International trade watchdog becomes arm’s-length body

Trade Remedies Authority gets independence three years after it was founded
TRA chief executive Oliver Griffiths Credit: TRA

By Jim Dunton

02 Jun 2021

Post-Brexit competition watchdog the Trade Remedies Authority has formally become an arm’s-length body, more than three years after it was set up to protect the interests of British businesses after the UK’s departure from the European Union.

The TRA is tasked with defending UK firms from unfair practices abroad and investigates complaints from industries reporting their experience in different countries. Its role also includes probing unforeseen surges in imports at home, including the practice of “dumping” goods at prices below their real value.

Under its remit as an arm’s-length body of the Department for International Trade, the TRA can recommend the imposition of new measures like tariffs to stop UK businesses being harmed by protective steps such as subsidies provided to firms in other countries.

Until the Trade Act became law in April the trade remedies function was incorporated in DIT’s Trade Remedies Investigations Directorate. Before the UK left the European Union the nation was covered by the European Commission’s trade remedies investigation body.

The TRA said its investigators were in the process of reviewing 43 existing EU trade-remedy measures relevant to UK industry which were transitioned when the UK left the EU Customs Union. It said 11 of the transition reviews were currently live, covering products from a range of sectors, including steel, fisheries and biodiesel.

TRA chief executive Oliver Griffiths said the organisation’s formal “launch” was an important moment for UK trade policy.

“The TRA will be dedicated to defending British economic interests against unfair international trade practices, providing independent, data-driven recommendations to the government,” he said.

International trade minister Ranil Jayawardena said the TRA would help create a “level playing field” for firms such as steel manufacturers and ceramics producers.

The TRA yesterday published a business plan for the remainder of the current financial year. It listed recruiting additional staff as a priority and set a target of reaching  a full-time equivalent headcount of 143, the majortity of whom would be investigations officers.

A TRA spokesperson said its current headcount was around 115.

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