The TUC believes it is crucial for the government to ensure UK industries and businesses are able to continue to import goods tariff-free from the EU, as the UK’s closest and most integrated trading partner. However, the TUC does not believe that unilaterally lowering tariffs on key industrial and agricultural goods - as the government proposes with its ‘global tariff’ plan - is the best way to achieve this.
Threats to jobs
The government’s proposed ‘global tariff’ approach would grant tariff free access on certain goods not only to EU but also non-EU importers. This threatens the competitiveness of UK industry by making it easier for cheaper imports to enter the UK market which threatens thousands of jobs in manufacturing, agriculture and connect supply chains. Furthermore, as a number of non-EU importers, particularly China are already engaged in dumping goods such as steel, tyres and ceramics in the UK market with damaging consequences for jobs, granting non-EU countries increased tariff free access to the UK market will increase the likelihood of such dumping, threating thousands of jobs. These plans will also make it easier for non-EU countries such as Brazil to dump agricultural goods on the UK market, threatening jobs in agriculture and connected supply chains.
Job losses will further damage UK industry by reducing domestic demand for UK produced goods.
Threats to rights
Granting increased tariff free access to non-EU importers is also likely to encourage imports from countries that do not respect fundamental labour standards, encouraging a race to the bottom on rights. China and Vietnam – which are both likely to use this increased market access to dump more manufactured goods on the UK market – are both countries where fundamental International Labour Conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining are not respected. In China and Vietnam, workers have no right to join an independent union and consequently exploitative conditions are widespread. Furthermore, in Brazil - a country that is likely to take advantage of increased access to the UK’s agricultural sectors – trade unions internationally have raised concerns that the government is abusing fundamental workers’ rights and repressing trade unionists.
Weakening UK’s negotiating hand
The TUC believes that by lowering tariffs to zero on a number of key goods, the government will remove the incentive for other countries to negotiate trade deals with the UK, weakening its hand in global trade negotiations.
The UK must agree a good deal with the EU
The TUC believes that, rather than risk jobs and undermine workers’ rights by enabling tariff-free access to more of the UK market to all countries through its ‘global tariff’ plan, the government must prioritise obtaining a good deal with the EU that ensures imports continue to be tariff-free and guarantees that UK workers continue to be protected by high standards of rights agreed at EU level.
Stronger trade remedies system needed
In order to prevent dumping and unfair trade practice from countries such as China the TUC believes the government should reject its proposed ‘global tariff’ approach and put in place a stronger trade remedies system. The TUC is concerned that the trade remedies system legislated for in the Customs Act will leave the UK with a significantly weaker system of trade remedies than the UK currently has via membership of the EU customs union.
The TUC calls on the government to make the following changes to ensure the UK has a robust and effective trade remedies system:
 UK government (2020) ‘UK global tariff’ consultation, https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/the-uk-global-tariff
Want to hear about our latest news and blogs?
Sign up now to get it straight to your inbox
To access the admin area, you will need to setup two-factor authentication (TFA).