Committee reports on UK trade remedies policy
22 March 2021
The International Trade Committee has today published its report on UK trade remedies policy.
Trade remedies protect domestic industry against unfair and injurious trade practices, or unexpected surges in imports. Following the UK’s decision to leave the EU, the Government has been developing the UK’s own trade remedies policy. Through the Trade Bill, it is seeking to establish the Trade Remedies Authority (TRA), a new independent body to investigate trade remedies cases. As the Trade Bill is still going through Parliament, functions of the TRA are currently being undertaken by the Trade Remedies Investigations Directorate (TRID) within the Department for International Trade (DIT).
The Committee’s report looks at the overall structure of the UK trade remedies policy, as well as the Government’s progress in setting up the new TRA, arrangements for transitioning trade remedies from the EU to the UK, and the process for conducting new trade defence investigations. It notes the significant progress made by the Government since the predecessor International Trade Committee undertook an inquiry into this area in 2018.
Establishing the TRA
The Committee notes the high staff turnover of staff working for TRID (who will transfer to the TRA, when established), and expresses its disappointment that staffing levels are around 25% lower than required. The Committee notes that its evidence indicates that the recruitment, retention and training of TRA staff presents one of the most significant areas of risk for the future success and credibility of the UK’s trade remedies regime. It welcomes the appointment of a new Chief Executive of the TRA with trade policy experience, and emphasises the necessity of the independence of the TRA, to provide confidence to UK domestic producers and consumers that the UK trade defence regime is fair and accessible.
The Committee considers the impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol on trade remedies and concludes that further clarification is required to set out the position of businesses in Northern Ireland in respect of trade remedies and the extent to which they fall within the remit of the TRA. It calls for the Government to publish guidance on this matter.
Transition of EU trade remedies
The Committee notes that the UK has maintained certain EU trade remedies measures, which are to undergo “transition reviews”. The Committee considers the review of steel safeguard measures – noting that the balancing of different interests in this area will be complex and politically sensitive, and an early test of the TRA’s capacity, expertise and effectiveness.
New trade remedies investigations
The Committee’s report considers the economic and public interest tests that form part of the UK trade remedies regime, and concludes that it remains to be seen how these tests will operate in practice, how transparent the processes will be and how contentious the outcomes of these tests will be. The Committee welcomes comments from the Minister for International Trade that the regime will remain under review to ensure it provides the right protection for UK industries.
Commenting on the report, Committee Chair Angus Brendan MacNeil MP said:
“Trade remedies is an important area of trade policy – and my Committee has explored how far the Government has got in setting up its own trade remedies regime over the past several years.
“Although there has been progress in this area, a lot remains to be seen in terms of how the UK’s trade remedy policy will operate. We heard some concerns that, under the UK regime, it could be more difficult to secure trade remedies than was the case under the EU regime. And there are issues around staffing – there has so far been a high turnover of staff working on trade remedies, and the staffing level is around 25% lower than required.
“Of course, the operation of the trade remedies regime will be a matter of continued interest to my Committee, and an area we will watch closely.”