The 20-year saga of the WTO agriculture negotiations

The talks stumble along but what has been achieved is more significant than is generally realised, thanks partly to some remarkable New Zealanders

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED MARCH 23, 2020 | UPDATED OCTOBER 26, 2020

On this day 20 years ago — March 23, 2000 — negotiators met at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva to kick off new agriculture negotiations. Two decades later, the talks struggle weakly on, amid pessimism that any significant breakthrough will be possible in the foreseeable future.

And yet at a modest level, more has been achieved than many people realise. Some will be surprised that the talks are continuing at all. Continue reading “The 20-year saga of the WTO agriculture negotiations”

Iain Duncan Smith & co are wrong about GATT Art24, Brexit and getting out of jail

Tory Brexiteers’ claim that WTO rules let them pull a rabbit out of the hat is pure magical thinking

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED SEPTEMBER 5, 2019; ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE TELEGRAPH WEBSITE, SEPTEMBER 2, 2019 | UPDATED SEPTEMBER 5, 2019

Does the World Trade Organization (WTO) have a magic legal provision, one that Britain can use to get out of the “no-deal” Brexit jail?

No, and this has been pointed out repeatedly. And yet Iain Duncan Smith, David Campbell Bannerman and co, still think it does, judging by their piece for the Telegraph on August 30, 2019.

They are wrong because they misunderstand the provision they cite: Article 24 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). They are wrong because they overlook the realities of what it means. Continue reading “Iain Duncan Smith & co are wrong about GATT Art24, Brexit and getting out of jail”

A bit of bother down at the WTO court — Why? And is it a killer? Long read

WTO dispute settlement is in trouble, but it can struggle on at least for a while. So can the organisation’s other important functions

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED AUGUST 21, 2019 | UPDATED MARCH 24, 2021

This looks at the WTO Appellate Body crisis in some depth.
A simpler version is here
.
See also:
How the WTO deals with problem trade measures—it’s not just dispute settlement and The WTO is surprisingly busy — considering it’s supposed to be dead

A casual glance at the headlines might have misled us into thinking the World Trade Organization (WTO) would grind to a halt at the end 2019, that the blame lay entirely with US President Donald Trump, and that the WTO’s demise would bring anarchy to world trade.

Only the last of those three assertions is possibly correct; and only if the WTO really does die — which it certainly won’t, not in the near future.

This is an attempt at an explanation. It shows that even WTO dispute settlement could well survive, but in a less powerful form. Other important work in the WTO will continue, and therefore so will the WTO itself.

But be warned: simple explanations of complex issues cannot tell the whole story. And even this attempt is not that simple. Sorry.

Continue reading “A bit of bother down at the WTO court — Why? And is it a killer? Long read”

GATT Art.24 — In-depth answers to frequently and not-so-frequently asked questions

Everything you wanted to know about GATT Art.24, for ‘with-deal’ Leavers, ‘no-deal’ Leavers, and — surprise, surprise — Remainers/Revokers

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED JUNE 27, 2019 | UPDATED NOVEMBER 9, 2019

This explanation of GATT Article 24 is pretty heavy-going,
because it looks at a lot of the detail. A much
simpler explanation is here.
.
See also:

The myth of a 10-year grace period, Brexit and trade talks with the EU  | The Article 24
red herring in less than 400 words
| Brexit through the magic land of Eksive
GATT Article 24: they still don’t get it (video)

I thought/hoped it would die away, but it features ever more prominently in Brexit news. The current favourite to be the next UK prime minister wants to use it, sparking a huge debate — some of it way off the mark. And yet, we really don’t need to be talking about it at all.

“It” is Article 24 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), more specifically the paragraphs dealing with free trade agreements.

The bottom line is this: GATT Article 24 governs free trade agreements in goods. Politically, the article is unimportant and should never have been brought into the debate.

So if Article 24 is unimportant, what is important? These questions are:

  • What kind of UK-EU deal is proposed?
  • What would it do?
  • Does it cover the UK’s needs? Who would it affect and how?
  • Does it cover the EU’s needs? Who would it affect and how?
  • What would it take for the UK and EU to agree?
  • How long would it take?

That’s it.

IN DETAIL

Continue reading “GATT Art.24 — In-depth answers to frequently and not-so-frequently asked questions”

A real beginner’s guide to GATT Article 24

And a plea to stop talking about it

”Photo: Speed limits for 3-year-olds

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED JUNE XXIV, MMXIX | UPDATED NOVEMBER 9, 2019

We don’t usually argue about what a law means. Somehow this WTO rule has found its way into British political debate. It has become even more prominent because it’s advocated by Boris Johnson. And yet, we really don’t need to be talking about it at all.

I wrote a Twitter thread and was trying to recreate it as a blog post (it’s now published here). Then up popped a tweet:

So, this is for three-year-olds everywhere.

Essentially, stop talking talk about Article 24Back to top

JUMP TO
Essentially, stop talking talk about Article 24
But I promised
What is GATT?
What is GATT Article 24?
Why is it needed?
How often is it used?
Does the UK have GATT Art.24 agreements?
Do WTO members have to approve these agreements?
Is that it?
Can GATT Art.24 be used with a Brexit “no deal”?
So why is it an issue?
Why do people talk about 10 years?
Why the confusion?
Any other problems?
Anything else?
Finally, some tweets

SEE ALSO
The myth of a 10-year grace period, Brexit and trade talks with the EU
GATT Art.24 — In-depth answers to frequently and not-so-frequently asked questions
One last go. The Article 24 red herring in less than 400 words

Brexit through the magic land of Eksive
GATT Article 24: They still don’t get it (video)

We never say we have to comply with “Law RTRA sects 81, 86, 89 & sch 6”. We say “keep to the speed limit”.

