UK will be less protected from cheap imports, trade regulator warns

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UK manufacturers are likely to be less protected against cheap imports from the post-Brexit UK trade regulator than under the EU regime, officials of the new body have said.

the Trade Remedies Authority (TRA) had already removed ‘safeguard’ tariffs in more than 50 areas since the UK left the EU, Oliver Griffiths, its managing director, told the Financial Times,

“We have built into our business plan a wait of about four cases per year,” he said. Brussels launched 16 cases in 2019, with measures imposed in 12 areas.

The block has active defense measures in over 100 areas. Some were against goods the UK does not produce. The UK has only continued 43 and is looking at all of them.

The TRA, an independent body, on Friday recommended lowering tariffs on nine of the 19 categories of chinese steel, a decision that the British industry has called a “hammer blow”.

The EU imposed anti-dumping tariffs of 25 percent in 2018. But the TRA found that there had been no increase in imports into the UK, a condition necessary for it to maintain the levies. The EU – as well as the US – continue to impose duties.

Simon Walker, TRA chairman, said the legislation that created the body was “fit for a global, buccaneer Britain” that promoted free trade.

The law states that Liz Truss, the secretary of international trade, cannot overrule a recommendation to reduce certain tariffs on an area. If it does not accept it, then all tariffs in the study area would be lifted.

Even if he found that subsidized imports were hurting domestic producers, tariffs would be set at lower levels than in the EU. They would be set at the level of injury caused or subsidy granted, whichever is lower.

“It’s quite different from the United States and Japan which impose variable tariffs to protect particular industries,” Walker said.

The next cases TRA is considering include rights to frozen Turkish trout and US biodiesel.

The TRA, launched on June 1, will apply a pure economic interest test to determine if tariffs are necessary.

Griffiths compared it to the French Competition and Markets Authority, which regulates fair competition nationally.

It can take action for three reasons under the rules of the World Trade Organization. One is to sell goods in the UK at prices below normal value in the country from which they are exported.

The second is to protect the industry from state-subsidized imports and the third is to protect against a sudden surge in imports.

Griffiths said he would soon be busy on two fronts. One is the role of governments like China and Russia supporting their exporters.

The other is the huge state subsidies to businesses to survive the global pandemic and reduce carbon emissions.

“One of the big issues in world trade today is the systemic risk associated with non-market economies. The other is the amount of subsidy that can go into the global economy to reach net zero, ”Griffiths said. “There will be a huge focus on trade remedies in the years to come. “

TRA has 120 employees, 23 less than its full workforce. Walker said some of those who joined had left during the long Brexit process, with a deal delayed until December 2020.

He admitted that after 40 years of EU membership “there is a lack of expertise in this country” in trade policy. “We drew as much expertise as possible from other countries, especially Australia.”

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