Monday, 16 October 2017

UK's Future Relationship with the World Trade Organization

Author E Murray
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Jane Lambert

The UK was one of the founder members of the World Trade Organization ("WTO") but its rights under the WTO Agreement and annexes are exercised, and its obligations are undertaken, on its behalf by the European Union. When the UK leaves the EU it must exercise its rights and discharge its responsibilities on its own account. Naturally, that will have repercussions for all the other member states of the WTO. By a joint letter dated 11 Oct 2017 to the Permanent Representatives to the WTO, Julian Braithwaite, UK Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Geneva, and Marc Vanheukelen, EU Permanent Representative to the WTO, have set out their intentions with regard to the implications of the UK withdrawal from the EU within the WTO.

The letter states that the UK intends to replicate as far as possible its obligations under the current commitments of the EU. The EU and UK will follow a cooperative and transparent approach regarding any necessary adjustment in the WTO arising from the UK withdrawal from the EU and they will strive to minimize disruption to trade. Both the UK and EU UK intends to replicate as far as possible its obligations under the current commitments of the EU. The EU and the UK will follow a cooperative and transparent approach regarding any necessary adjustment in the WTO arising from the UK withdrawal from the EU.

Initially, the UK will continue the same policies as those of the EU with regard to market access, agricultural support, government procurement and trade and development.  It will continue to engage with the EU "in a spirit of cooperation, inclusiveness and openness on these matters over the course of the coming weeks and months."

This is an important document because the WTO Agreement and its annexes may be the only international agreement binding the UK to our neighbours when the EU treaties cease to apply to us in March 2019 pursuant to art 50 (3) of the Treaty of European Union. Interestingly, I found it not on the website of the Department for Exiting the EU, nor on any other British government website but on that of the Commission's task force on art 50.

Should anyone wish to discuss this letter or Brexit generally, call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form.

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