Britain and EU formally start splitting WTO membership agreements

By Tom Miles GENEVA (Reuters) - Britain and the European Union formally filed for divorce at the World Trade Organization on Tuesday, following many months of diplomatic preparations to smooth the way for the historic move. The WTO circulated two confidential draft membership agreements among the Geneva trade club's 164 members, separating Britain's rights and obligations in merchandise trade from the EU's for the first time in the WTO's 23-year history. A separate split of services trade is expected to follow

Reuters July 25, 2018 00:05:40 IST
Britain and EU formally start splitting WTO membership agreements

Britain and EU formally start splitting WTO membership agreements

By Tom Miles

GENEVA (Reuters) - Britain and the European Union formally filed for divorce at the World Trade Organization on Tuesday, following many months of diplomatic preparations to smooth the way for the historic move.

The WTO circulated two confidential draft membership agreements among the Geneva trade club's 164 members, separating Britain's rights and obligations in merchandise trade from the EU's for the first time in the WTO's 23-year history. A separate split of services trade is expected to follow.

"It seeks to replicate the concessions and commitments applicable to the UK as part of the EU today. An important milestone as we prepare for our departure from the EU," British Ambassador Julian Braithwaite wrote in a tweet.

Britain's draft document, officially known as its "schedule", is 719 pages long.

"WTO members will have three months to review the schedule, which will be considered to be approved if there are no objections from other members," the WTO said in a statement.

Until now the EU has represented Britain at the WTO, and Britain's membership rights were not set out distinctly, even though Britain was always a WTO member in its own right. Its June 2016 decision to leave the EU meant disentangling their trade rules to allow Britain to act independently.

Britain's government says that only minimal changes will be needed in the text and it does not expect any difficulties, apart from potentially in agriculture.

Seven agricultural suppliers - including the United States, Canada and Australia - have already said they disapprove of the terms of the divorce, since they will lose flexibility to switch exports between Britain and the rest of the EU.

Their objections are likely to force Britain into a wider negotiation, said David Henig, a former British trade official who now leads the UK Trade Policy Project at the European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE).

"As the UK's first serious trade negotiation in years, many will be watching to see how the UK government performs in negotiating at the WTO, and how they handle the debate domestically," he wrote in a report.

"At this stage we see a stuttering start, but this could ironically be the opportunity needed to get on the right track and set a positive path for our future trade policy."

Britain has been laying the groundwork for this step for more than a year, and it sent an informal proposal in October, followed by a proposal for services trade in February.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Ros Russell)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.