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Domestic Squabbles and International Blunders: Will There Be a No-Deal Brexit Scenario?

By Renaldo Weekes, Guest Contributor 

Renaldo Weekes ping pong

Renaldo D. Weekes

The United Kingdom’s (UK) Prime Minister, Theresa May, has had her hands full ever since she took the job and began leading the Brexit negotiations. She has had to suffer through several resignations as various Secretaries and Ministers opposed her Brexit deal. More recently, she has been ensued in a serious battle with the House of Commons and, more specifically, Members of Parliament (MPs) from her own party. With the high tension squabbles that surround the Brexit deal in the UK, European Union (EU) leaders are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain confidence in May and are not willing to change any part of the current deal, much to the Prime Minister’s detriment.

No Confidence Vote

Tensions surrounding the Brexit have culminated when Prime Minister May decided to delay Monday’s Brexit vote until January. Feeling as though they have tolerated enough, her own MPs launched a no-confidence vote against her. She survived that vote and we now continue on the same path as before. Theresa May’s options remain the same, those being: succeeding with her current deal or an amended deal, holding a second referendum, unilaterally reversing Brexit, a no-deal Brexit and a relatively new option of restarting the process that inadvertently arose out of the European Court of Justice’s ruling on Monday, December 10. The no-confidence vote was merely a bump in the road for the most part and Tory MPs cannot challenge her leadership for at least another year.

Funnily enough, if the rebellious MPs won the vote, things would not have been any better. The same options would be open to the new PM and his or her team. The likelihood of each option happening would change, however, and it seems a no-deal Brexit would be even more likely. May’s current deal would be scrapped as MPs have made it clear that they do not like the deal in its current form. Holding a second referendum or reversing Brexit are not likely to happen because the MPs who challenged May are not willing to even open the possibility of slowing down Brexit. There seems to be no intent to revoke their article 50 notification because doing this may be interpreted as retreating from the battle.

Appeasing the Tories

On Thursday, fresh off the heels of her victory against the no-confidence vote, Theresa May headed to Brussels to squeeze more concessions out of the EU. Her elation from winning the vote did not last long as the EU made it clear that it will not be budging. The EU is not being stubborn for the sake of it, however. According to reports, EU leaders are not sure they can trust Prime Minister May anymore. Not because she is being underhanded but rather, she does not know what she is doing. She has offered what has been described as either vague or impossible changes that relate to the backstop on the Irish border.

One of her suggestions was to have a sunset clause on the backstop whether or not a deal is reached. This is rather dangerous because the point of the backstop is to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. If the backstop deal comes to an end with no replacement, the border they were trying to prevent will be realized. Some fear that this will resume conflicts that were put to a halt 20 years ago with the signing of the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement. The fact that Tories are willing to let this happen because they want to be completely severed from the EU shows their irresponsibility. They have not suggested ways to deal with the backstop, they simply want a Brexit and they want it now. How can May really appease persons who are not suggesting a fix to the main problem? Understandably, she would try to tweak a deal that, in its current state, will not pass the House of Commons but she and the Tories must face facts. If this squabble of theirs continues, there will be a no-deal scenario.

The Wishful Immovable Object and the Ostensibly Unstoppable Force

Prime Minister May has maintained her stubbornness throughout this entire ordeal until the crucial December 11 vote came and she postponed it until January. We finally saw the ostensibly immovable object shake under pressure. This continued on when the no-confidence vote hit and she essentially begged the EU to make more concessions but they rebuffed her. May is still standing, however, and continues to dismiss the idea of a second referendum as folly even though some of her Cabinet members are reportedly flirting with the idea.

Though the Prime Minister wants to maintain the image of being an immovable object, she has been clearly rattled. There is also the impending, ostensibly unstoppable force that is a no-deal Brexit. A no-deal Brexit is not as unstoppable as it may appear. Its status as ‘unstoppable’ depends on how immovable Theresa May wants to be. If May is willing to change her position and, at the very least, holds a second referendum, it is more probable that she prevents the UK’s disastrous crash out of the EU. If she revokes the Article 50 notification, she prevents Brexit almost immediately and can even restart the negotiation process to craft a better deal.

