UK fast-track application for WTO agreement fails

Fri 26 Oct 2018
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

wto deal

The UK’s attempt to secure terms for its post-Brexit membership of the World Trade Organisation by a fast-track ‘rectification’ procedure has been unsuccessful, meaning it will now need to negotiate with all WTO members for a ‘modification’ of its WTO agreement.

The UK’s proposed Tariff Rate Quotas – a replication of those the EU currently trades by – did not satisfy its trading partners, including Russia, USA, Australia, and Argentina. Many of the UK’s agricultural suppliers – including the USA, Canada and Australia – had already said that the proposed terms of would rob them of flexibility to switch exports between Britain and the rest of the EU.

Britain will now apply for a ‘modification’ of its WTO agreement

The UK will now look to forge an independent membership document that sets out its trading terms once it has left the EU. This could lead to several trade disputes with both the UK’s preferred trading partners and countries the UK has previously had strained relationships with politically. This process will not necessarily disrupt the implementation of Brexit, however, as many WTO countries do trade under outdated agreements while agreeing new terms.

In a statement to Parliament, Dr Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, said:

“As expected, some trading partners have expressed reservations about our proposed treatment of Tariff Rate Quotas.

Speaking about the process of applying for a ‘modification’ of the British WTO agreement, he added:

“The notification to formally invite claims in that process is now being prepared to reach a mutually satisfactory conclusion that maintains the balance of rights and obligations for the UK and our trading partners.”

Julian Braithwaite , British Ambassador to the WTO, tweeted that “a large majority” of WTO members had raised no objection – including much of the EU.