Unfair Trading Practices

International Trade – in the House of Commons on 10th June 2021.

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Photo of Kieran Mullan Kieran Mullan Conservative, Crewe and Nantwich

What steps she is taking to tackle the use of (a) trade-distorting subsidies and (b) other unfair trading practices.

Photo of Ranil Jayawardena Ranil Jayawardena Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade)

Happy birthday, Mr Speaker. The United Kingdom now has a fully operational trade remedies system that can take action if foreign subsidies harm British businesses. In addition, last month, my right hon. Friend the International Trade Secretary chaired a meeting of G7 Trade Ministers that called for the start of negotiations to develop stronger international rules on market-distorting subsidies and trade-distorting actions by state-owned enterprises, such as the forced transfer of technology.

Photo of Kieran Mullan Kieran Mullan Conservative, Crewe and Nantwich

Happy birthday, Mr Speaker. With nine out of 10 of the largest Chinese firms being state-owned enterprises, it is clear that the international rulebook is not keeping up with the latest players’ tactics. I do not want to see—I do not think anyone here wants to see—British businesses undercut. Will the Minister elaborate on what more we can do, working with like-minded allies in the WTO and the G7, to tackle these unfair practices?

Photo of Ranil Jayawardena Ranil Jayawardena Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade)

My hon. Friend is right that global trading rules have not adapted to take account of China’s growth or its different economic model, so Britain cannot, and will not, allow her businesses to be damaged or undercut by those who do not play by the rules, such as through the non-transparent granting of different forms of industrial subsidies. We will work with like-minded partners at the G7, the G20, the WTO and elsewhere to address the harmful impacts of these unfair practices.

Photo of Bill Esterson Bill Esterson Shadow Minister (International Trade)

Happy birthday, Mr Speaker. The Trade Remedies Authority has made a deeply flawed recommendation to withdraw half of all the safeguards on steel. If the recommendation is implemented, it is likely to lead to a flood of steel imports, with potentially disastrous consequences for the steel industry, communities and livelihoods. The Government’s own regulations do not allow them to retain the safeguards unless the Trade Remedies Authority advises them to do so. The Secretary of State has already said that the regulations need to be reviewed, so will Ministers accept our offer to work together to find a way to retain these vital safeguards and, in so doing, live up to the commitment made by the Trade Secretary to do whatever it takes to protect our steel industry?

Photo of Ranil Jayawardena Ranil Jayawardena Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade)

I am delighted to hear what the shadow Minister says, but what he is asking for, which is the imposition of measures against the independent recommendation of the TRA, is not within the Secretary of State’s powers today. In fact, his party argued that the Secretary of State should have fewer powers when the legislation was going through the House under the last Government. It wanted to curtail her powers further, and it was robust on that. We will not hesitate to defend British industry; that is our policy. The world has changed since 2018, when these powers were put in place, and the Trade Secretary is exploring what else might be needed in Britain’s toolkit to defend British industry.