The UK Government today published its responses to consultation submissions made to it on the Trade White Paper proposals it published earlier. The information is here.
(1) WTO – The UK is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in its own right, and it meets the obligations of WTO membership as a member of the EU. UK- specific WTO schedules are required, which, as far as possible, will not alter the scope of UK market access obligations either in UK goods (GATT) or services (GATS) schedules. These are required irrespective of any Trade Deal with the EU. In goods, this also includes the market access currently enjoyed by trading partners under Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs) and Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS). In services, it also means preparing a UK-specific Annex on Article II (Most Favoured Nation Treatment) exemptions under the GATS.
The UK Government has consistently said that the best way forward is for the UK to replicate, as far as possible, its current commitments. The intention is to do this and to have the UK WTO schedules on the way to certification by the point the UK leaves the EU. Should the goods and services schedules be uncertified as the UK leaves the EU, the UK Government does not anticipate problems – it states (in the linked information) it is not uncommon for WTO members to operate on uncertified schedules for periods of time. It states it will continue to work for as early a certification point as possible, and it points out the EU itself has not had up to date certified schedules since the EC15 enlargement in 1995.
[NB: I am not a trade specialist, this Blog post merely reports the UK Government statements]
(2) GPA – this is the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement. The UK currently participates in the GPA via its EU membership and the attached information states the necessary steps are being taken to maintain UK participation when the UK leaves the EU. The information states the UK is seeking to join the GPA as an independent party after it leaves the EU, to safeguard guaranteed access to global public procurement markets for UK businesses. Stakeholder engagement on the GPA has confirmed that continuing the UK’s participation in the GPA is important to UK businesses. The information states the UK Government will continue to engage with stakeholders throughout the coming months, to update them on the progress of UK independent UK membership of the GPA, and will seek further input and feedback from them on this policy area.