FT letter: Rethink remedies before Customs Bill progresses

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We welcome the UK government’s intention to establish a trade remedies authority in next week’s trade bill. The organisation will independently investigate unfair international trade practices and will recommend measures to restore a level playing field. It is vital that such a body is transparent and accessible. We propose that the authority’s governing board should include representatives from UK manufacturing employers and trade unions.

However, the prospective rules under which the trade remedies authority will operate mean that it will not have the chance to be fully effective. The legislation now going through parliament in the taxation (cross-border trade) bill (“customs bill”) sets up a lighter-touch approach to illegal dumping by China and others than in the remaining EU and any other major economy. Much has been deferred into secondary legislation and will have little or no parliamentary scrutiny; this is in contrast to the new EU rules that have been through many rounds of scrutiny by MEPs.

Retaining meaningful trade remedies is a complex and strategic issue. We propose that the customs bill’s clauses on trade remedies must be rethought if it is to restore the truly competitive environment our UK manufacturers need to succeed.

The stakes are extremely high. Without a robust approach to trade remedies the UK government will be unable to achieve its international trade or industrial strategy ambitions. The UK’s manufacturing base and tens of thousands of jobs around the country, and particularly in the North, Midlands and Wales, will be at risk if parliament gets the bill wrong.

Tony Burke Unite the Union

Jude Brimble GMB

David Caffall Agricultural Industries Confederation

Dr Laura Cohen British Ceramic Confederation

Dave Dalton British Glass

Steve Elliott Chemical Industries Association

Andrew Large Confederation of Paper Industries

Dr Richard Leese Mineral Products Association

Alasdair McDiarmid Community

Owen Tudor Trades Union Congress

Gareth Stace UK Steel

This letter was published in the Financial Times on 5 January