Defending the UK’s current tariff arrangements

Defending the UK’s current tariff arrangements

ARTICLE  · 09 Mar 2020 

The Timber Trade Federation has responded to the UK Government’s latest consultation on UK Global Tariffs to protect the interest of our members.

As the Government prepares the UK’s first independent tariff policy in almost 50 years, they are consulting on how the UK Global Tariff will be different from the Common EU Tariff we have now, with the new regime to come into force on 1 January 2021, unless the transition period is extended.

At the TTF we’ve made clear that retaining the tariff free movement of timber products between the EU and UK, as well as external tariffs on wood-based panel products, is vital to the timber industry, to the competitiveness of timber in construction, and for meeting carbon reduction targets.

See below the reasons we provided to the Government for retaining some of the advantages found in our current tariff arrangements:

Promote carbon capture and storage. UK and European forests are vital to carbon capture during their growing life, and when the trees reach maturity, the harvested timber enters the wood panel supply chain, where carbon can be locked in for decades. The alternative is often burning wood fibre as biomass to generate energy, which immediately returns the carbon to the atmosphere.

Protect UK manufacturing. EU common external tariffs of 7% for 3rd country imports of wood-based panel products are vital to protecting the competitiveness of UK and EU based manufacturers of wood-based panels. Failure to maintain this level of external tariff will impact UK manufacturers, and business investment, to the extent that we may lose this vital carbon reduction supply chain.

Maintain supply security. Almost all UK manufactured wood-based panels are absorbed by the UK construction sector, and the loss of these manufacturers will reduce the security of supply of wood-based panels. This could also have a negative impact on quality of supply, as it is more difficult to ensure, enhance or influence the production of 3rd country imports.

Prevent illegal wood entering UK. Imports from 3rd countries will expose the UK to greater risk of illegal wood entering the UK supply chain, which runs counter to the Government’s stated aims around FLEGT, as well as our obligations under UK timber regulations.

Support our carbon reduction potential. Any trade deal between the UK and EU should maintain zero tariff rated movement of wood and wood-based panels, which supports the carbon reduction potential of European forests, including those in the UK and Ireland. This is particularly relevant for the UK as Ireland are a vital supplier of wood and wood-based panels to the UK construction sector.

Encourage sustainable development. EU common external tariffs of 7% do not unfairly discriminate, as Generalised Scheme of Preference (GSP) arrangements support developing countries to provide wood-based panels at preferential tariff rates. However, these benefits only extend until the point when defined ceiling targets are reached, and nations no longer need support.