It is sad to see the state of affairs that the UK finds itself in because of the unrealistic and irresponsible demands of some Tory MPs and a Prime Minister who is trying to mollify these MPs but, at the same time, wants to remain unnecessarily obdurate in the face of legitimate concerns about where the country is headed as the March 2019 deadline approaches. Only time will tell if things will change, whether for better or worse.

Renaldo Weekes is a holder of a BSc. (Sociology and Law) who observes international affairs from his humble, small island home. He has keen interest in how countries try to maneuver across the international political and legal stage.

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Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – December 9-16, 2018 (Final for 2018)

Welcome to the final Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for 2018! We are happy to bring you the latest trade and development news and analysis for the week of December 9-16, 2018

As this will be our last edition for 2018, we take this opportunity to thank you for your readership over the past year and to wish you and yours the very best for the season! 

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

At COP24, nearly 200 countries have reached an agreement on the implementing guidelines – the ‘Rulebook’ –  for the operationalization of the Paris Agreement (2015). This agreement came on Saturday night, a day after the two week UN Climate Talks were scheduled to end.

The Brexit saga continued. UK Prime Minister Theresa May postponed a scheduled vote on her draft Withdrawal Agreement with the EU in the face of fervent political opposition, survived a confidence vote and  has been thus far unable to win additional concessions from the EU to placate MPs’ fears about the Withdrawal Agreement.

See my article with Dr. Jan Yves Remy, Deputy Director of the University of the West Indies’ Shridath Ramphal Centre, analysing what these latest Brexit political headwinds mean for CARIFORUM-UK trading relations!

Below are the other major trade and development headlines from across the Caribbean region and the world for last week:

REGIONAL

Antigua-Barbuda calls on WTO to reform dispute settlement body

Caribbean News Now: Antigua and Barbuda has officially intervened in the ongoing discussions concerning the reform of the Dispute Settlement Understanding of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Read more 

Barbados Ambassador to Geneva sounds warning

CBC (Barbados): Ambassador Blackman was addressing the WTO’s General Council Meeting. He told the body Barbados continues to believe in the WTO’s rules based trading system, but the country remains concerned about the impasse in the selection process for Appellate Body members. Read more 

St Vincent becomes first OECS island to decriminalise marijuana

LoopT&T: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has made history as the first OECS Member State to decriminalise marijuana for medical purposes and scientific research. Read more 

CARICOM to review intra-regional transportation

LoopBarbados: Come next year, the Caribbean region will see a host of new measures, including improved intra-regional transportation. Read more 

Antigua Asks For Delay In Further Free Movement, Says It Already Has Large Numbers Of CARICOM Nationals

Antigua News Room: The Government of Antigua and Barbuda says it has asked to be excluded, for now from implementing measures under Caricom which would see free movement of more classes of people. Read more

CARICOM Secretary General holds talks with Aruba on associate membership

TV6 (Trinidad): The  Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Ambassador Irwin LaRocque  on Wednesday met with Prime Minister of Aruba Hon Evelyn Wever-Croes on Associate Membership in the 15 member regional grouping – the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)  for the Dutch Territory. Read more 

Regional Statement on the IPCC Special Report 

CARICOM Today: CARICOM ministers with responsibility for addressing climate change released a statement on the IPCC’s Special Report. Read more 

Belize accepts chairmanship of AOSIS

CARICOM: Belize’s acceptance of the chairmanship of AOSIS from the Maldives in January 2019. Belize will hold the chairmanship for two years to be followed by Antigua and Barbuda in 2021. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

UK and Switzerland agree to transition trade agreement after Brexit

UK Government: The UK Government and the Swiss Federal Council have approved the transition of a trade agreement, allowing businesses to continue trading freely after the UK leaves the European Union. Read more 

