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March 25, 2024

UK Trade Talking Points latest insights from EY UK's Trade Strategy team

This edition of our semi-weekly United Kingdom (UK) Trade Talking Points includes updates on the thirteenth WTO Ministerial Conference, UK trade remedies, and the status of the UK's trade deals and negotiations.

This round of global trade policy development is highly relevant to multinationals that trade in or with the UK.

WTO Thirteenth Ministerial Conference

On 26-29 February, trade ministers from 164 states and territories attended the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Thirteenth Ministerial Conference (MC13), agreeing on modest outcomes to extend the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions and for improvements in the treatment of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

A number of WTO Members ratified the WTO's 2022 Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, bringing to 71 the number who have agreed to eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies contributing to the collapse in global fish stocks. However, 109 members are required to ratify, so the Agreement has not yet taken effect. Similarly, there was no agreement to extend a phaseout of subsidies that have contributed to fishing fleet overcapacity.

Recent WTO negotiations on agriculture have focused on: (a) tackling export restrictions on food; (b) agricultural production and trade in net-food-importing developing countries and LDCs; and (c) domestic support to the agricultural sector. Again, international agreement was not reached and will remain difficult due to domestic political considerations in many markets.

In a more positive development, India and South Africa dropped their objections to the entry-into-force of the WTO Agreement on Domestic Regulation for Services — a plurilateral agreement among 67 WTO Members that seeks to bring increased predictability and transparency to the technical standards, licensing and qualification requirements governing services provision, and procedures that affect services providers operating across borders.

Finally, Comoros and Timor-Leste joined the WTO at MC13. Companies operating in or with these economies are likely to have expanded growth opportunities in the years ahead.

UK Trade Remedies update

The end of February and beginning of March 2024 has seen considerable developments regarding the UK's trade remedies investigations by the UK Trade Remedies Authority (TRA). These include:

  • Steel: The TRA published its findings and recommended extending the steel safeguard measure for two years to continue protecting the UK's steel industry from import surges. The current measure covers 15 categories and the recommendation would extend the measures until June 2026. Businesses (importers, exporters, or UK producers) trading in any of these steel categories that are affected by the review's findings were invited to respond to the TRA's Statement of Intended Final Determination (SIFD). The TRA's decision will then be given to the Secretary of State for Business and Trade for final decision-making.
  • Ceramic tiles: The TRA published its review on anti-dumping measures on ceramic tiles from China. The measures, which have been in place for 12 years and were inherited from the European Union (EU), remain suitable for UK needs and will be maintained for a five additional years. Ceramic tiles in scope for this measure cover a surface area of less than or equal to 3600cm2, with no tile edge greater than 600mm in length. Larger subsets of this product that are not produced in the UK will be excluded from this measure.
  • Aluminium extrusions: The TRA decided to uphold the original decisions about anti-dumping measures on Chinese aluminium extrusions. The review was initiated by a UK producer that believed the original decisions, which included applying anti-dumping duties to certain imports and giving a final negative determination on large aluminium imports, did not accurately reflect the level of injurious dumping.
  • Chamois leather: The TRA initiated a transition review on anti-dumping measures on chamois leather from China.

Businesses trading with or processing goods affected by imposed or potential measures should register on the Trade Remedies Service to participate in an investigation or obtain updates on the latest developments. Impacted businesses should further review their supply chains and border processes and evaluate how the measures could affect their operations.

UK-Japan Trade — Protection for 37 UK food and drink Geographical Indications

Thirty-seven Geographical Indications (GIs) for British food and drink in Japan formally gained protection on 29 February 2024, following completion of scrutiny processes by UK and Japan. Special protected status will now be granted for iconic British food and drink products, including Cornish pasties, Melton Mowbray pork pies, Welsh beef, Staffordshire cheese, Kentish ale and Welsh wine. These new protections mean the products are safeguarded against imitation for placement on the Japanese market. Equally, the UK will protect the GIs of a range of Japanese products including Hokkaido wine and Hiba beef.

For UK businesses, the new protections of GIs will allow the building of brand recognition and trust in supply and demand for distinctive and quality products. They also mean potential new opportunities to drive export growth for those doing business or considering doing business in Japan.

EU-Ukraine/Moldova Trade — renewed suspension of import duties

On 20 March 2024, the Council presidency and the European Parliament's negotiators provisionally agreed to allow Ukrainian and Moldovan exports to the EU for another year. The decision to extend autonomous trade measures will suspend import duties and quotas to 5 June 2025 (Ukraine) and 24 July 2025 (Moldova). This includes enhanced protection for sensitive agricultural products (current EU regulation 2023/1077 and 2023/1524) and, for Ukraine, a new automatic safeguard will also be added for certain sensitive products, such as poultry, eggs, sugar, oats, maize, groats and honey.

The Parliament's position at first reading is expected to be adopted at one of the April 2024 plenary sessions. Regulations will need to be adopted and signed by the representatives of the Council and the European Parliament and published in the Official Journal, before entering into force.

The renewal of these measures aims to encourage trade between the EU and Ukraine and Moldova, enhance their economic relations and promote Ukraine's gradual integration into the EU internal market. The war in Ukraine has negatively impacted Moldova's international trade, and this move aims to mitigate this impact.

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Contact Information

For additional information concerning this Alert, please contact:

Ernst & Young LLP (United Kingdom), London

Published by NTD’s Tax Technical Knowledge Services group; Carolyn Wright, legal editor

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