There are already big reforms planned for the UK Trade Remedies Authority (“TRA”) – less than two years after its establishment – and for the overall operation of the UK trade remedies regime. On March 9, the UK Government announced changes to its trade remedies regime to transition to a more complex investigatory regime.
- The TRA taking on responsibility for investigating bilateral safeguard cases as part of free trade agreements;
- Greater Ministerial powers to:
- request the TRA provides alternative options to its main recommendations, as required;
- override the TRA’s Economic Interest Test (“EIT”) on public interest grounds (allowing Ministers to apply measures even if the EIT is not met);
- ask the TRA to re-evaluate a recommendation; and
- take a different decision to that recommended by the TRA.
The framework of proposed changes will also require the TRA to notify Ministers before initiating new investigations.
Potential Impact of Reforms
Perhaps the two greatest envisioned changes are giving the government the power to apply and revoke measures absent the TRA’s recommendation. In that regard, Ministers will be able to apply an alternative remedy to that recommended by the TRA (on the condition that there is supporting evidence to do so and it is in the public interest even if the EIT is not met). Likewise, Ministers will be able to revoke trade remedy measures without the need for a TRA recommendation if retaining a measure is no longer in the public interest.
While public interest considerations seem to still make up an integral part of the process, this may be an indication that the importance of the EIT mechanism itself is being diluted. The EIT is unique to the UK trade remedies regimes. The TRA must carry out the EIT to determine whether the proposed trade remedy measure would be in the UK’s broader economic interests. Relevant considerations under the EIT include: the significance of affected industries/consumers (in terms of Gross Value Added, turnover and employment) and the impact of the remedy on affected UK industries/consumers, geographic areas or particular groups.
The TRA is working with the Department for Business and Trade (“DBT”) and will be setting up joint round-tables for interested stakeholders to explain the proposed changes. Legislative amendments will be proposed in the Finance Bill, due later this month. If you would be interested in receiving further information in respect of the UK trade remedies regime, please get in touch with our team.