Commission reports on trade negotiations with Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia

EU: As part of its commitment to transparency, the European Commission published today a report from the latest round of negotiations between the EU and Australia, as well as the EU’s six initial text proposals tabled during this round. Read more 

U.S. Rejects the EU’s Trade Reform Proposal, Putting WTO at Risk

Bloomberg: The U.S. rejected the European Union’s proposal to reform the World Trade Organization, dealing a blow to international efforts to bolster the Geneva-based body, which has come under attack from President Donald Trump’s administration. Read more 

EU-Japan trade agreement on track to enter into force in February 2019

EU: The European Commission welcomes today’s approval in the European Parliament of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement and the EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement. Read more

China buys US soybeans for first time since trade war

BBC: China has bought US soybeans for the first time since the trade war between the two countries started in July. The country’s finance ministry also confirmed it would temporarily reduce tariffs on US car imports from 40% to 15%, beginning on 1 January. Read more 

Shipping costs from China to the US have more than doubled as trade war sparks a ‘bonanza’

CNBC: The price of shipping a container from China to the United States has risen dramatically in the last year due to uncertainty surrounding trade tensions between Washington and Beijing. Read more 

AEC pushes for an inclusive African Continental Free-Trade Agreement

African Review: A successful implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement cannot be achieved without the “people dimension,” ensuring that the integration process does not lead to widening inequalities or exclusion, the AEC Forum observed. Read more 

Appellate Body issues report on revised US “dolphin-safe” tuna labelling measure

WTO: On 14 December the Appellate Body issued its report in the cases brought by Mexico and the United States in “United States — Measures Concerning the Importation, Marketing and Sale of Tuna and Tuna Products — Second Recourse to Article 21.5 of the DSU by Mexico” (DS381). Read more 

India appeals panel ruling in dispute with Japan over safeguard duties on steel products

WTO: India filed an appeal on 14 December concerning the WTO panel report in the case brought by Japan in “India — Certain Measures on Imports of Iron and Steel Products” (DS518). The panel report was circulated to WTO members on 6 November. Read more 

Appellate Body issues report regarding Brazil tax measures

WTO: On 13 December the Appellate Body issued its report in the cases by the European Union and Japan in “Brazil — Certain Measures Concerning Taxation and Charges” (DS472 and DS497). Read more

Trade Policy Review Body: Overview of developments in the international trading environment

WTO: Speech by WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo. Read more.

WTO-World Bank joint publication highlights need for policies to maximize trade gains for extreme poor

WTO: Trade has made a significant contribution to poverty reduction but further integration of developing countries into international markets and policies to share the gains from trade more widely will be essential for further reducing poverty and ensuring that no one is left behind, according to a joint publication by the World Bank Group and the World Trade Organization launched today (11 December). Read more 

Report shows sharp rise in the coverage of trade-restrictive measures from WTO members

WTO: The Director-General’s annual overview on trade-related developments presented to members on 11 December at a meeting of the Trade Policy Review Body (TPRB) shows a significant increase in trade coverage of trade restrictive measures by WTO members from mid-October 2017 to mid-October 2018. Read more

EU parliament approves huge free trade deal with Japan

Japan Today: The European Parliament on Wednesday approved an accord with Japan that has been dubbed the world’s biggest trade deal, covering economies that represent a third of the world’s GDP. Read more

The Caribbean Trade & Development Digest is a weekly trade news digest published by the Caribbean Trade Law & Development Blog. Liked this issue? To read past issues, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

ECJ Brexit Ruling: What are the implications?

Renaldo Weekes ping pong

Renaldo Weekes, Guest Contributor 

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Monday, December 10th, 2018, that a European Union (EU) member state has the ability to unilaterally revoke its notification of intent to leave under Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty. This ruling comes at a time when anti-Brexit and pro-Brexit persons alike are showing great opposition to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Anti-Brexit persons, in particular, are feeling vindicated by this ruling because it allows them to double down on their stance and try to force Prime Minister May into submission.

