Time to cut the red tape

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In recent weeks I have been able to meet a broad cross-section of European logistics professionals during the autumn round of conferences in Central and Western Europe. Most left me in little doubt that growing bureaucracy in European commerce is becoming a pressing issue. In a general sense this did not surprise me, for there is strong evidence that legislation of one kind or another is on the up. But, the unanimity of view that enough is enough and the vehemence with which this was expressed – irrespective of nationality – did surprise me.

The effect of legislation on commerce does not bear equally upon all. And the ‘evidence’ is often a matter of subjective judgment.

But if my correspondents are anything to go by, this attitude is changing: This is an important indicator that something needs attention. Europe must ask itself if we are collectively making matters worse for ourselves by legislating for every eventuality, with consequences than fly in the face of one of the original purposes of European integration – greater freedom of trade. Europe’s competitive position gives no comfort.

So, just how much of our difficulty stems from our lack of agility – the ability to react to, or better still be ahead of, trends in world trade? And, just how much does this reflect the amount of red tape in our commercial lives?

I’m sure some of our legislators are sensitive to this, but worry that a demand for evidence before action will be damaging. Europe cannot afford to see its business slowed down further. The implications for reduced economic growth are self-evident.

So what is to be done? At the European level, there is a case for a rapid audit of legislation to compare its volume in, say, the past five years with the previous five, to identify where this has been directed, and to do a bit of rationalisation.

But this will take time. It would not be a bad start for all us professionals to ensure our national legislators hear our concerns. These must not be a general grumble, but rather specific examples of excess with remedies offered. This should highlight this rising concern.

Graham A Ewer CB CBE , President ELA

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