‘WTO’ standards and regulations (WTO)

The WTO is the World Trade Organisation, based in Geneva, dating from 1994. Individual countries are members, and the EU, and three ‘customs territories’ of China.

This document gives a useful account of ‘trading on WTO terms’ and ‘WTO rules’ – here.

If a trade deal is not signed with the EU to take effect 1st January 2021, then the UK and the EU will trade with one another on WTO terms, the WTO rules already applying.

In the WTO, countries are free to choose the standards and regulations they adopt, with some conditions. They are encouraged to use internationally recognised standards. Or they can set their own provided they can justify the standards with scientific evidence and risk assessment. The purpose is to ensure the standards are genuine, not arbitrary or an excuse to be protectionist. [extract from the further information below link]

Further information about ‘WTO’ standards and regulations is set out – here.

We (Cardinal Environment) will (for 1st Jan 2021) add the relevant international standards and regulations to the EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists (UK systems).

UK Global Tariff (UK Brexit)

I posted before that the UK has announced its new UK Global Tariff.

These are tariffs that will apply on any products that the UK imports on a Most Favoured Nation (MFN) basis from the end of the transition period when the UK is no longer bound by the EU’s Common External Tariff. The published tariffs come after a public consultation on the subject was held in February this year.

Under the new Global Tariff, 66% of tariff lines will see some degree of change.

Tariffs on around 2,000 products have been fully eliminated, almost doubling the number of tariff-free products compared to the existing EU MFN schedule. A further 40% of tariff lines have been ‘simplified’ meaning that they have either been rounded down to the nearest standardised band, or have been converted from specific duties into simple percentages. And just under 10% of tariff lines have been converted from being expressed in € to being expressed in £ using an average exchange rate over the last 5 years. This conversion also entails some degree of simplification, as specific duties have  been rounded down to the nearest £, and for two-part duties, which include both a percentage tariff and a fixed charge, the percentage component has been rounded down to standardised bands.

My Blog does not focus on tariffs and customs, but as I explained in an earlier Blog post, we (Cardinal Environment) will be putting some staff through the UK Customs Academy training, in order to assist our customers further.

L. Alan Winters CB, Professor of Economics and Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory; and Michael Gasiorek, Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex and Julia Magntorn Garrett, a Research Officer in Economics at the University of Sussex, (Fellows of the UK Trade Policy Observatory) have written a useful Blog on the subject.

This Blog is here. Extracts are below in italics.

The largest relative change is for stone, plaster and cement, where around 85% of tariff lines have changed to some degree, just under half of which have been fully liberalised. This is followed by processed food products, where most of the change is due to conversion of specific duties, and plastics and rubber products and chemical products where the vast majority of tariff lines have been simplified (rounded down).

The tariff changes would increase the share of imports that can be imported duty-free from countries currently trading on MFN terms. Under the Global Tariff, around 70% of the UK’s imports from ‘MFN countries’ would be duty-free compared with around 52% currently. However, the Global Tariff is far less liberal than the UK’s (now superseded) ‘No deal’ tariffs that were published in October last year, which would have seen tariffs eliminated on around 95% of imports from ‘MFN countries’.

If the UK and the EU do not reach a trade deal by the end of the transition period, the Global Tariff will apply also to imports from the EU. In this scenario, only around 44% of imports from the EU would be tariff free, compared with 100% currently. This is a higher share than if the current MFN tariff schedule was applied on EU imports, but is a much smaller share than it would have been under the ‘No deal’ tariffs.

Canada is one of the countries that did not roll over their trade deal with the EU, this writing is useful on the subject, and gives context – here.

COVID-19 Workplace Guidance (England)

Yesterday (25 May) saw the key Working Safely guidance for different workplaces (issued 11 May) updated to reflect industry feedback and to expand coverage of non essential retail categories ahead of planned opening.

On the 19 May, the 5 steps for businesses to take were added – here. Please note (as I posted before, check back on my Blog, the risk assessments of larger businesses must be published on their websites).

You should share the results of your risk assessment with your employees. If possible, you should consider publishing it on your website (and we would expect all businesses with over 50 employees to do so).

Notice that should be displayed in the workplace – here.

The Working Safely Guidance link is here.