However, the British Government stood its ground despite the ECJ’s ruling, with British Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, arguing that the British people voted to leave the EU in 2016 and it will not reverse that decision. The Government even argued that point in the ECJ case, saying it does not plan to reverse its decision so the question of whether the United Kingdom (UK) can unilaterally revoke its Article 50 notification was merely hypothetical and of no consequence.

May’s Brexit deal in more peril

Can the British Government continue to take its tough stance in light of the ECJ’s ruling and all the controversy that shrouds Brexit? Some may find it admirable that the Government is not willing to waver, even in the face of fierce opposition. At some point, however, it must face facts. Anti-Brexit lawmakers will be less likely to back down. As part of its judgement, the ECJ said that the UK’s decision to revoke their Article 50 notification reflects a sovereign decision. This has essentially put absolute power into the hands of UK Members of Parliament (MPs) to change course as they do not have to yield to the EU. There is no doubt that MPs will exercise that power. To anti-Brexit lawmakers, there are no more excuses that Prime Minister May can use to prevent a second referendum or prevent Brexit. In light of this, lawmakers are more likely to vote down on the deal; though there was no doubt that they would have done otherwise.

Responsibility and accountability

The ECJ ruling also puts ultimate accountability on the Prime Minister and her team. The European Commission and the Council argued in the court case that article 50 could not be interpreted as allowing a member state to unilaterally revoke its notification; the member state would need the EU’s permission to revoke the notification. If this turned out to be true, and the EU refused to allow the UK to change its decision, Government would have been able to argue that the EU is at fault for restricting the UK’s sovereignty. That, however, is not the case now. Should the government refuse to reverse Brexit or, at the very least hold a second referendum, there is no other institution that holds responsibility for any ensuing consequences that should come from what is likely to be a hard or even no deal Brexit.

Abuse of the process

Another possible impact of the ECJ ruling was actually cited by the European Commission and the Council during their argument to the court. They noted that if member states can unilaterally revoke their notification to leave, they may abuse that process in order to retrigger the 2 year negotiation period should the original negotiations not go their way. On the face of it, this argument may not hold much weight as there is already a process through which a member state can request an extension of the negotiating period. However, should the member state not agree to the extension period proposed by the council, it may still seek to retrigger the mandated 2 year negotiating process which forces the council into a position where it must agree to the member state’s desired negotiation period. The member state may also opt to not apply for an extension and immediately retrigger the process.

The effects that the ECJ’s ruling may or may not have on the UK and other member states notwithstanding, we must still wait to see if the British government will budge in any way as the March 2019 deadline approaches against the backdrop of MPs threatening to upend the deal and a shaky Government trying desperately to maintain its power.

Renaldo Weekes is a holder of a BSc. (Sociology and Law) who observes international affairs from his humble, small island home. He has keen interest in how countries try to maneuver across the international political and legal stage.

Eight Key Outcomes from the St. Anns Declaration on CSME

Alicia Nicholls

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government met from December 3-4, 2018, in Port of Spain, Trinidad last week for the 18th Special Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM which was a special meeting on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

The CSME envisions deepened economic integration among participating CARICOM Member States by creating a single economic space for the free movement of Community goods, services, capital and labour, with the aim of promoting economic development and increased well-being of Community nationals. All independent CARICOM Member States, except the Bahamas, are part of the CSME, while Haiti is not yet a full participant.

Progress towards implementation of the CSME has been painstakingly slow, a point noted in numerous reports commissioned to look at this issue, including the Jamaica-government commissioned Golding Commission Report released earlier this year which examined Jamaica’s relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM frameworks.

At the end of the special CSME meeting last week, CARICOM leaders released their St. Ann’s Declaration on CSME in which they recommitted to the regional integration process and outlined several priority areas for immediate action, including setting timelines for some action areas.