We drive, observing (or ignoring) the limit. We discuss speeding and appropriate limits. We never say “Law RTRA sects 81, 86, 89 & sch 6”.

GATT Art.24 governs free trade agreements in goods.

Politically, the rule is unimportant and should never have been brought into the debate. Unfortunately it has now become an issue in the race to be Tory leader and prime minister.

If Article 24 is unimportant, what is important? These are:

  • What kind of UK-EU deal is proposed?
  • What would it do?
  • Does it cover the UK’s needs? Who would it affect and how?
  • Does it cover the EU’s needs? Who would it affect and how?
  • What would it take for the UK and EU to agree?
  • How long would it take?

That’s it.

But I promisedBack to top

Continue reading “A real beginner’s guide to GATT Article 24”

A ‘WTO-deal’ Brexit? Video and text

I’d never heard of a ‘WTO-deal’ Brexit — until recently. What does it really mean? And does Brexit change it?

 

video iconAvailable as a video (4’40”) on YouTube

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED JUNE 17, 2019 | UPDATED JUNE 17

“Mr Speaker, can I welcome the Prime Minister ruling out a second referendum, and ruling out revoking article 50 and leaving a WTO — whether managed or not — deal on the table.”

— Kate Hoey MP,
House of Commons, January 21, 2019

A “WTO deal”. The phrase is spin used to camouflage the negativity of calling it “no deal”. But that’s what it is: no deal between the UK and EU.

We can question if “WTO deal” actually means anything in terms of a relationship between the UK and EU.

Usually the phrase refers to deals struck in negotiations within the WTO, as we shall see. That’s why many claim that for Brexit, it’s nonsense. A “WTO-deal” Brexit doesn’t exist.

Let’s be charitable and assume it might exist. If so, what would it mean? Not much. Continue reading “A ‘WTO-deal’ Brexit? Video and text”

Brexit through the magic land of Eksive

“Where are we?” one asks. “The magic land of Eksive,” the other replies. “It’s where the solution lies for all our problems. Now have you done what I asked you to do?”

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED MAY 31, 2019 | UPDATED MAY 31, 2019

“What’s this?”

“It’s the document you asked for, Sir.”

In the heart of the capital, on the banks of the Big River is an ancient palace. Except — like much of reality — that’s only what it looks like. It’s barely 180 years old, built to replace the real ancient palace, which was destroyed by fire.

Deep within it is a cupboard, in a room frequently used by the tribe known as the Ærgists. It has been spared the sewage that leaks through the ceilings in other parts of the building, but almost certainly not the asbestos.

It’s through that cupboard the two men have walked. Continue reading “Brexit through the magic land of Eksive”

The myth of a 10-year grace period, Brexit and trade talks with the EU

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg was wrong about this but he’s never corrected his mistake, and the myth persists. What is the claim and why is it wrong?

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED DECEMBER 27, 2018 | UPDATED JULY 3, 2019

It’s not often that hard Brexiters make WTO rules more complicated than they need to be.

Usually their error is to over-simplify.

But the mistaken identity of interim free trade agreements in the WTO is one rare instance.

The idea had apparently been knocking around for some time, at least back to March 2017 in a Politico article.

It reappeared back in May 2018, when Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg claimed on television that WTO rules allow the UK a 10-year grace period to negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU. Continue reading “The myth of a 10-year grace period, Brexit and trade talks with the EU”

Introducing the WTO elephant and its dodgy health

People’s understanding of the WTO is a bit like the ancient parable of the blind men and the elephant. Even those who have spent their lives working on it stress different aspects

By Peter Ungphakorn
DECEMBER 17, 2017 | ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON UK TRADE FORUM DECEMBER 16, 2017 | UPDATED JULY 18, 2019

There’s been an elephant in the room ever since the discussion of Brexit and trade began. Gradually, bits of the animal have become visible, but what we’ve seen has not always been accurate. It’s time to complete the picture, and to understand why the beast isn’t in the best of health. Continue reading “Introducing the WTO elephant and its dodgy health”

The case of the two UK-EU ‘interim’ deals — is the one in the WTO really ‘Plan B’?

The move reported by Politico on March 19, 2017 is important, but it might not be what it seems

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED MARCH 20, 2017 | UPDATED MARCH 23, 2017

According to Politico on March 19, 2017, the UK and EU are preparing a 10-year interim duty-free trade arrangement based on WTO rules, and this is a “Plan B” in case the two sides cannot agree on a free trade agreement before the UK leaves the EU, presumably by March 28, 2019.

Before I continue, I want to make clear that I have not talked to any officials of the kind Politico cites, and therefore have not heard any explanation from them. But I have read the WTO articles cited and I believe there is a confusion about what this means.

The confusion is about two different “interim” situations. Continue reading “The case of the two UK-EU ‘interim’ deals — is the one in the WTO really ‘Plan B’?”