Welsh and UK governments launch bidding process for Wales’ first freeport

The Welsh and UK governments are today launching a call for applications for Wales’ first freeport, which is expected to be operational by summer 2023.

In May 2022, the Welsh Government entered into an agreement with the UK Government to establish a Freeports scheme in Wales.

Welsh ministers have agreed to support freeport policies in Wales following the UK government’s agreement that it would respond to requests from the Welsh government that the two governments act as a ‘partnership of equals’ to establish free ports in Wales.

In addition, UK ministers have also agreed to provide up to £26 million in non-refundable seed funding for any freeports established in Wales, representing parity with the offers offered to each of the English freeports. and Scottish.

A Welsh Freeport will be a special zone with the benefits of simplified customs procedures, duty relief, tax benefits and development flexibility.

The Welsh and UK governments have worked together to design a freeport model that will meet three main objectives that need to be achieved by applicants:

  • Promote regeneration and the creation of quality jobs.
  • To establish Freeport as a national hub for global trade and economy-wide investment.
  • Foster an innovative environment.

The Welsh Government has a clear economic mission to transform the Welsh economy to be more prosperous, equal and green than ever.

Welsh Ministers have successfully argued that a Welsh Freeport will need to operate in a way that aligns with Welsh Government policies on fair labor and social partnership. This means that workers are fairly rewarded, heard and represented, and can progress in a safe, healthy and inclusive work environment, where their rights are respected.

As a result, the Freeports in Wales program includes made-in-Wales policies, such as:

  • the inclusion of the Welsh Government Economic Contract.
  • Involvement of trade unions in freeport governance structures.
  • Emphasis on the real living wage and raising the wage floor.
  • Setting expectations for employers’ treatment of employers’ national insurance contributions.

A Welsh Freeport will need to operate within the Welsh sustainability and wellbeing legislative framework – the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 – and the Welsh Government’s net zero commitments.

As part of a fair and open competitive process to determine where policy should be implemented in Wales, the Welsh Government and the UK Government are today jointly publishing a Prospectus which sets out the policy objectives which the two Governments seek to achieve through the establishment of the Freeports program, and the metrics for evaluating offers.

The bidding process opens today (Thursday 1st September 2022). Candidates will have 12 weeks to complete and submit their offers. Bids must be submitted by 6:00 p.m. on Thursday 24e November 2022.

The successful bid will be announced in early spring 2023, with the freeport established by summer 2023.

The two governments will work together to co-design the site selection process and will have equal say in all implementation decisions, including the final decision on site selection.

Both governments remain open to the possibility of a multi-site freeport in Wales and the possibility of allowing more than one freeport in Wales, if presented with a sufficiently compelling business case. .

Welsh Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said:

“As an integral part of our rich industrial history and the engine room of our economy, ports have enormous potential to accelerate future industries that support net zero – from offshore energy to advanced manufacturing.

“Through the agreement we have reached with the UK Government, we are launching a Freeports in Wales program which offers an opportunity to harness Wales’ abundant economic potential nationally and internationally by reimagining the role of ports, while promoting fair labor and sustainability.

“The Welsh Government believes that better treatment for workers is essential for a fairer and more equal Wales. So I look for offerings that exceed the industry cap on net zero standards, exemplify high labor standards that promote fair work, and articulate a shared vision formed by enduring partnerships that genuinely involve all social partners.

“I look forward to considering innovative offerings that will bring significant economic and social benefits to Wales.”

The UK Government’s Secretary of State for the Leveling Up, Greg Clark, said:

“A new Freeport will be a huge boost to the people of Wales, and I’m delighted to open the bidding as we continue our work with the Welsh Government to bring jobs and prosperity to the country.

“The UK Government’s Freeports scheme is already delivering benefits to businesses and communities across England, with operations in Teesside and Liverpool already underway.

“I look forward to seeing similar benefits for Wales as we deliver a game-changing new Freeport and level the whole of the UK.”

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