Milestone for UK imports: The UKGT and status of UK trade agreements
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Milestone for UK imports: The UKGT and status of UK trade agreements

The release of the UKGT marked an important milestone. What's the impact on trade outside of trade agreements? And what's the status of UK trade agreements?

What the UKGT launch means for UK imports as of 2021

The release of the "UKGT" (UK Global Tariff) on May 19, 2020 had originally gone by fairly unnoticed due to Covid-19 developments and media focus at the time. Nevertheless, it marked an important milestone and came with a series of UK announcements. You can find the key facts, latest status of trade agreements, and relevant links here.

  • The UKGT replaced the previously applicable EU's Common External Tariff (CET)
  • UKGT took effect on January 1, 2021 – i.e. the EU's CET applied until December 31, 2020

Official guidance: Tariffs on goods imported into the UK

What the UKGT covers

The UK Global Tariff applies to all goods that are imported into the United Kingdom. As part of this, the UK government introduced its "Most Favoured Nation" (MFN) tariff policy effective January 1, 2021.

What the UKGT does not cover

  • Exempt goods, as those under duty relief or tariff suspension
  • Preferential goods, i.e. those under the Generalized Scheme of Preferences
  • Goods from countries that the UK has trade agreements with
  • Any other import duties, such as VAT
  • Any precise details of trade remedy measures
  • Any other restrictions, e.g. antidumping, countervailing or safeguards

Additional notes on TRQs

Tariff-rate quotas, or TRQs, allow a limited quantity of a product to be imported at zero or lower import duty rates than the normal tariff rate for that product. If the limits are exceeded, the higher duty rate applies. As part of the UKGT, these limits may be expressed in units of:

  • Weight
  • Volume
  • Quantity
  • Value 

If TRCs apply to your products, you can request to import a limited amount at a lower duty rate. Note that some TRCs only apply when the goods are imported from certain countries. The UK government will make further advice available later this year in line with the UK goods schedule at the WTO (World Trade Organization).

What's covered by trade agreements

The UKGT applies to goods imported into the UK from countries with which trade agreements are not in place. For the rest, terms of applicable UK agreements apply. Until the end of the Brexit Transition Period, UK trade was covered by existing EU trade agreements, but these no longer apply. For trade with the EU, a last-minute deal was negotiated and the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement took effect on January 1, 2021. For UK trade with other countries, please refer to the next chapter.

Promoted benefits: UK imports and trade agreements

While the UKGT may not have been graced with much global attention when it was released, the UK government strongly emphasized the promotion of its benefits in their news alerts. These promoted benefits include:

  • Simpler and easier to use than the EU's CET (and in GBP not EUR)
  • No tariffs below 2% - needless tariffs with admin-burden removed
  • Certain complex calculations eliminated (for example, on biscuits)
  • Tariff cuts on 100+ products that support a sustainable economy
  • Preferential access to the UK market for developing countries
  • Removed UK tariffs on products the UK does not produce (e.g. olives)

On trade agreements overall, however, there has been progress but there is still a way to go. You can find the status as of March 3, 2021 listed below. For new updates, please refer to the UK government page linked underneath.

Status of UK trade agreements

UK trade agreements in effect since January 1, 2021

  • Andean countries (with Colombia, Ecuador, Peru)
  • Cameroon
  • CARIFORUM trade bloc (with Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, Belize, Bahamas, Saint Lucia, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, the Republic of Guyana)
  • Central America (with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama)
  • Chile
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) trade bloc  (with Mauritius, Seychelles, Zimbabwe)
  • Egypt
  • Faroe Islands
  • Georgia
  • Ghana
  • Iceland and Norway
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Kenya
  • Kosovo
  • Lebanon
  • Liechtenstein
  • Moldova
  • Morocco
  • North Macedonia
  • Pacific states (with Papa New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands)
  • Palestinian Authority
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Southern Africa Customs Union and Mozambique (SACUM) trade bloc (with Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa)
  • Switzerland
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • Vietnam

Note: Some of these agreements are subject to provisional application. This is a well established method in international treaty practice to bring agreements into effect ahead of entry into force. Bridging mechanisms are an alternative means to ensure continuity of trade, where the UK or treaty partners are unable to fully ratify or provisionally apply an agreement. These non-binding mechanisms include Memoranda of Understanding or Exchange of Diplomatic Notes and ensure continuity of trade.

Signed UK trade agreements, not fully in effect yet

  • Albania
  • Canada
  • Jordan
  • Mexico

Note: The UK has committed to apply preferential tariff rates on goods imported into the UK from Mexico from January 1, 2021. In return, Mexico has committed to implement a tariff rebate scheme, so that as soon as the Trade Continuity Agreement enters into force in Mexico, any businesses that have paid tariffs on goods which would attract a preference under the agreement, between January 1 and the agreement coming into force will be able to get a refund.

UK trade agreements still in discussion

  • Algeria
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Montenegro
  • Serbia 

Note: For these countries, the UK government has put in place the UKGT. Trade with other WTO members is taking place on WTO terms and trade with eligible developing countries is taking place under the UK’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences. 

Mutual recognition agreements

Signed:

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • United States of America

Covered in trade agreements:

  • Switzerland (incorporates elements)
  • Israel (covers conformity assessment arrangements)
  • Japan (ongoing discussions, signed exchange of letters)

 Go to the UK government website for the latest status on trade agreements