Guidance

Report a trade barrier

Help the UK work with governments around the world to reduce barriers to UK exports.

You can report trade barriers if you export goods or services. A trade barrier is something that slows down or stops your company from exporting goods or services to an overseas market.

How to report a trade barrier

Before you report:

If you need urgent help with a trade barrier

Consider contacting your local British embassy, consulate or high commission if your barrier requires urgent resolution, for example because you:

  • have perishable goods or livestock blocked in transit
  • are at immediate risk of missing a commercial opportunity
  • are at immediate risk of not fulfilling a contract

They may be better placed to help you because they understand local business practices and have the same local working hours.

What happens next

You’ll get an email from the Department for International Trade (DIT) within 5 working days of reporting a trade barrier. You may be asked for more information.

DIT might be able to help resolve your barrier. For example, overseas staff could use their relationships with local governments and organisations to find and resolve the cause of the delay.

For longer-term, more complex barriers, DIT may decide to:

  • explore a diplomatic resolution
  • discuss strategic barriers at overseas ministerial visits
  • start government-to-government talks
  • raise the barrier with the World Trade Organization (WTO)
  • feed into Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations

What is a barrier to goods

If you’re exporting goods, trade barriers can include:

Customs procedures

For example, lengthy procedures that delay goods getting to market.

Problems with enforcing international rules and regulations

For example, a lack of regulatory measures for products or services, or non-compliance with WTO regulations.

Environmental, safety or quality regulations

For example, restricting goods that could be harmful to the local environment.

Government procurement restrictions

For example, conditions that give local businesses an advantage over foreign competitors in winning government contracts.

Import quotas or price controls

For example, limits on the amount of goods that can be imported.

Packaging, labelling or design regulations

For example, overly specific requirements for information that must be on packaging.

Poor protection of intellectual property rights

For example, failure to respect the legislation of patents, trademarks, industrial design, layout designs of integrated circuits, copyright, geographical indications or sharing trade secrets.

Requirements for goods to be locally produced

For example, a government demanding that a percentage of goods must be made domestically.

Restrictions on live animals, or animal and plant products

For example, a ban on a UK meat based on inaccurate ideas about animal health risks.

Requirements to use local assets, components or workers

For example, being required to train and use local workers.

Rules of origin issues

For example, problems with requirements for evidence demonstrating where goods were made.

State-granted monopolies or exclusive rights

For example, a government granting one or more private companies the sole right to operate in a particular market.

Testing, inspection and certification procedures

For example, overly complex assessments to show produce complies with technical regulations or standards.

Unfair use of state help, subsidies or application of competition rules

For example, competition law applied in an unfair way to target foreign firms or protect domestic firms.

What is a barrier to services

If you’re exporting services, trade barriers can include:

Difficulty accessing data or restrictions on storing or sending data

For example, limits on cross-border transfer of personal information.

Problems with enforcing international rules and regulations

For example, a lack of regulatory measures for products or services, or non-compliance with WTO regulations.

Fees that only apply to foreign service suppliers

For example, unnecessary charges on foreign suppliers that give an advantage to domestic suppliers.

Government procurement restrictions

For example, the host government deliberately creating conditions that give local businesses an advantage over foreign competitors in winning government contracts.

Poor protection of intellectual property rights

For example, failure to respect the legislation of patents, trademarks, industrial design, layout designs of integrated circuits, copyright, geographical indications or sharing trade secrets.

Limitations on access to key infrastructure

For example, barriers to foreign service suppliers opening a local bank account or registering websites with a local domain name.

Local presence requirements

For example, requirements for a service supplier to be a resident or from a local enterprise.

Price controls

For example, controlling the price of imported services so they don’t have a price advantage over domestic services.

Qualification requirements

For example, a requirement for foreign suppliers to have local qualifications.

Restrictions on foreign entry or movement of people

For example, difficulty dealing with visa costs, arranging visas, residency or nationality requirements or restrictions on buying land as a foreign service supplier.

Restrictions on business structure

For example, requirements to operate under a certain structure as a business, legal entity or joint venture.

Restrictions on investment

For example, a limit on how much a supplier can invest in the country they’re exporting to.

Requirements to use local assets, components or workers

For example, being required to train and use local workers.

Restrictions on business names

For example, restrictions on service suppliers operating under a business name.

State-granted monopolies or exclusive rights

For example, a government granting one or more private companies the sole right to operate in a particular market.

Taxes that protect or favour local suppliers

For example, import duties or taxes, other than tariffs, that favour domestic firms over foreign competitors.

Testing, inspection and certification procedures

For example, overly complex assessments to show compliance with technical regulations or standards.

Unfair use of state help, subsidies or application of competition rules

For example, competition law applied in an unfair way to target foreign firms or protect domestic firms.

Unfair advantages to state-owned enterprises

For example, special rights or privileges, government funding, or exemptions from laws and regulations being given to state-owned enterprises.

Published 5 September 2019