UK exits the EU (WTO goods schedules)

UPDATE (3) : objections also lodged by other countries

UPDATE (2) : objection is lodged by New Zealand – here. Earlier feedback is here.

UPDATE (1) : UK has now (end July 2018) submitted its WTO services schedules; and its GPA (procurement agreement) schedules to WTO and GPA members.

Yesterday 24th July, both the UK and the EU each filed their (goods) documents at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The EU said it will renegotiate its WTO trade commitments (to account for the UK exit from the 28-nation bloc) under Article 28 of GATT, a lengthy process involving the other WTO members – here.

The UK said it will make technical changes to its current WTO commitments (presently encompassed within those of the 28-nation bloc) via a 1980 procedure known as a technical rectification – here. The proposed UK Schedule referred to is here.

The WTO Press Release is here. WTO Members have three months to review the UK Schedule, and the UK Schedule is considered approved if there are no objections.

Background

The UK is already a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It is one of the founder members of both the WTO and its predecessor, the 1948 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade – the “GATT”.

As with every other member of the WTO (and if outside the EU-28 bloc that has its own schedules), the UK would require its own “schedule of concessions” for goods and “schedule of specific commitments” for services. These schedules indicate specific commitments and obligations assumed by WTO members on tariff rates and other concessions. They provide predictability concerning market access for trade and are an integral part of the WTO agreements.

UK-specific WTO schedules are underway, which, as far as possible, the UK intends, will not alter the scope of UK market access obligations either in goods (GATT) or services (GATS) schedules.

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 intention is to have WTO schedules on the way to certification by the point of exit from the EU.

The UK Policy Paper – Trade White Paper: Preparing for our future UK trade policy – government response – here – says

Should the goods and services schedules be uncertified as we leave the EU, we do not anticipate there to be any problems – it is not uncommon for WTO members to operate on uncertified schedules for periods of time. In any case we will continue to work for as early a certification point as possible. The EU itself has not had up to date certified schedules since the EC15 enlargement in 1995.

Background reading on Services Schedules is here.

UK exits the EU (Brexit Preparedness)

I posted so far a number of times (marked EU Notices) about the guidance issued to stakeholders by the European Commission and the EU regulators. Note : there are now 65 EU Notices issued, and this material is gathered here.

In addition, please note I posted in 2017 about the going forward invalidity of UK issued carbon credits (EUETS scheme).

On 18th April, the FT published an article about approximately 40 new legislative proposals to be issued over the next 10 weeks or so (in addition to the EU Notices). This article is here. At EU level, these legislative proposals are marked “Brexit Preparedness”.

So far :

(1) a wider consultation on WTO schedules (separation of UK from EU) – here.

(2) a proposal on EU type-approval legislation – here.

Yesterday, the Irish state broadcaster RTÉ published an article of a briefing by the Secretary General of the European Commission to the Brexit Steering Group of the European Parliament (and an associated internal document of the planned Brexit Preparedness legislative proposals).

This article identifies the list of areas for these new proposals – banking, tariffs, energy efficiency, medicines, visa, and transport.

Among the proposals is a plan to design a maritime route to link Ireland and the Continental part of the North Sea-Mediterranean Corridor.

The RTE report is here.

Trade White Paper (UK)

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.