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New trade deal promises ecommerce benefits

Europe: ripe for UK SME retailers? (Image: Fotolia)

The UK government says a new trade deal with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein will have benefits for digital trade. 

The deal with the three countries, all members of the European Economic Area (EEA) but not the European Union, is said to be the first time the countries have included dedicated chapters on digital trade and covering small business. The agreement has been made in principle. 

As a result, says the Department for International Trade, when British firms export to Noway and Iceland they will be able to use electronic documents, contract and signatures so that goods can move seamlessly across borders.

International Trade Minister, Ranil Jayawardena says: “This deal shows that the United Kingdom will continue to be a trade partner of choice, as we set the global trade agenda in areas like ecommerce and climate change. More trade and more investment will drive growth and support jobs in every corner of our country.”

The deal will also reduce import tariffs on some types of fish, cheese, pork and poultry and introduce caps on mobile roaming charges. UK businesses will be able to bid for government contracts in partner countries worth about £200m a year. Some professionals, including nurses, lawyers and vets, will now have faster, simpler processes for their qualifications to be recognised in the partner countries. 

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said the agreement would be a major boost for UK trade with the three countries, and would help to grow economic relationships already worth £21.6bn.

However, the deal still falls short of the barrier-free, tariff-free access to the EEA countries that the UK had as a member of the European Union. 

David Henig, co-founder of the UK Trade Forum, says on Twitter that the deal is a straightforward free trade agreement, “with some level of tariff reduction and other preferential access against WTO terms, but obviously nothing like the previous seamless trade under a single market (agriculture aside).”

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