The strategy aims to boost supply chain resilience of critical goods.

By Paul A. Davies, Michael D. Green, and James Bee

On 17 January 2024, the government launched the Critical Imports and Supply Chains Strategy (the strategy), which aims to safeguard UK supplies of goods including medicine, minerals, and semiconductors.

The strategy forms part of a wider government initiative to back businesses and grow the UK economy by helping companies build resilient supply chains and maintain supplies of critical goods and raw materials.

The strategy notes that recent global events, including the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical tensions, and climate change have highlighted vulnerabilities of the UK’s essential supply chains. The strategy thus focuses on ensuring reliable access to critical imports for present and future needs.

What Is a Critical Import?

The government defines critical imports as goods imported into the UK which are “critical to the UK security and prosperity”. The strategy document sets out goods which are essential to the operation of designated “Critical National Infrastructure (CNI)” sectors,[1] or the government’s five growth sectors.[2]

Content of the Strategy

The strategy sets out the actions the government is taking, as well as the next phase of work to enable the efficient and reliable flow of critical imports across five priority areas:[3]

  1. Making the UK government a centre of excellence for supply chain analysis and risk assessment
  2. Removing critical import barriers to support the UK’s business-friendly environment
  3. Building the UK’s response to global supply chain shocks
  4. Ensuring the UK can adapt to long-term trends
  5. Expanding collaboration between government, business, and academia

Next Steps

A new Critical Imports Council will be set up to allow businesses and government to collaborate to identify risks to critical imports and develop an action plan. This Council is expected to convene for the first time in the first half of 2024, tasked with predicting potential issues and advising actions to secure supply.

The strategy is intended as a foundation for ongoing work to increase resilience, with the government committing to publish progress updates and a statement on next steps to stay accountable for the strategy’s progress.

Latham & Watkins will continue to monitor developments in this area.

Endnotes


1 These CNI sectors are defined as the critical elements of infrastructure which could have potential detrimental impact on essential services, the economy, or national security. This covers chemicals, civil nuclear, communications, defence, emergency services, energy, finance, food, government, health, space, transport, and water.

2 These are creative industries, digital technology, green industries, life sciences, and advanced manufacturing.

3 Critical Imports and Supply Chains Strategy