Policy

Reducing barriers to international free trade

Supporting detail:

Helping UK business overcome trade barriers

What is a trade barrier?

British companies can sometimes have trouble operating outside the UK. This can be because of discriminatory rules and practices of other countries or misinterpretation of rules by administrative authorities.

It can also be because another country imposes an unfair increase in duty or import levy on UK business. Measures like this are known as trade barriers.

There are several different types of trade barrier. They include tariffs and non-tariff barriers.

A tariff is the amount of import duty charged on a particular type of goods. Non-tariff trade barriers are measures intended to favour local industry. They can include:

  • trade regulations
  • labelling rules
  • unfair government subsidies

Telling us about trade barriers

We need to know about any trade barriers as soon as possible. You can tell the Trade Policy Unit.

We can negotiate about trade barriers directly with the country concerned, or we can deal with them through the EU. We may do both. See the case study on Helping scotch whisky sales in Colombia by overcoming a trade barrier.

The European Commission can deal with trade barriers in 3 ways:

  1. The Market Access Database (MADB). This tool provides a wide range of information for exporters, including information on trade barriers and import duties. You can search by product, region or country. It allows businesses to report barriers they’ve come up against directly to the commission.

  2. The Trade Barriers Regulation (TBR). This regulation allows the commission to investigate complaints about violations of international trade rules.

  3. Negotiations for World Trade Organization (WTO) membership. The WTO has reached several agreements to reduce and end barriers to global trade. The commission uses individual countries’ negotiations for membership of the WTO to push for greater freedom in world trade.