Clause 73 - Transitioned trade remedies: decisions by Secretary of State

Part of Finance (No. 2) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 5 January 2022.

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Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 4:45, 5 January 2022

The clause gives the Secretary of State for International Trade the power to call in and take control of reviews of trade remedies measures transitioned from the EU. This ensures that the Government can effectively take steps to prevent harm to UK industry where there is evidence of unfair competition.

Trade remedies are additional tariffs or tariff-rate quotas temporarily imposed to protect domestic industries from dumped or subsidised imports or unforeseen surges in imports. At the end of the transition period, the Government transitioned 43 of the EU’s trade remedy measures. The Trade Remedies Authority is now reviewing the transitioned measures to assess whether their continuation is suitable for the UK economy. The TRA is responsible for collecting and analysing evidence relating to trade remedies cases, and it currently makes recommendations to the Secretary of State for International Trade on whether particular measures should be revoked or varied or, in certain cases, retained or replaced. The Secretary of State can only accept or reject a TRA recommendation in its entirety.

The current framework was introduced in 2018. Since then, it has become clear that in some circumstances, greater ministerial involvement in decision making is required. The call-in power is designed to address that. It will allow the Secretary of State to call in a case if she considers it necessary. For example, she will be able to take a closer look at an individual case if needed in the wider public interest. The intention is that the Secretary of State will continue to rely on the expertise of the TRA to collect and analyse evidence, but that it will do so under her direction.

Whether a case is called in or not, the process will continue to be robust, transparent and evidence based, but the power will allow the Secretary of State greater flexibility in decision making than our legislation currently allows. The call-in power will apply only to transition reviews, and where the TRA is reconsidering its previous conclusions from a transition review. In parallel, the Government are considering wider changes to the trade remedies framework to ensure that it can consistently defend UK industry. That is separate from the limited scope of this clause, and the International Trade Secretary will report on the findings of that review in due course.

The changes made by clause 73 will amend the trade remedies regime to allow the Secretary of State for International Trade to call in transition reviews and reconsiderations of transition reviews conducted by the TRA. After calling in a case, the Secretary of State will be responsible for determining the outcome of that review or reconsideration. That will ensure that the Secretary of State can have greater oversight and involvement in a particular transition review or reconsideration of a transition review as appropriate, and therefore the ability to decide on appropriate measures, such as varying the tariffs that apply to particular products under the UK’s trade remedies framework.

Where this power is exercised, the Secretary of State need not necessarily base their decision on a prior recommendation or decision of the TRA. The Secretary of State will be required to publish the notice of a decision made under this clause. The Government will make secondary legislation to set out in more detail how the call-in power is to be exercised.

In summary, clause 73 will help to prevent injury to UK industry by empowering the Secretary of State to call in transitional reviews where appropriate, and give her control to determine the outcome of a particular transition review or reconsideration of a transition review. Such a determination may include retaining, varying, revoking or replacing the trade remedies already in place on the goods subject to the review.