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Freshfields Risk & Compliance

| 1 minute read

UK businesses can benefit from free trade agreements … if they know how to use them

The past few years have been volatile for international trade and those who rely on it for their businesses’ success. UK traders in particular have faced headwinds, from the UK’s exit from the European Union, through COVID 19 to current geopolitical tensions.

Nonetheless, trade is fundamental to UK businesses and the broader UK economy, and, building on the WTO framework, the ground rules for trade are increasingly being set by the UK’s free trade agreements (FTAs). These FTAs eliminate tariffs on a vast range of products. But they also include rules on a multitude of topics including product standards, supplying services abroad, mobility of people, government procurement, intellectual property and more.

Together with the leading EY Trade Policy and strategy team, we have co-authored a step-by-step guide for UK businesses to help decipher the UK’s 70+ FTAs and understand the opportunities that they create, Free Trade Agreements – a User’s Guide for UK Business.

These FTAs – which cover countries across the world – are not easy to understand or deploy. Using them efficiently and effectively requires the ability to be able to navigate them, and to ensure that all the relevant chapters, derogations and cross-references have been taken into account. However, it is possible to understand the basic anatomy of an FTA, and what it can do for your business.

Our guide – Free Trade Agreements: A User’s Guide for UK Business – is designed to translate FTAs into something you can use and benefit from.

The guide sets out the background and aims of an FTA, as well as explaining how they relate to other trade tools which your business may find useful such as generalised systems of preferences, trade remedies, trade promotion and trade finance.

When it comes to reading an FTA, our guide takes you through the contents of the main (and most common) chapters in an FTA and explains how your business might use them and the benefits you might achieve. We also explain how to devise an effective trade strategy to ensure that your business maximises the benefits of the applicable FTAs, both current and future.

Our Trade team would also be happy to advise you on any trade issues your business encounters whether covered by the guide or not.

Free Trade Agreements: A User’s Guide for UK Business can be found here.


supply chains, regulatory, antitrust and competition, trade, global