Based on the St. Ann’s Declaration on CSME, here are eight key outcomes from the CSME Special Meeting:

1.Recommitment to national action to further CSME implementation

CARICOM leaders recommitted to take action at the national level to advance the regional integration agenda. In their preamble to the Declaration, they reiterated that the CSME “continues to be the most viable platform for supporting growth and development” in CARICOM Member States, but acknowledged that progress on the CSME should have been further advanced by now. They welcomed Haiti’s commitment to full integration into the CSME by 2020.

2.Greater voice for private sector and labour

CARICOM leaders have agreed to establish a formalised and structured mechanism to facilitate dialogue between the Councils of the Community and the private sector and labour. They also agreed to amend the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas to include representative bodies of the regional private sector and labour as Associate Institutions of the Community.

3. Full Free Movement in 3 years (for willing Member States)

CARICOM leaders have set a timeline of the next three years for those Member States which are willing to do so to move towards full free movement. The leaders have also agreed to reinforce the operation of their security mechanisms to ensure the integrity of the regime allowing the free movement of CARICOM nationals.

4. Expansion of categories of skilled nationals entitled to move

Agricultural Workers, Beauty Service Practitioners, Barbers and Security Guards will be added to the categories of skilled nationals who are entitled to move freely and seek employment within the Community.

CARICOM leaders also reiterated that a skills certificate issued by one Member State would be recognised by all Member States. They also agreed to complete domestic legislative and other arrangements for all categories of free movement of skilled persons.

5. Greater CARICOM-OECS collaboration

They have mandated that steps be taken to deepen cooperation and collaboration between the Secretariats of CARICOM and the OECS “to avoid duplication and maximise the utility of scarce resources”.

6. Single Domestic Space for passengers in the Region

CARICOM leaders agreed to examine the re-introduction of the single domestic space for passengers in the Region and agreed to work towards having a single security check for direct transit passengers on multi-stop intra-Community flights. They also agreed to conduct a special session on Air and Maritime Transportation at the Intersessional meeting of the Conference to be held next February to focus on this matter.

7. Public Procurement and Mutual Recognition of Member States’ incorporated companies

CARICOM leaders set a timeline of 2019 for the finalization of the regime that permits citizens and companies of the Community to participate in Member States’ government procurement processes. They also agreed to take the necessary steps to allow for mutual recognition of companies incorporated in a CARICOM Member State.

8. Restructured Commission on the Economy

CARICOM leaders have restructured the Commission on the Economy to advise Member States on a growth agenda for the Community. Leading Barbadian-UK economist, Professor Avinash Persaud, has been appointed to lead this restructured commission, while its nine other members include distinguished regional and international persons.

The text of the St Ann’s Declaration on CSME may be viewed here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Caribbean Trade and Development Digest – December 2-8, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of December 2-8, 2018! We are happy to bring you the major trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

This week, CARICOM Heads of Government held a Special Session on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) in Port of Spain, Trinidad. They issued the St. Ann’s Declaration on CSME in which they recommitted to the process of CSME implementation and outlined some key priority areas for implementation.

The CARICOM Competition Commission (CCC) has indicated that it is closely monitoring the proposed sale of Scotia Bank’s operations in several Caribbean jurisdictions to the Trinidad-based Republic Financial Group Ltd. Read the CCC’s full statement here.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and parliamentarians from ACP countries held their  36th session of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) in Cotonou, Benin. They adopted several resolutions, including their Declaration of the Co-Presidents on Post-Cotonou Negotiations on the occasion of the meeting of the 36th Joint Parliamentary Assembly

Below we share the other major trade and development headlines from across the Caribbean region and the world for last week:

REGIONAL

CARICOM to open government procurement to regional companies

LoopBarbados: A portal called CIMSuPro – the CARICOM Interactive Marketplace and Suspension Procedure – will be established as a managed market place for CARICOM companies to post their raw material, goods and services.  It would be made available to regional and global purchasers. Read more

