How did the Ministerial Conference do? Our scorecards

There were a number of concrete results, which was a relief for many, but how significant are the outcomes?

By Robert Wolfe and Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED JUNE 19, 2022 | UPDATED JUNE 19, 2022

In our curtain-raiser before the June 12–17 World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference — “Touch and go at the WTO. Is the director-general’s optimism justified?” — we suggested a set of score cards for assessing the result. Based on the actual outcome, we’ve adjusted the scorecards slightly and filled them in.

The scorecards are in this note. It includes an invitation to comment


Updates: none so far

Image credit:
Delegates on the terrace at the WTO headquarters, Geneva, night of June 15, 2022 | WTO

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‘Fisheries subsidies’ has been agreed by WTO ministers. What’s next?

The implications of the next procedural steps are little known. This could still take some time

UPDATE
Agreement was reached at the
rescheduled June 12–17 Ministerial Conference
Consensus was achieved by leaving out disciplines on subsidies contributing to overcapacity and overfishing (Article 5). Members agree to complete negotiations on these in four years or else the new agreement will lapse (Article 12).

The final text is here.
It says the new agreement will be inserted into Annex 1A (goods) after the Subsidies and Countervailing Measures Agreement. An official document certifying that the text is correct was circulated on July 13, 2022.

More updates are listed here
The points raised in the article below still hold even though it was first written before the original 2021 dates for the Ministerial Conference.

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED NOVEMBER 17, 2021 | UPDATED AUGUST 18, 2022

It was always touch-and-go whether World Trade Organization (WTO) members could strike a deal on curbing harmful fisheries subsidies when their ministers were due to meet first in November 2021, and then rescheduled in June 2022.

The agreement that they did eventually reach is incomplete. Consensus was achieved by leaving out disciplines on subsidies contributing to overcapacity and overfishing. Members agreed to complete negotiations on these in four years or else the new agreement will lapse.

But even with the deal that was struck, there are more procedures to go through before it becomes WTO law and before it applies to WTO members.

That’s right. Even though agreement was reached on June 17, 2022, for now (July 2022) it is still not effective. It is not part of WTO law.

This article is about what is needed to turn the agreement into legal rules. How long that will take is up in the air, but it could be a year or two at least. It might even take longer.

That said, there’s nothing to stop members implementing unilaterally what they agree. On an issue like this they should do so anyway. But they would not be able to use, for example, WTO dispute settlement against other countries because there would be no legal rules yet.

The procedures are worth bearing in mind. They are not well-known, even among people who follow trade.

This was demonstrated when I ran a little poll on Twitter on this subject. Out of 150 people who responded, 86% were wrong.

Continue reading “‘Fisheries subsidies’ has been agreed by WTO ministers. What’s next?”

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”

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”

‘Do trade deals to escape the WTO.’ So why bother with it? — a presentation

The WTO has become a weapon in a war of words over other issues. For some Brexiters, it’s a deal to look forward to. For some Remainers, it’s a wreckage. For Trump, it’s “unfair”. That’s the worst possible way to get to know the trading system almost all of us rely on

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED FEBRUARY 13, 2019 | UPDATED FEBRUARY 13, 2019

This page is based on a presentation given on February 7, 2019, introducing the basics and current issues in the World Trade Organization (WTO). It includes a link to download a handout of the presentation.

It was part of a contribution to a “Westminster Workshop” on parliamentary oversight of trade agreements organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK in London, February 6–8, 2019.

Continue reading “‘Do trade deals to escape the WTO.’ So why bother with it? — a presentation”

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?”

Update: the three essential tasks for the WTO’s trade facilitation deal

A year ago, two-thirds of the WTO’s membership had ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement, activating it in the ratifying countries. What’s happened since then?

By Peter Ungphakorn
FEBRUARY 22, 2018 | UPDATED FEBRUARY 22, 2018

A year ago today, the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement took effect in the ratifying countries amid a blaze of publicity, two decades after it was first proposed.

It was the first new WTO agreement since the late 1990s and its potential benefit was huge, particularly for implementing countries and particularly if their own procedures for handling imports and exports at the border were cumbersome. Continue reading “Update: the three essential tasks for the WTO’s trade facilitation deal”

How to be a trade champion

A guide for busy politicians: size counts—the more you trade, the bigger your clout in the WTO


By Peter Ungphakorn
NOVEMBER 21, 2017 | UPDATED NOVEMBER 21, 2017

International Trade Minister Greg Hands has again proclaimed the UK is a global trade champion only needing to “reclaim our position at heart of global trading system”.

I have written a longer piece on this. Here are some key points for busy readers. I’m using the WTO as the context since that’s where “the heart of the global trading system” is. Continue reading “How to be a trade champion”

UK, EU, WTO, Brexit primer — 2. Tariff quotas

Continuing a look at what lies behind the sudden surge in interest in the UK’s and EU’s relationship with the World Trade Organization. Part 2: the ABCs of tariff quotas

There are newer versions of this article:
(1) an explanation of tariff quotas
(2) an update of what has happened with the UK’s and EU’s talks with WTO members on their post-Brexit goods schedules

By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED OCTOBER 7, 2017 | UPDATED NOVEMBER 25, 2017

When the press learned that the UK and EU had agreed on a common approach for their talks with other World Trade Organization (WTO) members, the headlines spoke of a “breakthrough” and a “deal”. A closer look suggests this was an exaggeration. But the issue is important, nonetheless. Continue reading “UK, EU, WTO, Brexit primer — 2. Tariff quotas”

Hard work lies ahead now that the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement has been activated in 112 countries

Reaching agreement was one test of multilateralism. Making it work will be another

Cape Town: South Africa is one of 51 countries that have not yet ratified the agreement


By Peter Ungphakorn
POSTED FEBRUARY 25, 2017 | UPDATED FEBRUARY 28, 2017

It’s always tempting, when a tough negotiation has concluded, to breathe a sigh of relief and proclaim “job done”. But with trade agreements, the job is rarely done. For the World Trade Organization’s shiny new Trade Facilitation Agreement, seriously hard work lies ahead if it is to achieve its potential. Continue reading “Hard work lies ahead now that the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement has been activated in 112 countries”