The UK's trade remedies regime, as operated by the Trade Remedies Authority, is concerned with ensuring that UK domestic industry is protected from unfair trading practices and unforeseen surges in imports. On 9 March 2023, the Secretary of State for the Department for Business and Trade announced upcoming changes to that regime.
After Brexit, the UK set up a new system to manage its trade remedies cases. The Trade Remedies Authority ("TRA") is a non-departmental body sponsored by the Department for Business and Trade. It carries out investigations and recommends remedies relating to dumping, foreign subsidies and safeguards of internationally traded goods. Since its launch on 1 June 2021, it has reviewed EU trade remedy measures that were transitioned into UK law following the UK's withdrawal from the EU, as well as conducting investigations into new trade remedy complaints brought by UK industry.
The proposed changes will give Ministers additional decision-making powers in respect to trade remedies and to take a broader range of considerations into account when making those decisions. The stated aim is for Ministers to deploy those additional powers without undue interference in the TRA's conduct of independent investigations and related recommendations.1
Bilateral safeguard cases will be in the TRA's portfolio
The TRA's mandate will be updated to include bilateral safeguards included in some UK free trade agreements. This extends their portfolio that already includes safeguards investigations resulting from general import surges, as permitted under WTO rules.
More ministerial oversight over the TRA's functions
The TRA will be subject to considerably more ministerial oversight going forward. Ministers will be given additional powers to affect the remedy being applied, and to inject public interest considerations into trade remedies proceedings. The proposed changes include:2
- Requiring that Ministers be notified before the start of new investigations.
- Giving Ministers powers to ask the TRA to look again at a recommendation to apply a trade remedy, if there is new evidence previously not considered or there was an error by the TRA.
- Giving Ministers the flexibility to institute an alternative remedy to that recommended when an investigation has provided evidence to support the alternative and doing so is in the public interest.
- Enabling the TRA to provide alternative options to Ministers in its recommendations in cases where doing so is justified.
- Making the economic interest test that the TRA applies in its investigations advisory. Ministers will be able to apply remedies even if the economic interest test is not met.
- Providing Ministers with the power to revoke a remedy even absent a TRA recommendation, if they are of the view that the remedy is no longer in the public interest. Ministers will still be able to request that the TRA provide advice and support before making such a decision.
The Government intends these changes to support greater flexibility in decision-making while still operating within the international trade remedies framework. The changes seek to provide more opportunities for dialogue between the TRA and the Government, and to allow Ministers to take a greater role in determining the measures resulting from trade remedy complaints. The Government has announced that it will implement the necessary legislative changes in the Finance Bill and related secondary legislation, which they aim to complete by the end of the year.
For those interested in further information about the changes, both the Department for Business and Trade and the TRA will be setting up joint round-tables to explain the proposed changes.
1 Trade Remedies Authority, Changes proposed to UK’s trade remedies system. 9 March 2023.
2 Kemi Badenoch, Secretary of State for Business and Trade. Statement made on 9 March 2023: Update on Trade Remedies Framework.
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