has been working on the CTI’s Environment and Quality of Standards report which is generously sponsored by Jewson. The report looks at CTI’s key strategic objectives on sustainability: - developing the low carbon circular economy; - achieving consistent application of chain of custody standards; - improving the implementation and enforcement of EU timber regulations.

All in all, they are very important policy reports which are likely to provoke an interesting debate at our inaugural conference on 26 October 2016. So remember the date and look out for the early bird ticket invitations.

 

[News URL: http://www.cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-cti-historic-conference-be-held-26-october-2016]

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