Published: 06 July 2023  (Updated: 10 July 2023)

Blog: International Insights - Let’s Talk about Trade

With registration now OPEN for CTPA’s International Seminar taking place this November, our latest mini blog series explores why working with our global neighbours is so important to companies’ success, in the UK and beyond…

In this first blog we’re talking all things international trade, including the hot topic of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). With the UK now an independent country, who it can create FTAs with, and exactly how these will work, is a pressing focus for companies and our country alike.

CTPA works closely with the UK Government on multiple levels and across diverse topics. Right now, collaborating with the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) on free trade negotiations is a central part of that work. As the public voice of the UK cosmetic and toiletry industry, we’re involved in these discussions from the very first call for input. This is when the Government advises that it’s thinking of entering into an FTA with a country partner and asks for input from industry so that it can understand the potential implications and what can be what can be achieved.

Working collaboratively with the DBT team, CTPA is exploring what specific provisions can be made for our industry and its products. These could cover traffic systems, transparency and digital measures: anything that could make it easier for companies in the UK to export to that partner’s market, and vice-versa. It is, of course, vital that consumers can continue to enjoy products from diverse countries too. 

The negotiations with Australia and New Zealand highlight how this works in practice and also why it’s so important. The FTA with Australia includes an Annex dedicated to cosmetics and toiletries, while in New Zealand there is specific provisions for our industry’s products. Already recognising the UK as separate from the European Union, the New Zealand Government is now aiming to update its rules on labelling so that if a product’s labelling meets UK standards, it will meet New Zealand’s as well. It’s a move that could bring huge regulatory benefits to companies on both sides of the globe by reducing red tape around trade.

As part of the UK Government’s Trade Advisory Group, CTPA is involved in important conversations like this with country partners all over the world, from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), to Canada, Mexico, India, Switzerland and Korea. These conversations, which take place under strict NDAs, offer a chance to listen to negotiations, question how they will move forward and have in-depth discussions about priorities. While the level of input and shape of the debate with each country is different, the shared objective of all parties is the same: to make sure companies can continue to provide people with the products they love. 

Initiatives like the CPTPP (the comprehensive and progressive agreement for transpacific partnership) show how multiple countries can enter into a mutually beneficial FTA. The CPTPP is an FTA between 11 countries around the Pacific Rim: Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Japan - and it was announced in March this year that the UK will be adding to their numbers.

Since the CPTPP’s Free Trade Agreement already has a cosmetic annex, it’s certainly a good news move for our UK industry. For example, when a company wants to place a product in another country’s market, the authorities there will usually request a Certificate of Free Sale (CFS). This asks the company to prove that it already sells the product in its own market, so helps to make the case for why it should be available elsewhere.

However, companies from countries that are part of the Agreement do not have to submit a CFS. They must of course adhere to the same high standards - but can benefit from reduced bureaucracy, which helps to reduce their costs. 

Alongside this country-specific work, CTPA also collaborates closely with a central team within the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) that prioritises which trade barriers to address. Our team is able to raise the visibility of particular barriers to trade for the cosmetics industry, and highlight where other industries may be affected, so that the DBT can organise resources, and priorities, accordingly. It’s a good example of where the chance to share industry specific insights and engage in constructive dialogue directly with Government decision-makers, can make a huge difference to trading conditions, for companies in our own industry and beyond.

To hear more about international trade, sign up to CTPA’s two-day International Seminar taking place in London on 6 and 7 November 2023. It’s a unique opportunity to learn about the changing international picture and its implications for companies from the UK Government, sister trade associations from other countries and wider experts. 

Find out more and sign up here.

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