Examination of Witness

Part of Trade Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:10 pm on 18th June 2020.

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Sam Lowe:

We do need a Trade Remedies Authority. As it stands, this is dealt with at EU level, and when it comes to disputes over trade—be it because we are worried about unfair subsidies abroad, or worried about products being dumped on our markets or being sold at an artificially low price—we need a means to investigate and remedy them. In the interim, I believe the approach is that following our exit from the transition, we are just going to continue with the EU trade defence measures. However, those measures might not be justifiable if we are only taking into account the UK context, so they are all going to need to be reviewed.

I do have some concerns about the practicalities of the Trade Remedies Authority. First, I believe it has lost two provisional chief executives already, and it is still looking for a new one. Secondly, speaking as someone who comes from south Wales, from Llanelli—I am not an “everything needs to happen in London” person—I am not convinced that it was a sensible decision to put it in Reading and offer the salaries it does when it is trying to attract trade lawyers with vast amounts of experience. My fear is that it will create a false economy: we will end up paying law firms to do it all for us for a while as we build up the internal capacity, and then because of the pay constraints, the people who have learned how to do the job will be able to leap into these law firms to get paid a lot more. That may point to a broader problem with retention in the civil service.