India and South Africa pour cold water on alternative approach to WTO talks

On the day she started her term as new WTO chief, Okonjo-Iweala faced a challenge to her vision

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED FEBRUARY 22, 2021 | UPDATED MAY 26, 2021

It’s tempting to call it a bombshell. But the warning signs have been around for some time. Nevertheless a new paper from India and South Africa signals a tough ride for the new head of the World Trade Organization’s ambitions to drive negotiations forward.

The paper criticises negotiations involving only part of the WTO’s membership. They are called “plurilaterals” and are seen as a way of breaking deadlock when consensus is elusive.

Continue reading “India and South Africa pour cold water on alternative approach to WTO talks”

Four years on, still basic mistakes on tariffs at the very top of UK politics

An exchange on tariffs in the Commons Liaison Committee shows a lack of basic understanding by Johnson, the chair of a key committee and a leading journalist

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED SEPTEMBER 18, 2020 | UPDATED SEPTEMBER 22, 2020

Here we go again. You’d have thought they would get it right by now. After all it’s over four years since the Brexit referendum thrust trade and World Trade Organization (WTO) rules into the British political consciousness.

And yet, there we were, on September 16, 2020, a few weeks before a UK-EU trade agreement was supposed to be concluded, listening to two leading politicians showing they still don’t get the most basic rule in international trade.

Continue reading “Four years on, still basic mistakes on tariffs at the very top of UK politics”

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”

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”

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”

Does the WTO require countries to control their borders?

Among the arguments that politicians are making about the Irish border are the claim either that WTO rules require countries to control their borders, or that the UK can drop border controls and wait to see what Ireland does. One is partly false, the other totally.

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED JULY 18, 2018 | UPDATED JULY 19, 2018

On Monday (July 16), MP Anna Soubry launched a vigorous attack in the House of Commons against hard-line Brexiters. There was a lot of truth in what she said, except on one point.

She turned to the likelihood that if the UK simply trades with the EU on WTO terms, and without an adequate form of free trade agreement, it will have to impose border controls on trade between the Republic of Ireland and the North.

WTO “rules say every member must secure their borders,” she said.

It’s a commonly-held view. Continue reading “Does the WTO require countries to control their borders?”

Why UK is already under WTO rules, and why that matters for Brexit

If we want to understand the UK’s trade relations with the EU after Brexit we cannot say that without a UK-EU deal they will “fall back on WTO rules”

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED FEBRUARY 8, 2017 | UPDATED FEBRUARY 15, 2017

Now that the UK is about to start negotiating its departure from the European Union, it’s important to understand the meaning of World Trade Organization (WTO) “rules”.

Why? Because people are talking about WTO rules as if they only kick in if the UK and EU fail to reach agreement on their future trade relationship — that only then would the UK and EU “fall back on WTO rules”. They are wrong. Continue reading “Why UK is already under WTO rules, and why that matters for Brexit”