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Nice to see it out in the open then

Richard Allen, from the Retailers Against Market Abuse Alliance, said: “It’s almost as if the Government has lost sight of what customs duties are for.

“They’re there to protect our economy. There has to come a point where we think about the country and the economy, and all the money from those sales goes straight to China.”

That is, customs duties are there to protect the profits of the local and domestic capitalists at the expense of consumers.

Because that’s what customs duties do. Make foreign made stuff more expensive, thereby protecting the profit margins, and fortunes, of the domestic capitalists.

At which point, obviously, fuck them and unilateral free trade it is.

20 thoughts on “Nice to see it out in the open then”

  1. The purpose of customs tariffs has always been to fund the king’s lifestyle, including making war. Abolish or cut tariffs and where will the revenue come from? Ditto if we all stopped smoking, drinking and driving petrol-fueled vehicles. Then the fertilizer would righteously hit the fan.

  2. Make foreign made stuff more expensive, thereby protecting the profit margins, and fortunes, of the domestic capitalists.
    Let’s be fair Tim. It’s actually the cost of the enthusiasm for UK regulation going onto the consumers. Where else should it go? Much of the Chinese stuff is cheaper because Chinese manufacturers don’t have to suffer UK minimum wage, taxation, DEI, elfin safety, WFH & a continuing list would cover four pages. If there wasn’t some levelling up UK manufacturers wouldn’t have any profits or fortunes. Or UK workers jobs.

  3. Bastards!

    I sent my sister my old mobile phone which I valued at €50…

    It has been in and out of Customs at Coventry Parcelforce and now held at Gatwick awaiting fees to be paid.

    Presumably duty and VAT…?


  4. Bloke in the Fourth Reich


    There are tens of millions of small packets a day shipped from China to Europe (in its wider sense). Stuff sold on Ebay, Etsy, or Amazon Marketplace.

    China gets special deals on international postage fees, as a poor developing country that needs a helping hand, and pays by weight, not the number of items. It is effectively cheaper to send a small parcel from China to Europe than within Europe. Vastly cheaper.

    Postal treaties dictate that European postal and courier services have to deliver these ten millions a day small items, at a huge loss. That loss is made up by further increasing postage charges within Europe, making Chinese suppliers even more price competitive.

    Customs don’t even look at these small packets, at best one in a hundred. If duties are even levied, these don’t even cover the administrative costs.

    So yes, free trade, on a level playing field, would indeed be a fine thing!

  5. Bloke in the Fourth Reich

    NB, even though the EU has abolished the minimum value (~€20) for imposing duty on imports by post, I have still never had duties imposed on a low-value import. Presumably the customs authorities realise it is not worth their while looking at parcels, figuring out if the value is correctly declared, and invoicing you for 50 cents.

    For high value items you always get an import duty invoice from the local customs, or sometimes from the courier, shortly after you get your parcel.

  6. @BiFR
    I buy considerable amounts from AliExpress. Since the 21 euro (or whatever it was) VAT free rate went, AE have been adding the VAT to the invoice total. (Of course whether they pass it on…) Customs duty only starts above 100 I think. But the import docs they send with the goods can be highly fictional. 200 euros worth listed 4,25
    But you’re right about the post. I’ve had things sent that were 25 cents, free postage. I think a letter here is about 1,50 postage. The parcel rate seems to start at about 25,00.

  7. bloke in spain sad:
    ”I buy considerable amounts from AliExpress”

    How reliable is it? I’ve never tried buying from them, partly because of doubts about when / whether it will actually turn up, partly because the cheap stuff that pops up on the search isn’t actually available (or not at that price) when I click through.

    But if you buy a lot, presumably it’s OK.

  8. The changes to VAT and Duty thresholds into the EU (and the UK) may not always be bothered with by Customs, however Western logistics firms apply these restrictions at the front end, so there has been a steep reduction in trade by post.

    Regarding postal delivery charges, problems remain however changes were made after Trump threatened to pull the USA out of the UPU. His complaint was that while, say China to Seattle cost $X, Seattle to Seattle cost $3X, or whatever. This gave importers a very clear and unearned advantage.

    Very cheap rates for developing nations may have made sense in the days of letters, but certainly not in the days of ecommerce.

  9. “Much of the Chinese stuff is cheaper because Chinese manufacturers don’t have to suffer UK minimum wage, taxation, DEI, elfin safety, WFH & a continuing list would cover four pages. If there wasn’t some levelling up UK manufacturers wouldn’t have any profits or fortunes. Or UK workers jobs.”

    Well exactly. If the UK voters want to declare (via their elected representatives) that product X can’t be produced in the UK unless various regulations and laws are adhered to by the manufacturer then its only right that the voters should bear the cost of those regulations, and not be able to hamstring UK producers but then buy cheap imports produced in place where such rules do not apply. If you vote for higher cost widgets then you should have to pay that price.

  10. Britain doesn’t make any fertiliser based any more. The last Haber plant was switched off on summer 2023. Britain still produces a lot of shit though.

  11. “At which point, obviously, fuck them and unilateral free trade it is.”

