Public Policy Bulletin, 31 August 2020

Aug 31, 2020

In today’s Public Policy news, read about the contract for the Government’s National Broadband Plan to supply broadband to over half a million users in Ireland. In the UK, the government has announced plans for new legislation aimed at cleaning up supply chains involving deforestation. Internationally, the EU and the US have announced agreement to reduce tariffs on hundreds of millions worth of goods traded between the two trading partners.

National Broadband Plan contract published

Last week the Government published its contract with the National Broadband Ireland Consortium (‘NBI’) to implement the National Broadband Plan. The Programme for Government has committed to accelerating the delivery of the plan, led by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, to roll out broadband to 540,000 homes and businesses over a seven-year period.

The agreement was first signed in November 2019 and the published contract, worth more than €3 billion, is over 1,500 pages. Much of the content is reportedly redacted due to ‘commercial sensitivities’.  NBI, which won the 25-year contract, announced that it expects to complete the contract early and under budget and with a minimum download speed of 500Mbps. You can read more coverage here.

US and EU agree to reduce certain tariffs

For the first time in more than 20 years, the US and EU have announced agreement to reduce tariffs on hundreds of millions worth of goods traded between the two trading partners.  The package of tariff reductions will increase market access for both US and EU exports.

EU tariffs on lobster products imported from the US will be eliminated for a period of five years. After this period ends, the European Commission will initiate procedures to make them permanent. The United States in turn will reduce by 50 percent its tariff rates on certain products such as prepared meals, crystal glassware, cigarette lighters, surface preparation and propellants exported by the EU to the US. Both measures will be made on a Most Favored Nation (MFN) basis and retroactive to begin from 1 August 2020.

UK proposes law to curb illegal deforestation and clean up supply chains

The UK government has announced plans to introduce legislation that would make it illegal for larger businesses in the UK to use commodities grown on land that has been deforested illegally. 

The new legislation aims to clean up the UK’s supply chains. Large businesses would have to carry out due diligence and publish information about the origin of commodities such as cocoa, palm oil and soy. Non-compliance could lead to fines.

The proposed new law complements the UK’s existing efforts to make international supply chains greener. The Global Resource Initiative (GRI) is an independent task force established  by the government in 2019 to consider how the UK could reduce its global environmental footprint by slowing deforestation.

Deforestation is mostly illegal and accounts for 11 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. It drives biodiversity loss, exacerbates the spread of infectious diseases, and increases the risk of extreme weather.

International Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith, said:

“There is a hugely important connection between the products we buy and their wider environmental footprint, which is why the government is consulting today on new measures that would make it illegal for businesses in the UK to use commodities that are not grown in accordance with local laws”

The consultation is open until 5 Oct 2020 and seeks views from UK and international stakeholders on whether such legislation should be introduced.

Read all our updates on our Public Policy web centre.