More Categories of Workers to Be Granted Free Movement Within CARICOM

Caribbean360: More Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals are to be allowed to seek work in fellow member states, it has been revealed, as CARICOM leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the vision of free movement and a shared market space. Read more

CCJ Issues Record Number of Judgments in 2018

CARICOM: During 2018, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) issued 34 judgments and reasons for decision, its highest number of judgments delivered in a calendar year since it began its operations in 2005. Throughout that period, the CCJ also heard 28 new matters in both its Original and its Appellate Jurisdictions. Read more 

CARICOM Committee of Ambassadors charting enhanced role

CARICOM: CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque in welcome remarks, told the ambassadors their role, both individually as the link between the regional and the national, and as a constituent group within the governance structure of the Caribbean Community, assumes even greater significance in the renewed drive to implement the provisions of the CSME and other critical areas of the community’s work. Read more 

No plans for Jexit 

Jamaica Observer: Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday reiterated that the decision to establish a commission to review his country’s relationship with the Caribbean Community (Caricom) was not intended to create an avenue for it to leave the 15-member regional integration movement. Read more

Tackle CSME Issues Head On, Urges CARICOM Chairman

Caribbean360: Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Chairman, Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica, has urged a “head on” approach to tackling of complex issues during the Special CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) underway in Trinidad and Tobago. Read more

Guyana pushes trade and investment at OIC meeting in Turkey

Caribbean News Now: Guyana attended the 34th meeting of the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (COMCEC), which was held last week in Istanbul, Turkey. Representing Guyana at the meeting was its permanent ambassador to the United Nations, Michael Ten-Pow, who promoted the opportunities for trade and investment in his country. Read more

Exxon Mobil could push Guyana past Mexico, Venezuela in oil output

Houston Chronicle: The small South American nation of Guyana could become the continent’s second-largest oil producer thanks to the offshore discoveries made by Exxon Mobil, according to a new report. Read more 

Sugar sales down, total exports down (Belize)

The Reporter (Belize): Revenue earned from sugar exports, Belize’s largest export earner, were down in the month of October, contributing largely to an overall decrease in export revenues of 5.1 percent, according to the Statistical Institute of Belize. Read more

Region’s Coconut Industry gets EDF boost

CARICOM: The coconut industry in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean should soon be receiving a further boost. That is because the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) will be financing a second coconut project in the region. Read more 

Prensa Latina: The Caribbean Sugar Association (SAC) reported that its members met approximately 80 percent of Caricom”s raw sugar needs during 2017/18 harvest. Read more

IMF thumbs up for Barbados

Nation News (Barbados): The International Monetary Fund (IMF) likes the way the Barbados economy is being fixed, calling it an “excellent start”. Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

COP24 fails to adopt key scientific report

BBC: Attempts to incorporate a key scientific study into global climate talks in Poland have failed. The IPCC report on the impacts of a temperature rise of 1.5C, had a significant impact when it was launched last October. Read more 

Macron threatens to scupper EU-Mercosur trade deal over climate

Euractiv: French President Emmanuel Macron has warned that he will oppose a trade deal between the EU and Mercosur if Brazil’s incoming far-right president pulls his country out of the Paris Agreement. Read more 

Mercosur and EU trade negotiators meet in Brasilia

The Rio Times: The foreign ministers of Mercosur and EU members are meeting in Brasilia on Thursday (December 6th) in an effort to advance the partnership agreement between the two economic blocs. This is the first time Mercosur and the UE are meeting after statements made by France’s Macron caused tension and doubt about the partnership. Read more 

Why Qatar left OPEC

Al Jazeera: Explaining the motivation behind the decision, Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, Qatar’s minister of state for energy affairs and president and CEO of Qatar Petroleum, said that Qatar’s exit from OPEC “is not political, it was purely a business decision for Qatar’s future strategy towards the energy sector.” Read more 

RCEP: Experts to evaluate pact to strengthen India’s position

Hindu Business Line: To sharpen India’s bargaining position in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is being negotiated among 16 countries, the Commerce Ministry has roped in experts from academic institutions and think-tanks to carry out a detailed study of the pact and give their recommendations. Read more 

