UK-Australia trade deal: when a cap on farm goods is not a cap

Once again the British government has over-claimed on the effects of an agreement

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED JUNE 18, 2021 | UPDATED JUNE 20, 2021

“British farmers will be protected by a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years, using tariff rate quotas and other safeguards,” declared the UK International Trade Department on June 15, 2021.

But will they, though? The text of the agreement-in-principle between Britain and Australia has now been published (also in several formats on the Australian government website).

It is not a final deal. Much of the text is in the future tense — agreement between the two “will include” this that and the other. Negotiations continue.

A note at the end of the text, which the Australian government calls a “disclaimer”, says:

DISCLAIMER: This document reflects what the UK and Australian FTA [free trade agreement] negotiating teams have jointly decided as of 16 June 2021 should be included in the FTA once it is finalised. It does not prejudge the outcome of the FTA negotiations or any further proposals for FTA commitments either the UK or Australia may make after this date. It is also not intended to create any treaty obligations.”

But it does show some of what is intended for agricultural products.

Continue reading “UK-Australia trade deal: when a cap on farm goods is not a cap”

How the WTO deals with problem trade measures—it’s not just dispute settlement

The Appellate Body is in a deep freeze, but those who think it will drag trade into the law of the jungle are in for a surprise

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED DECEMBER 11, 2019 | UPDATED JULY 14, 2021

A very short summary and graphic:
Dispute settlement is not essential (but it helps)

The public discussion of the Appellate Body crisis in the World Trade Organization (WTO) has revealed some fundamental misunderstandings about how governments’ actions on trade are handled in the organisation.

This is important. The WTO is now a quarter of a century old. Its real achievements are hardly noticed. They never hit the headlines.

Instead, the impression we get is that it’s all about the dispute settlement crisis (and previously the struggle to conclude negotiations).

The Appellate Body has been unable to function since December 11, 2019. This has crippled WTO dispute settlement, we’re told, ultimately jeopardising a trading system that’s supposed to be based on rules — rules that can no longer be “enforced” as a result of the crisis.

We’re going to be left with the law of the jungle instead of the rule of law. Just watch and wait. It could be the end of the WTO, we’re told.

We might have to wait an awfully long time, because keeping international trade within agreed rules relies on much more than dispute settlement. In fact a key purpose of the WTO is to keep formal disputes to a minimum, and it does a pretty good job at that.

Continue reading “How the WTO deals with problem trade measures—it’s not just dispute settlement”

Text of the UK-South Korea free trade agreement

The longest sections are the schedule of commitments on goods (912 pages) and rules of origin (128 pages)

Posted by Peter Ungphakorn
SEPTEMBER 3, 2019 | UPDATED SEPTEMBER 10, 2019

These are links to the text of the UK-South Korea free trade agreement, signed in London on August 22 and published on the South Korean Government website. It has been posted on that site in separate parts.

The longest sections are the schedule of commitments on goods (912 pages) and rules of origin (128 pages).

(A few days later, the texts were published on the British government website on September 10, along with an explanatory memorandum. A report to Parliament was published separately the previous day.

(See also an earlier piece on rolling over the EU-S.Korea free trade agreement. This deal does that, but the devil is in the detail.) Continue reading “Text of the UK-South Korea free trade agreement”

Standards, regulations and trade in goods — a primer

As import duties fall, other trade barriers appear. Some have compared this to rocks emerging at low tide. Among the most important of these ‘non-tariff barriers’ are standards and regulations. How do they work?

JUMP TO
What are product standards?
Are standards compulsory?
What about regulations and legislation?
Who sets the standards?
Who sets international product standards?
Do those two agreements only deal with standards?
Are CE marks EU standards?
Are international standards compulsory or voluntary?
Surely we should try to make life simpler?
Does reclaiming sovereignty have a cost?
And standards in services?

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED SEPTEMBER 5, 2018 | ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON UK TRADE FORUM, MAY 8, 2018 | UPDATED JANUARY 19, 2020

“Standards” and “regulations” are critically important for trade and have entered the public discussion about Britain’s future trade relationship with the EU and the rest of the world. But what are they? Are they the same? Are they compulsory or voluntary?

This is an attempt to explain as simply as possible how they work in international trade. And to keep it simple, it only deals with standards for goods — key, for example, to what happens on the Irish border after the UK leaves the EU — even though standards also exist in services. Continue reading “Standards, regulations and trade in goods — a primer”

How does the Trade Facilitation Agreement really affect Brexit?

Those who see no problems if the UK and EU fail to strike a deal regularly claim the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement will come to the rescue. They are wrong.

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED AUGUST 16, 2018 | UPDATED JULY 14, 2020

“The new Trade Facilitation Treaty commits members to facilitating trade, not obstructing it.” So wrote Iain Duncan Smith, former cabinet minister, Conservative Party leader and vocal Leave campaigner, in the Telegraph on August 15, 2018.

The argument is made with increasing frequency by “hard” Brexiters, who claim trade between Britain and the EU will not be disrupted, even if there is no agreement between them about their trading relationship when the UK leaves the EU.

Similar claims have been heard from former UK trade minister (1990–92) Lord (Peter) Lilley in the Times the previous day, economic adviser Ruth Lea on Brexit Central, and international economic law professor David Collins, on Brexit Central and in the Spectator. Continue reading “How does the Trade Facilitation Agreement really affect Brexit?”

UK, EU, WTO, Brexit primer — 1. WTO membership

Let’s keep this simple. What lies behind the sudden surge in interest in the UK’s and EU’s relationship with the World Trade Organization? First: the UK’s WTO membership

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED OCTOBER 7, 2017 | UPDATED OCTOBER 10, 2017

Adam Sharpe is my editor at IEG Policy. On October 5, he emailed me. “I almost spat my coffee out,” Adam wrote, “when I turned on twitter and saw that ‘EU-UK WTO’ was trending this morning. Looks like TRQs are now ‘mainstream’.”

“EU-UK WTO” was trending because suddenly the media were reporting on some highly technical discussions related to the UK leaving the EU (Brexit) and the implications in the World Trade Organization (WTO). Continue reading “UK, EU, WTO, Brexit primer — 1. WTO membership”

Questions on Brexit, agriculture, WTO schedules, standards, free trade agreements

Written replies to questions for the inquiry of the UK House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee’s inquiry on ‘Brexit: agriculture’, February 8, 2017

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED FEBRUARY 9, 2017 | UPDATED FEBRUARY 9, 2017

On February 8, 2017 the UK House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee’s inquiry on Brexit: agriculture published two sets written replies to questions. Continue reading “Questions on Brexit, agriculture, WTO schedules, standards, free trade agreements”

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”