The outcome of the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU) single market and customs union has broad implications for the UK economy and its terms of trade with the rest of the world. “Brexit Day” on March 29 next year is drawing near. Here’s a timeline of key events and milestones between 2015 and 2018 and what we should be on the lookout for in the first quarter of 2019.
When the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was first agreed by 23 original contracting parties in 1947, there were no guarantees that the rules would endure. Today, WTO membership stands at 164 countries — representing collectively, more than 98 percent of global trade. But for an institution to endure, it must remain relevant.
What’s important about these summits is not the prepared statements delivered at the main table, but the frank discussions and informal meetings that take place in the corridors and meeting rooms around the main conference.
The truth about trade agreements is that they’re almost never just about trade. The United States’ free trade agreement with South Korea is no exception.
New WTO members Afghanistan and Liberia are cheerleaders for other countries seeking WTO membership, including Iraq, Somalia and Timor-Leste. These countries are resolved to rebuild their post-conflict economies and believe that making commitments in the WTO will undergird necessary, but difficult, economic reforms at home.
WTO Ministerial Conferences are held every two years. They aren’t really strategy retreats, like the management team off-sites that companies hold, but maybe they should be.
It would be a costly error to take the WTO for granted. It is one of the indispensable international institutions that underwrite the functioning of the world economy. Yet, the institution and its rules need to keep pace with the evolution of world trade. Without change, the WTO is at risk of not remaining fully relevant.
In 1944, the global economy was in shambles. Forty-four nations gathered in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to discuss how to rebuild an economy devastated by protracted depression and two World Wars. From these discussions emerged a 1947 agreement on a lasting framework for post-war commercial relations whereby trade barriers were contained and then gradually reduced over time.
As a new resident in Geneva, I consulted with a number of WTO Ambassadors to the WTO as well as senior members of the secretariat. Several members offered a bottom line value to the WTO: the WTO system is providing essential stability without which business would have far less certainty. Without the WTO system in place, economic activity — both cross border and domestic – would be sharply reduced. Anyone who cares about either the level of economic activity for a country or for a company should pause and consider that truth.