BT to represent telecoms industry’s interests on new Critical Imports Council


The Council, aimed at reinforcing the UK’s supply of key imports, includes 23 representatives from business, academia, and government

Today, the UK government has announced the first meeting of the newly formed Critical Imports Council, a group formed to ‘help safeguard flows of vital goods such as medicines and smartphone chips’.

The creation of the Council is part of the government’s wider Critical Imports and Supply Chains Strategy, announced in January, aimed at ensuring minimal disruption for British consumers due to global supply chain shortages.

In its announcement, the government noted the increasingly volatile nature of global supply chains, highlighting the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Russia invasion of Ukraine, attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, and environmental disasters on UK businesses.

“It’s never been more important to strengthen our supply chains and make sure vital goods can continue reaching consumers, in the face of the pandemic, the Red Sea attacks and many other crises around the world,” said Business and Trade Minister Alan Mak, who is serving as Chair of the Critical Import Council. “That’s why we’re now going even further to strengthen our critical goods supplies with the launch of this new Council, which will bring together government and industry experts to help protect businesses from supply chain shocks now and in the future.”

The Council will comprise 23 representatives from across the public and private sector, covering numerous industries from aerospace automotive to healthcare and shipping. The full list of representatives can be found here.

The interest of the UK’s communication industry is seemingly represented by the likes of BT and Tech UK, with BT’s Chief Security and Network Officer, Howard Watson, noting his involvement in a Linkedin post.

“The new Critical Imports Council met for the first time today. It has been established to address some of the difficulties that international conflict, pandemics and other challenges pose to the usual flow of vital equipment that’s needed across a range of sectors,”  he said. “Having the voice of the telecommunications industry is therefore vital and I’ll raise issues on behalf of all colleagues in our sector to seek to protect the supply chains we all rely upon.”

The Council will meet quarterly to evaluate risks to their relevant supply chains and how to mitigate their impact for UK consumers.

Ensuring robust supply chains for critical technologies has been a key focus for governments around the world in recent years. Alongside the aforementioned challenges for global supply chains, geopolitical tensions between East and West has seen industry’s grow increasingly protectionist and insular, particularly with regards to semiconductors, AI, and other rapidly advancing technologies viewed as the bedrock of the future economy.

When it comes to smartphone chips, for example, massive subsidies are being doled out in the US, Europe, China, and Japan to bolster their respective production capabilities and reduce reliance on overseas suppliers.

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