The UK’s Trade Remedies Authority (TRA) officially opened its doors on 1 June 2021, taking over the role of investigating unfair trade practices from the Trade Remedies Investigations Directorate (TRID), which had been established post-Brexit within the Department for International Trade (DIT).
The TRA is the authority businesses in the UK now need to engage with where they have concerns of unfair trade practices from foreign competitors (and equally, the TRA will be the authority foreign companies will have to engage with to contest trade remedy measures). The TRA has stated its intention to engage with business in the UK, with current concerns including the “dumping” into the UK market of Chinese and Russian produced cold rolled flat steel, and subsidised Turkish rainbow trout. It will now be for the UK’s TRA to enforce the WTO rules and to impose appropriate trade remedy measures.
What are Trade Remedy Measures?
Trade remedies are typically the imposition of tariffs on specific products to protect domestic industry from unfair trade practices. These take the form of three key measures: anti-dumping measures (where foreign exports are sent to the UK cheaply, harming UK industry), countervailing measures (also known as anti-subsidy measures, where foreign subsidies on exports to UK cause injury to UK industry), and safeguard measures (an unforeseen surge of exports harming UK industry).
The TRA will investigate complaints from UK business about competition from imports related to these types of unfair trading practices.
What has changed since Brexit?
The UK trade remedies regime is based on fundamental World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, but there will be some notable divergence from the EU’s regime. The UK has brought these changes into the UK legal system through the UK Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Act 2018. For example, the specific features of the UK system include that the TRA is an independent, arms-length body that makes recommendations to the Secretary of State, which applies the UK ‘economic interest test’ in all cases. The TRA will also apply the ‘lesser duty rule’ which is optional under WTO rules but is required under UK legislation.
In addition, the TRA will carry out transition reviews which are unique to the UK as a result of leaving the EU. The UK has rolled over 43 EU measures deemed to meet the relevant criteria and will carry out investigations on whether to vary, revoke, or maintain the measures. This process started in February 2020 and there are currently 11 live reviews covering products from a range of sectors, including steel, fisheries, and biodiesel.
The TRA is already making strides as the first organisation in the world to offer an end-to-end digital service for trade remedies cases.
What does it mean for businesses?
The UK’s newly established domestic trade regime is already creating changes for businesses – both those operating in or trading with the UK. However, as the TRA is in its infancy it is seeking engagement from businesses in order to help support protecting UK businesses. In particular, they are looking to be made aware of any adverse effects of the UK having now left the EU trade remedies system. As part of the transition review of EU measures, these will be maintained if found to be in the UK’s interest, so it is vital that businesses engage with this review process if it affects their sectors.
The TRA has already produced its first Business Plan for 2021-2022 alongside its Corporate Plan for 2021-2024. Businesses can review the active investigations here.