Dr Laura Cohen, chief executive of the British Ceramic Confederation, explains why employers and unions are calling on government to commit to strong trade remedies after Brexit.
As the UK leaves the European Union, it will need to develop its own independent trade policy that fits with a wider industrial strategy. This includes developing a system of trade remedies, the instruments that are used to combat market distortions (such as dumping and subsidised exports) that disrupt genuine free trade and that are economically devastating.
A group of manufacturing trade associations – Agricultural Industries Confederation, British Ceramic Confederation, British Glass, Chemical Industries Association, Confederation of Paper Industries, Mineral Products Association, UK Steel – and trade unions (Community, GMB, Unite the union) has come together as we have a shared interest in shaping the UK’s new trade remedies system.
We have set out our viewpoint in a position statement for the General Election, The Future of Trade Remedies.
Government is responsible for determining the UK’s post-Brexit ‘trade philosophy’. Parliament must legislate to provide a legal framework for the UK’s future trade remedies.
Our organisations called on government to:
- Include in the first Queen’s Speech a bill to adopt all of the trade remedies allowed by the World Trade Organisation: anti-dumping measures, anti-subsidy measures and safeguarding measures.
- Ensure that new UK trade remedies are adequate to fully alleviate market injury to UK manufacturing, are available from day one after Brexit and are supported by the appropriate government infrastructure.
- Promote genuine global free trade by ensuring that UK manufacturing can easily access the full range of remedies to harmful trade distortions.
A number of factors, which are listed in our position statement, around how the new trade remedies system is set up and administered will determine its adequacy in defending UK manufacturing jobs, businesses and investment against unfair, free-trade-disrupting distortions including those in non-market economies.
As an example in my industry, ceramics, after years of contraction partly because of dumped imports from China, EU measures have helped our sector to stabilise, invest and employ more people. There must be no cliff-edge at Brexit.
We are pleased that in the Queen’s speech the Trade Bill benefits include: “To establish the tools we need to deliver the best international trading framework for the UK outside of the European Union, including an effective trade remedies regime.” We look forward to working with government to ensure these tools are comprehensive and adequate.
The UK’s world-leading manufacturing sectors are a vital part of our economy that provide good, well-paying jobs. In many cases, manufacturing employers are the heart of the communities in which they are located and have many supporting UK indirect and supply chain jobs.
Their success is integral to our country’s success outside of the EU. Trade distortions, however, adversely and severely damage domestic manufacturing as lucidly demonstrated in the recent steel crisis. Free trade must be on fair terms, and distortions such as subsided exports and dumping must always be addressed for our sectors to thrive.
Our organisations are calling on politicians to commit to strong trade remedies as part of an industrial strategy to do just that. UK manufacturing deserves no less.