The Trade Remedies Authority

Part of Trade Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 30 January 2018.

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Mr Davies, I would like to start by stressing that the Government recognise the important role of making sure—that you are in the right place at the right time. [Laughter.]

I will respond to my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford because he raised some incredibly strong points. Free trade is not trade without rules, as the Secretary of State outlined on Second Reading. It is vital for us to have the ability to conduct and operate trade remedies. That is the position we need to be in. I am therefore doubly if not triply surprised that the Opposition voted against creating this body on Second Reading.

My hon. Friend outlined—I know that we will come on to debate some of this when we consider the amendments—some of the key parameters that we want in the Trade Remedies Authority, in that it needs to have regard to a wide variety of stakes and interests in this whole process: businesses, workforces, consumers and so on. We need to make sure that our regime is robust in this space.

It is also important for the message we send abroad, because Members know that free trade has been questioned by more and more countries over the last five to 10 years. Many countries are looking at what the UK does generally in trade policy—and that includes trade remedies—to show that we are committed free traders. People are looking forward to the UK rectifying its own schedules at the World Trade Organisation as we retain and regain our independent voice there to make these points. Trade remedies are a vital part of that and it would be folly for the UK not to have a proper arm’s length trade remedies authority that can do this.

As for my hon. Friend’s points on efficiency and promptness, regarding some of the detail of the Trade Remedies Authority’s operations, I advise him to have a look at what is going on with the Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill, which incorporates a lot of the day-to-day workings of the Trade Remedies Authority and is being debated as we speak in another room. Most of all, regarding his important points about the independence and arm’s length nature of this body, it is incredibly important to ensure that we have specialists on it who can withstand pressures, non-executives appointed on merit and not representing sectional interests. We need to make sure that our Trade Remedies Authority members can consider UK-wide issues, but also regional issues at the same time, without being beholden to a particular sector or region. Our objective is therefore to have an independent, evidence-based approach to trade remedies.