1.As the UK prepares to leave the EU, it is poised to have its own independent trade policy for the first time in over 40 years. A crucial component of an independent trade policy is a trade defence regime. Under this regime, countries can take measures to protect their domestic industries from disruptive trade flows—whether ‘fair’ or ‘unfair’—from third countries. The Government has outlined the beginnings of the UK’s future trade defence in the Trade Bill and Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill (Customs Bill), introduced to Parliament in November 2017. Crucially, these Bills establish an independent, arm’s-length body, the UK Trade Remedies Authority (TRA), which will be responsible for conducting trade defence investigations in the UK. This Report examines the Government’s work to date establishing this body, and how the body will operate in the future. It considers the structure and functions of the TRA, and whether the Government’s proposed trade defence framework will ensure that the TRA operates independently and effectively.
2.This Report is structured as follows. Chapter one explores the concept of trade defence, and how the EU’s trade defence regime operates presently. It also provides an overview of the UK’s proposed future trade defence regime. Chapter two considers the capacity of the TRA, and whether it can be operational by the Government’s proposed deadline of 29 March 2019. Chapter three examines the appointments process for TRA members and its operational and investigative structure. Chapter four considers the TRA’s functions and whether the proposed division of responsibilities between the TRA and Secretary of State adequately guarantees the operational independence of the TRA. Finally, Chapter five explores issues of transparency and the future appeals mechanism from decisions of the TRA and Secretary of State.
3.In the course of our inquiry we took oral evidence from seven witnesses, including the Minister of State for Trade Policy, Rt Hon Greg Hands MP, at two evidence sessions. In addition, we received seven written submissions. We are also drawing on oral evidence we took from three witnesses in relation to the Trade Bill in November 2017. We would like to thank all of those who took the time to provide us with evidence across both inquiries.
Published: 10 May 2018