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UK reviews steel quotas for developing countries exporting to UK

The Trade Remedies Authority (TRA) has initiated a Tariff Rate Quota (TRQ) review on steel products which are imported into the UK from over 120 developing countries and which are subject to the UK steel safeguard trade remedy measure.

The TRA received a request to review the developing country exceptions on rebar, one of the categories of steel covered by the measure. The TRA is planning to review these exceptions for other categories of steel as well, bringing forward its planned annual review to ensure businesses can more quickly benefit from any necessary changes to the tariffs they are subject to. The existing quotas were set in July 2022.

Imports from some developing countries may be exceeding 3% of total UK imports

Tariff rate quotas (TRQs) are part of the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework. They specify how much of a product can be imported from a country before its imports are subject to higher tariffs. Imports from developing countries are given exceptions to these TRQs if the goods imported are less than 3% of the total imports of that product and if, collectively, these low volume exporters account for no more than 9% of the total imports of that product. Members of the WTO are responsible for managing their own developing country exceptions to TRQs.

The TRA will assess whether the exceptions for imports from developing countries need to be amended based on updated import data. The TRA’s assessment will consider imports from all developing countries, including countries which are currently excepted from the measure and those which are not.

Widening the scope of the review

The TRA has been asked to look at the developing country exceptions on rebar. To make the review more efficient, the TRA is considering whether to widen the scope and look at all steel categories and all developing country exceptions covered by the measure.

Have your say on the review

If you think your business will be affected by this review (for example, if you import steel products covered by the safeguard measure from a developing country), you can comment on the proposals. You can check the list of product codes affected and the list of developing countries. You can register your interest on the TRA’s online case platform within 14 days and comment by 30 January, 2023.

Once the TRA has considered all submissions, it will confirm the scope of the review. Businesses which think they may be affected by changes in quotas for steel imports can then register their interest (if they have not done so already) so they can participate in the review.

Once the TRA has completed its review, it will submit its recommendations for any changes to quotas to the Secretary of State for International Trade, who will make the final decision based on the TRA’s recommendation. If revisions to the TRQs are required, these will be provided in a notice published by the Department for International Trade.

Background information

  • The UK’s trade remedies system follows WTO rules and is designed to make sure UK industries are not damaged by unfair trade practices or unexpected surges in imports.
  • The Trade Remedies Authority is the UK body that investigates whether trade remedies measures are needed to counter unfair international trade practices and unforeseen surges of imports. The TRA has the power to investigate imports if it thinks they may need to be countered using a trade remedy measure applied at the border.
  • The regulations defining how changes of circumstances can be considered in a TRQ review are set out in the Trade Remedies (Increase in Imports Causing Serious Injury to UK Producers) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, Regulation 35B(9).
  • Safeguard measures temporarily restrict imports of specified goods to help domestic industries adapt to changes in market conditions. They are one of the three types of trade remedies – along with anti-dumping measures which counter goods being dumped in countries at prices below their normal price in their country of origin and countervailing measures against subsidies – that are allowed under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
  • Trade remedy investigations were carried out by the EU Commission on the UK’s behalf until the UK left the EU. A number of EU trade remedies measures of interest to UK producers were carried across into UK law when the UK left the EU and the TRA needs to review each one to check if it is suitable for UK needs.
  • The TRA will review the goods imported to the UK from each of the developing countries which are subject to the steel safeguard measure. If the TRA establishes that imports from a developing country have increased, taking the country’s imports above the 3% threshold for exception from the measure, it can recommend that imports from that country are now subject to the measure. This will mean that imports from that country will be subject to the TRQ residual quota which defines how much importers can bring in before paying higher tariffs, or to a quota specific to that country.
  • The TRA can also recommend that a developing country which was previously within scope of the safeguard measure should now be excluded if its imports have dropped below 3% of total imports of the product entering the UK.