International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has put the Trade Bill 2020 before the House of Commons for its Second Reading.

Arguing that it is only possible to have fair trade if it is free trade, she explained that the Bill will embed market access for British companies by joining the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) as an independent member.

The GPA allows businesses in the 20 participating countries to have access to bidding for Government contracts in those countries. Ms Truss stressed, however, that this will not, apply to the procurement of UK health services.

With regard to the UK’s continued efforts to replace the trade agreements it currently enjoys through membership of the EU, she said that 20 such trade agreements, representing 48 countries, have been signed while others are still under negotiation.

“This accounts for £110 billion of UK trade in 2018, which represents 74% of continuity trade,” the Trade Secretary confirmed.

Negotiations with the United States and Japan on an enhanced trade agreement have already started, she continued, and the Government is prioritising signing agreements with Australia and New Zealand as well as seeking accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Ms Truss believes that the publication of the UK Global Tariff (UKGT) means that there will be an increased incentive for other countries to come to the table in order to maintain or improve upon their preferential terms and conditions (see “UK tariffs from 1 January 2021”).

The Bill also covers the establishment of the independent Trade Remedies Authority (TRA), which will help protect British businesses against injury, caused by unfair trading practices such as dumping or subsidy, or unforeseen import surges.

The Trade Secretary cautioned, however, that it cannot be used to implement any trade agreement between the UK and the EU, and nor can it be used to implement an agreement with a country that did not have a trade agreement with the EU before exit day, such as the US.

It can only be used to transition the 40 free trade agreements (FTAs) that the EU had signed with third countries by Exit Day.

Last reviewed 26 May 2020