Simon West on international trade

In the latest in his regular contributions to Gun Trade News, Simon West, head of the Gun Trade Association wonders what the hell happened to the sunlit uplands we were promised.

(©Pixabay: Vlad Man)

The long term might be bright; the medium term uncertain; but there is no doubt that, right now, international trade is in a mess.

We are five weeks into the new arrangements and the Government’s own Online Tariff Checker has only just admitted that there are no tariffs with the EU—not helpful.

Consignments are being waved through at ports—good for deliveries but then the paperwork doesn’t match up. Don’t even mention Northern Ireland.

Those with foresight will have filled their shelves with stock to ward off the acute problems we are facing, but we will all need to become expert in what is needed to move goods in and out of the country. Actually, I think the mist will clear. 

There is still a long way to go in the foggy corridors of HMRC and DIT but the pragmatic experience of our freight forwarders and fast parcel companies will find a route through and I’m getting pretty good on certificates of origin and commodity codes when you need some help.

The intense political pressure from Europe to make sure that the UK has no trading advantage has produced the need for more controls at borders, here on the mainland and between here and Northern Ireland.

(©Pixabay: Merry Christmas)

That will sort itself out—even if it involves more paperwork and takes its toll politically. We can however be thankful that we have tariff free trade with Europe and indeed with Turkey—one of our other sources of guns and shooting equipment.

The GTA will continue to make the political point about the need to support international trade and work with officials to ease the frictions. Even though guns and ammunition never get a high priority in the queue, there are plenty of people trying to help.

If you are facing problems, let me know and I can feed it into the machinery of government and seek help. I may even have found the elusive code needed for the customs declaration that will unlock the shipment.

Pass it on

Any industry’s survival depends on passing on knowledge from one generation to the next.  Whether it’s the craft skills of a gunsmith or the essential ability to measure a gun to check its safety and legality, we all have our responsibilities to learn from our colleagues and then pass on that knowledge to others who follow.

Sometimes in the modern world, this knowledge needs to flow upwards as well as downwards through the generations. Businesses today need to engage in the digital world to stay relevant to their customers and it can be the new employee that is able to provide those skills in the digital world to keep the boss connected. 

At the GTA we have introduced the RFD training courses to help but there’s lots to do everyday in every business to ensure that you are operating as well as you can. My ambitions for the Trade are to increase our professionalism and knowledge to make us all more effective at what we do— everything from barrel smoothing to operating the till. 

The skills of our gunsmiths have been built up over lifetimes of commitment to the craft. I have a concern that those skills have the potential to die out without being passed on. We do have apprenticeship schemes in some companies, but we need more.  There is plenty of talent out there and before we lose the skills we must plan ahead.  

Despite the pandemic slowing progress, I am still looking for ways to secure government funding for gunsmithing apprentice schemes. Adapting existing engineering schemes to specialise in gunsmith skills is the aim. I can only justify it if we have the demand. So, if you might have any aspiration to take on somebody to learn, let me know and I can make progress. 

The Gunmakers Trust of the Worshipful Company of Gunmakers has a new Chairman—James Horne. He is already re-invigorating the bursary scheme for apprenticeship support.

The Trust makes annual grants to help towards funding the cost of taking on gunmaking apprentices. Expect to hear more on how this scheme could help you.  

An industry without research, development and education has a limited future. So, whether you are a gun designer, engraver, marketing executive or the Saturday shop assistant, you have knowledge that will benefit others. Bosses, foster opportunities for your staff to be able to share their knowledge with the rest of the team. Bring in new talent and pass it on!

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