    You’re always in favour of free trade, but not within the UK, where trade is utterly constrained by UK regulations. We aren’t in the 1800s any more. Stuff isn’t cheaper from abroad because they have cheaper coal, or iron ore on tap, or some special technique of manufacturing that makes it so. Imports are cheaper because our Lords and Masters have decreed they should be. Free trade it ain’t.

  12. @Richard T
    Very reliable. Certainly more reliable than most Spanish suppliers (excluding through Amazon). I suppose I’ve spent about 20 k overall. There’s the odd thing arrives damaged/wrong item/ not as described or is a fail to deliver. Usually sorted out very quickly by AE with a full refund. Never even asked for return of goods. I think I’ve one not resolved satisfactory. Jacket that was ordered in what should have been the correct size but turned up in the far smaller Asian size (the S/M/L/XL etc is about 3 sizes out to Euro).
    But yes you do have to read the adverts with care. I don’t think the Chinese share the same concepts of lying as we do. Sometimes it is pretty blatant. Listing at a price when there’s no actual item at that price, when you come to order. Or watch the carriage costs. One item singular may be free or 50 cents, Two items the same, 4,50 carriage. With some women’s clothing items, as well, they’re obviously trying to make their money from the carriage costs & trusting you won’t notice they’re being added on the payment page.

  13. “… and all the money from those sales goes straight to China.”

    Imports create jobs too.

    There’s the buying staff, clearing agents, there’s transporters, there’s warehouse staff and distribution, sales & marketing teams, there’s retail staff, there’s people in advertising & promotion, legal, banking, utilities and sundry service suppliers, all involved in getting those Chinese goods into the Country and into the hands of consumers.

    There is VAT on sales and corporation tax on the profits therefrom.

    Then of course there’s the increased wealth of consumers who buy the goods.

    Bonus: the benefit is taken in the UK thanks to the capital and resources used by the Chinese to produce the goods at no expense to consumers in the UK. Chinese working for the benefit of UK citizens – what’s wrong with that?

  14. Out of curiosity, is there any country which has permanently adopted full unilateral free trade, as in open up the borders to all goods and services with no tariffs / duties of any kind? No partials, full on.

  15. BiS, BiFR, Jim – agreed x many.

    The libertarian ‘it’s great to see our industry hollowed and us dependent on imports because look how cheap!’ argument is hollow. It’s the second most daft libertarian argument after ‘we should have open borders but no welfare state’….

    Chinese goods are cheap because their electricity is less than half the price of ours, because their labour laws are sufficiently relaxed as to allow the use of slave labour and because they are prepared to create money in vast quantities in order to gain an advantage over their enemies. Many of these advantages we have given to China through are own stupidity, but that doesn’t make it any better.

    The theory is that getting rid of these low value enterprises will leave us with cheap imported goods and lots of lovely new high values industries. The reality is companies and indeed entire industries being destroyed and replaced with shit low wage jobs and those low wages further suppressed by mass immigration. Average real earnings have been static or trending down for years now and most British high streets look like the aftermath of a neutron bomb. But yeah, we have cheap Chinese consumer goods which will last a good 2-3 weeks….

  16. I think politicians need to rethink the basis on which they impose customs/duties/tariffs.

    Only stupid people believe they are to protect them.

    Smart people know they exist to garner favor with specific domestic producers at the expense of domestic consumers.

    Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut . . . there is a legitimate national security argument here. Not ‘we need to make everything in our own country’ but ‘allowing country ‘X’ to sell unfettered is pumping influence into country ‘X’s’ government over our government – see Canada for an amazing example of this happening between them and China.

    If you can pull off that excuse then the ‘some domestic producers will benefit while domestic consumers lose’ can be waived away as an unfortunate side effect of securing the country’s future.

  17. Hong Kong has long had no import tarrifs . . .

    From my reading that appears to be restricted to “goods” rather than services, development, technology systems, etc.

    My guess is that no country has completely unfettered trade, never has and never will. Such an arrangement is simply incompatible with the reality of maintaining a country.

  18. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland had unilateral free trade from when the corn laws and navigation/maritime acts were repealed until about 35 years later when tariffs began to get charged again.
    Prime Minister and bullshitter Robert Peel has spoken eloquently about why he did it:
    “If other countries choose to buy in the dearest market, such an option on their part constitutes no reason why we should not be permitted to buy in the cheapest.

    I trust the Government … will not resume the policy which they and we have felt most inconvenient, namely, the haggling with foreign countries about reciprocal concessions, instead of taking the independent course which we believe conducive to our own interests.

    Let us trust to the influence of public opinion in other countries — let us trust that our example, with the proof of practical benefit we derive from it, will at no remote period insure the adoption of the principles on which we have acted, rather than defer indefinitely by delay equivalent concessions from other countries.”

    I do wish, and this won’t happen of course, that so-called trade experts differentiated between the effects of tariffs (slightly bad) and quotas (criminally bad). The first, you have to beat local producers on price+tariff, the second you have to beat them corruptly gaming the system to get influence to buy a share of that quota. The EU loves quotas, as if politicians can work out the correct level, feck ’em.

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