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Trade Remedies Authority

Volume 631: debated on Thursday 23 November 2017

7. What the remit of the trade remedies authority will be; and how it will undertake to balance consumer and producer interests within that remit. (902507)

We are taking the necessary steps to operate our own trade remedies system. That will investigate and take action against unfair trading practices that injure UK industry. The new, independent trade remedies authority will operate the system and make recommendations to address injury found by its investigations. In doing so, it will consider the interests of all parties, such as user industries, producers and consumers, as well as regional and long-term impacts.

The Minister will be aware that his Conservative colleagues in the European Parliament have frustrated efforts to prevent the dumping of steel by the Chinese on the European market by pushing for the lesser duty rule, which has had a devastating impact on British steel production. Will the trade remedies authority apply a proper public interest test to protect the interest of workers and industry in this country?

The hon. Gentleman mentions the European Parliament. Perhaps he might have a word with his own colleagues, who have sought in the recent vote in the European Parliament to frustrate the process of us even talking about trade with the European Union to start with. The purpose of trade remedies measures is to address injury caused to domestic industry. The lesser duty rule provides adequate protection to achieve the same so that industry can operate on a fair playing field and without imposing unnecessary costs on downstream industry and consumers.

I should remind the Minister that it was this Government that argued against trade remedies in Europe and that failed to protect our steel and ceramics industries. That is why it is not surprising that manufacturers are concerned that the new trade remedies authority will focus on consumer interests at the expense of businesses and jobs. What assurances can the Minister give that it will not always seek to apply the lesser duty rule? Will he now commit to include social and environmental criteria in the remit of the trade remedies authority, so that the UK does not become the dumping ground for goods that can no longer be dumped in the EU?

We have taken robust action on steel in concert with the European Union, and we are playing an active role within that. The Government of course recognise that overcapacity is a significant global issue, which is why we have been working proactively through the EU and our G20 partners. The hon. Gentleman seeks to downplay the interests of consumers in all of this, but they will be absolutely vital and at the heart of our trade remedies process—exactly where they deserve to be.