Please note the links to the guidance issued in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where the timetable of non-essential business re-opening differs.

Non-essential retail in England will re-open in June, as set out in the PM timeline issued yesterday 25 May –

• Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen from 1 June, as soon as they are able to meet the COVID-19 secure guidelines to protect shoppers and workers. As with garden centres, the risk of transmission of the virus is lower in these outdoor and more open spaces. Car showrooms often have significant outdoor space and it is generally easier to apply social distancing.

• All other non-essential retail including shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios, and indoor markets, will be expected to be able to reopen from 15 June if the Government’s five tests are met and they follow the COVID-19 secure guidelines, giving them three weeks to prepare.

Certain businesses and activities must remain closed – see here. This is underpinned by enacted law.

UK implementation of Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol (Northern Ireland)

The UK government has today published its approach to implementing the Ireland-Northern Ireland Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement that was signed with the European Union.

The Protocol sets up special arrangements that stem from the Withdrawal Agreement and apply in Northern Ireland from 1st January 2021, until at least 2024, when the first four-year consent vote process contained in the Protocol is initiated.

The Protocol covers a range of areas: human rights, the Common Travel Area, customs and trade, regulation of manufactured goods, the Single Electricity Market, some limited state aid provisions, and VAT and excise. The paper published today sets out the UK’s thinking in all of these areas. But the core of the Protocol is the provisions on customs and trade. It is these areas which are covered in most detail in the document.

It is the responsibility of the UK Government and UK authorities to give effect to the Protocol in Northern Ireland. The Protocol has as Annex 2, a list of EU law that will continue to apply in Northern Ireland – at least 2021 to 2024.

The UK approach is set out in a Cabinet Office Command Paper – here.

The paper sets out four key commitments that will underpin the UK Government’s approach to implementing the Protocol:

• There will be unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s producers to the whole of the UK market and this will be delivered through legislation by the end of the year.

• No tariffs will be paid on goods that move and remain within the UK customs territory

• Implementation of the Protocol will not involve new customs infrastructure – with any processes on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland kept to an absolute minimum so that the integrity and smooth functioning of the UK internal market is protected.

• Northern Ireland’s businesses will benefit from the lower tariffs delivered through our new Free Trade Agreements with countries like the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan – ensuring Northern Ireland firms will be able to enjoy the full benefits of the unique access they have to the GB and EU markets.

Today’s publication also sets out plans to establish a new business engagement forum, which will meet regularly to allow Northern Ireland’s businesses to put forward proposals and provide feedback on how to maximise the free flow of trade. The Northern Ireland Executive will be invited to join the forum.

The Withdrawal Agreement is administered by a Joint EU-UK Committee set up under the Agreement, and both the Agreement and the Protocol have dispute mechanisms.

More detail is expected, and accordingly I will write more Blog posts.

UK-EU Future Relations (UK)

Today sees the publication by the UK of a number of trade relevant documents –

(1) the UK Global Tariff (UKGT) that will replace the EU’s Common External Tariff from 1st January 2021 – here

(2) the draft UK legal texts in the ongoing trade talks with the EU – here

The UKGT will apply to all goods imported into the UK unless:

• an exception applies, such as a relief or tariff suspension

• the goods come from countries that are part of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences

• the country imported from has a trade agreement with the UK

This Blog does not focus on Trade or Customs. Note – commencing in July 2020, we (Cardinal Environment Limited) will be putting some staff through the UK Customs Academy Level 4 qualification, this is in order to improve our services in the areas of Trade and Customs, that impinge on goods movement.

Trade talks are underway with the EU and the US.

The UK Government will announce shortly it’s proposals for how Northern Ireland based traders will benefit from the UKGT. The Withdrawal Agreement Ireland-Northern Ireland Protocol creates special arrangements for Northern Ireland. I will Blog post separately at that point.

COVID-19 Reissued Guidance (Wales)

I posted yesterday that Scotland had reissued its stay at home and away from others guidance. Today, Wales has also reissued its stay at home and away from others guidance – here.

Please read carefully, including the information via the links. Wales is not exactly the same as Scotland.

As I posted yesterday and today, England and Northern Ireland are different again, and from one another.