Ukraine invasion—what Russia and Belarus face in the WTO system: so far

The feasible actions are unilateral. Anything requiring formal decisions in the WTO such as suspending membership is likely to fail

This blog post contains a list of actions that countries have taken against Russia and Belarus. It will now only be updated occasionally. The point was to examine how they work, where WTO decisions might be needed and the implications, and how they relate to WTO provisions such as non-discrimination (MFN) or the security exceptions. That should be clearer now.

See these sources for closer monitoring:

Global Trade Alert

A considerably longer list of sanctions announced against Russia is available at Global Trade Alert. Many are outside the WTO system. Some may be within the system, such as export restrictions on dual-use products and restrictions on shipping services (but not air traffic rights). Russia’s retaliation is here.

Global Trade Alert was originally set up by Simon Evenett and his team at St Gallen University, Switzerland. It is now run by an independent foundation.

PIIE

Chad Bown of the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) has created a timeline that tracks all the actions taken by various countries on all sides: Russia’s war on Ukraine: A sanctions timeline.

A number of other sources are available. This one (details paywalled) is Europe-centred.


By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED MARCH 4, 2022 | UPDATED MAY 10, 2022 (SEE ALSO ENTRY DATES)

This is a summary of actions taken or proposed so far against Russia within the WTO system. Some are also against Belarus, which is not a WTO member.

They are deliberately described as “within the WTO system” and not “in the WTO” — or worse “by the WTO” — to avoid confusion.

Continue reading “Ukraine invasion—what Russia and Belarus face in the WTO system: so far”
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US politicians call for trade action against Russia in the WTO

Kicking Russia out of the World Trade Organization is probably impossible, but other actions are available

Painting (detail) by Chris Edmund © used with permission

See also:
List of measures announced or proposed
that come under the WTO system, periodically updated
Can a WTO member be expelled? No. But …

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED FEBRUARY 28, 2022 | UPDATED MARCH 4, 2022

Two senior US politicians announced on February 25, 2022 that they were introducing legislation to suspend World Trade Organization terms in US trade with Russia and to seek expelling Russia from the WTO.

Lloyd Doggett, chair of the House of Representatives Ways and Means subcommittee on health, and Earl Blumenauer, his counterpart on the subcommittee on trade, proposed the bill following Russia’s “unprovoked invasion of Ukraine”.

Since then, at least three similar bills have been proposed in the US Senate.

Meanwhile, Ukraine and Canada have actually implemented action against Russia within in the WTO system, and the EU has said it is considering its own action.

The Doggett and Blumenauer bill would make it easier for the US to impose trade sanctions against imports of Russian goods, in addition to the commercial, financial and personal sanctions the US and its allies have already initiated. That includes new EU sanctions in trade with Belarus (not a WTO member).

The bill would also “seek the suspension of the Russian Federation’s membership in the WTO”, a more difficult prospect.

Continue reading “US politicians call for trade action against Russia in the WTO”

Explainer: The 18 WTO plurilaterals and ‘joint-statement initiatives’

Brand new, decades old, or in between? Exclusive or applying to all members? Proper negotiations or just talk? Which is which, and what are the subjects?

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED JANUARY 3, 2022 | UPDATED OCTOBER 13, 2022

As World Trade Organization (WTO) members struggle to reach consensus on numerous issues, many see talks among “the willing” as the way to modernise the organisation and in many cases to update its trade rules. But the approach is controversial.

These talks and resulting decisions among only some WTO members are called “plurilateral” to distinguish them from “multilateral” activities and agreements among the WTO’s whole membership.

Continue reading “Explainer: The 18 WTO plurilaterals and ‘joint-statement initiatives’”

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

SEE ALSO
Explainer: The 18 WTO plurilaterals and ‘joint-statement initiatives’
Participants in the present plurilaterals: Technical note

For a taste of the intense debate on this in the WTO General Council,
see this 13-page extract from the minutes (March 2021 meeting)

There are also signs that the “plurilateral” approach can
produce results. See “‘Plurilateral’ WTO services
deal struck after breakthrough text released

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED FEBRUARY 22, 2021 | UPDATED JANUARY 10, 2022

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 from Dr Dominic Pimenta, responding to something then-UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox said:

“Yes I think this is needed. GATT 24 for a three year old please @CoppetainPU (Like you did for the WTO)”

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

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?”