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Anti-Dumping Measures

Volume 917: debated on Monday 18 October 1976

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what progress he has made in preparing for the EEC to become responsible for anti-dumping regulations and enforcement.

I have discussed with Sir Christopher Soames the major problems likely to arise. In particular we agreed that the anti-dumping unit of the Department of Trade should remain in being after 30th June 1977 to advise United Kingdom industry and to assist the Commission in handling cases. We are currently considering in detail with the Commission the best means of ensuring a smooth hand-over and close future cooperation. In the meantime the Commission has made a helpful statement in reply to a Question put in the European Parliament by the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton). With permission, I will circulate this in the Official Report.

Can the Secretary of State advise us whether the Government believe that a more rapid enforcement of anti-dumping procedure, either now or under the control of the EEC, is possible? Can he further advise us, following the supplementary question by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller), that the Government are not thinking in terms of import deposits, bearing in mind that this could be only a temporary palliative which would help the extensive public sector borrowing requirement but would do nothing to aid the fundamental imbalance of British trade at the moment?

I have already said that as regards the import deficits this is not a trade measure but a financial measure. For obvious reasons the more rapid enforcement of anti-dumping measures could be no more than a temporary palliative. It is certainly possible in many cases to take more rapid action, especially if industry co-operates more rapidly. It must be understood that anti-dumping action is co-operative action and depends to some extent on the co-operation of industry. I could point to cases in which there have been considerable delays in providing information which it has been agreed should be provided. I am strengthening the anti-dumping unit in my Department and I hope that that will have the effect of speeding up yet further our anti-dumping action.

Is it not a serious matter that we are proposing to surrender these crucial powers to the EEC Commission? If we do so, will it be possible for the EEC to approve anti-dumping duties for the United Kingdom alone, or will it have to apply them to the whole of the EEC or not at all?

On considering this matter further, I think my right hon. Friend will find that there can be advantages in having the full commercial power of the European Community involved, provided we ensure that it acts as rapidly as we do. It is for that reason that I have been in consultation with it. Detailed discussions are continuing. One of the matters that I discussed with Sir Christopher Soames was whether anti-dumping can apply to the United Kingdom as a whole. My right hon. Friend will find references to that in the answer to the hon. Member for Cheadle. The Commission has special powers to act in respect of a part of the Community and not only all the Community. That point is taken care of.

Are the French handing over their effective anti-dumping machinery to the EEC? If so, when may we expect to take advantage of that in future?

Anti-dumping has for some time been operated by the Commission on behalf of the original Six.

When my right hon. Friend is making proposals to the Commission, will he bear in mind that we should alter the rules and put the onus of proving whether there is dumping on the importer rather than on industries in this country? That would be a means of speeding up the process and getting the information that is required a great deal sooner than at present.

That is a proposal that has been made in the course of the current TUC-CBI memorandum. Such an arrangement would be contrary to British law and, consequently, to the international agreement to which we have subscribed. It would be contrary to the position now operated by the European Community. That is also bound by the anti-dumping code. I can only say to my hon. Friend that at the moment what he suggests is not possible.

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that, in the event of exports being concentrated on the United Kingdom rather than on our partners in the Community, our partners will dismantle the effective non-tariff barriers that they have so that the imports may be dispersed throughout the EEC?

The whole object of the European Community is to eliminate non-tariff barriers that may operate within it.

Following are the question and answer:

Subject: Dumped imports

At present the United Kingdom Government continues to deal with cases of dumped imports originating in countries outside the Community under its national legislation.
In accordance with the provisions of Article 133 of the Treaty of Accession, such cases will be dealt with under Community legislation from 1st July 1977.
Will the Commission state what steps have been taken or are envisaged to ensure that the protection available to British industry from dumped imports will not be lessened as a result of the transfer of responsibility in this field in the following types of case:
  • 1. Where anti-dumping duties have been imposed under British law and are still in force on 1st July 1977.
  • 2. Where an investigation is in progress under British law on 1st July 1977.
  • 3. In cases which arise after 1st July 1977.
  • 1. The Commission is of the opinion that there will be no reduction in the protection available to British industry as a result of the transfer of power in the anti-dumping field at the end of the transition period, i.e. 30th June 1977 since the Community's antidumping policy is very similar to the traditional British policy. Both British legislation and Community law, under the transitional provisions of which the United Kingdom has operated since accession, are based on the GATT anti-dumping code. Moreover, the time scale within which complaints are dealt with by the Commission is approximately the same as that which applies in the United Kingdom which itself is relatively short.

    2. The following are replies to the specific questions asked by the hon. Member:

  • 1. Anti-dumping duties which have been imposed by the British authorities and are still in force on 30th June 1977 will not expire ipso facto on 1st July 1977 although they may, at an appropriate time, be examined in accordance with Community legislation.
  • 2. As regards cases where an investigation is in progress in the United Kingdom, first contacts have already been held between the Commission and the United Kingdom Government which has indicated that it will endeavour to finalise as many cases as possible before 30th June 1977. There will be continuing close co-operation between the Commission's services and the United Kingdom authorities to ensure that those cases which are still under investigation at 30th June 1977 can be taken over smoothly by the Commission. The results of the investigations carried out by the British authorities will not, of course, be fruitless but will form the basis of the Commission's investigation and will help considerably to speed up the procedure.
  • 3. In cases arising after 1st July 1977, the normal Community anti-dumping procedures will apply. These provide that the Commission shall examine complaints in coordination with Member States. The co-ordination would, of course, be particularly close with a Member State whose industry was directly affected. The handing over of powers in dumping matters did not cause any problems in the original Member States and it is not expected that in the United Kingdom any insuperable problem will arise.
  • 3. More specifically, the procedure laid down by Article 6 et seq. of the Community antidumping Regulation is as follows.

    4. Industries which are suffering injury as a result of dumping have the option of either approaching Member States directly or making their problems known to the Commission in the first place. In either case the industry will be given all possible advice and assistance. The Commission has, indeed, prepared a questionnaire to assist industry in formulating complaints but this does not, of course, in any way, rule out the possibility of discussion with the appropriate authorities, which the Commission welcomes. In the introduction of the complaint the industry is again free to choose between lodging it with the Commission or with the Government of a Member State. If the latter course is chosen, the authorities concerned shall, in accordance with the Regulation, inform the Commission immediately. In either event the result will be an investigation by the Commission in co-operation with the Member States, of both the dumping and the injury to the industry.

    5. In this context it should be noted that both the GATT anti-dumping code and the Community Regulation provide for anti-dumping measures to be taken if there is injury to a Community industry which is defined as being either the entire industry or a major proportion thereof. Both expressly recognise, however, that, in certain circumstances, it may be necessary to act in defence of the industry in a region of the Community. Existing Community legislation should, therefore, prove sufficiently flexible to deal with all major problems.

    6. Finally it should be stressed that all Commission decisions on dumping cases are taken after consultation with the Member States. For example, an investigation is opened after discussion in the Anti-dumping Committee; the investigation is carried out by the Commission in co-operation with Member States' authorities, whose assistance it may request in such matters as customs checks and verification of injury to firms; an anti-dumping duty may be imposed provisionally by the Commission or definitively by the Council and, in either case, the situation in the Member States most directly concerned would be taken very much into account; the Commission may only terminate a procedure with the agreement of the Member States.