#ACPEU – MEPS agree on a partnership tailored to international context

EU Reporter: During the 36th session of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA), which took place from 3 to 5 December in Cotonou (Benin), Members of the European Parliament and their counterparts from 78 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries debated and adopted several resolutions. Read more 

Japan-EU trade pact clears hurdle on road to Feb. 1 start

Nikkei Asian Review: Japan’s parliament approved an economic partnership agreement with the European Union early Saturday, keeping one of the world’s biggest free trade zones on course to take effect Feb. 1. Read more 

EU agrees post-Brexit import quotas for other WTO members

Reuters: The European Union endorsed on Friday new tariff rate quotas (TRQs) that the bloc will apply mainly for agricultural products coming from other World Trade Organization members after Brexit. Read more 

Britons scramble to get E.U. passports before Brexit

NBC: With the U.K. due to leave the European Union in March, the demand among Britons for citizenship and passports from the other 27 countries in the bloc has skyrocketed. Read more

DG Azevêdo in US: This is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to renew trading system

WTO: Speaking in Washington DC on 5 December, Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said that WTO members have “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to renew the trading system”. He argued that in responding to the range of challenges in the global trading system today, momentum was building towards strengthening and improving the work of the WTO. The Director-General was speaking at the National Foreign Trade Council’s annual World Trade Dinner. Read more 

Argentina initiates WTO dispute complaint against Peruvian measures on biodiesel imports

WTO: Argentina has requested WTO dispute consultations with Peru concerning anti-dumping and countervailing measures imposed by Peru on biodiesel imports from Argentina. Argentina’s request was circulated to WTO members on 5 December. Read more 

Panels established to review India, Swiss complaints against US tariffs

WTO: At its meeting on 4 December, the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) agreed to requests from India and Switzerland for the establishment of panels to examine tariffs imposed by the United States on steel and aluminium imports. Read more 

United Kingdom submits draft post-Brexit services commitments to WTO

WTO: WTO members received today, 3 December 2018, the United Kingdom’s draft schedule outlining its WTO commitments for services once the UK leaves the European Union. Members now have 45 days to review the schedule before certification. Read more 

China confirms its working on independent WTO reform

Asia Times: China is planning to put forward an independent proposal to promote WTO reform, Yicai.com reported, citing a government official and several sources. Read more

The Caribbean Trade & Development Digest is a weekly trade news digest published by the Caribbean Trade Law & Development Blog. Liked this issue? To read past issues, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

The Draft Brexit Withdrawal Agreement: What implications for future CARIFORUM-UK Trading Relations?

Alicia Nicholls

After nearly two years of negotiations between the European Union (EU-27) and the United Kingdom (UK), European leaders endorsed the “The Draft Agreement on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community”and the “Political Declaration Setting out the Framework for the Future Relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom” at a special meeting of the European Council on November 25, 2018.

This process is taking place pursuant to Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), which sets out the terms and timelines for the withdrawal of any Member State from the EU. The text of the UK’s draft Withdrawal agreement, which was released on November 14, 2018, delineates the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, while the Political Declaration outlines broad aspirations for the constitutive elements of the two parties’ future trading relationship.

This article takes a brief look at what possible implications the draft Brexit Withdrawal Agreement may have for future CARIFORUM-UK trading relations, which are currently under negotiation and are reportedly close to being finalised.

Essential Elements of the Withdrawal Agreement

The UK ceases to be an EU Member State on March 29, 2019. During the transition period (March 29, 2019 to December 31, 2020), and subject to certain limited exceptions, EU law and the EU institutions and agencies will continue to be applicable to the UK, although it will no longer be an EU Member State. The UK will, however, be ineligible to be represented on, or participate in the decision-making processes of these institutions. This arrangement was deemed necessary to ensure a ‘smooth’ transition and provide for some certainty for traders while the parties hammer out the details of their future trading relationship. The Joint Committee may extend the transition period only once and this must be exercised before July 1, 2020.

The Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland includes the controversial “backstop” option, whereby in the event that the EU and UK fail to negotiate an agreement which prevents a ‘hard border’ between Northern Ireland (a country of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (an EU Member State) within the transition period, the UK will be part of a single UK-EU customs territory until such an agreement is made. However, both the EU and UK have expressly stated their intention to conclude such an agreement by July 1, 2020.

Both the EU and UK Government have openly stated that they consider the negotiations on the two agreements closed, and have argued that the deal was the best that could be achieved in the circumstances. Although EU leaders endorsed both agreements, approval and ratification by the UK parliament is also needed under the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. UK House of Commons support appears questionable at this stage given the fervent opposition by both Remain and Leave MPs to the current Withdrawal Agreement. The House of Commons will debate the deal on December 11, 2018.

Implications for CARIFORUM-UK Trading Relations

Traders from CARIFORUM currently have preferential access to the UK market under the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (CARIFORUM-EU EPA). While CARIFORUM-EU trading relations will remain unchanged once the UK leaves the EU, the same cannot be said for CARIFORUM-UK relations.

For most Anglophone CARIFORUM countries, the UK is their main trading partner within the EU, as well as a major source market for tourism and investment. It has been reported that UK-CARIFORUM bilateral trade totaled £2.1 billion in 2016.

Under the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK remains bound to all EU international agreements, including trade agreements such as the CARIFORUM-EU EPA, to which it is party by virtue of being an EU Member State. However, during the transition period, the UK must not engage in actions deemed “likely prejudicial to EU interests” and its representatives will be barred from participating in the work of any bodies established pursuant to such agreements, unless it does so in its own right or upon invitation by the EU. This would include any bodies, such as the Joint CARIFORUM-EU Council, established pursuant to the CARIFORUM-EU EPA.

The Withdrawal Agreement does not preclude the UK from negotiating, signing and ratifying its own trade agreements with third States or groupings, such as CARIFORUM, during the transition period. But the entry into force and application of said agreements during the transition period would be subject to EU authorization. With respect to CARIFORUM, the grouping is currently negotiating a roll-over of the EPA concessions with the UK to minimize any disruption to CARIFORUM-UK trade. Such a CARIFORUM-UK trade agreement, therefore, would be subject to EU authorization if it is to enter into force during the transition period. In any case, as noted above, the UK will remain a party to the EPA and bound to apply EPA concessions to CARIFORUM traders during the transition period.

But what about the UK’s future trading relations with the EU? A ‘no deal Brexit’ is still a possibility as the draft Withdrawal Agreement needs ratification by each of the EU 27 countries. There is also still that pesky question of the negotiation of the future UK-EU trading relationship. The Political Declaration envisions a UK-EU free trade agreement, the terms of which remain to be negotiated.

A ‘no deal Brexit’ would make it difficult for CARIFORUM firms looking to use the UK as a stepping stone to EU markets, which means a climate of uncertainty will continue to prevail for Caribbean firms seeking to use the UK as a conduit for accessing the EU market until the full details of future UK-EU terms of trade are agreed.  It was recently reported that the agreement between the UK and CARIFORUM was close to being reached and has taken into account the possibility of a ‘no deal Brexit’.

The climate of uncertainty may also impact CARIFORUM-UK trade and investment from the UK side. Although some UK businesses have by now conducted risk assessments and built in Brexit contingency plans, the continued political and economic uncertainty and volatility of sterling will continue to weigh on their export, hiring and investment decisions.

The Withdrawal Agreement takes us one step closer to some idea of what the future UK-EU relations will be, but a climate of political and economic uncertainty will remain for some time, which may have an impact on CARIFORUM-UK trading relations.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

Caribbean Trade & Development Digest – November 25 – December 1, 2018

Welcome to the Caribbean Trade & Development Digest for the week of November 25-December 1, 2018! We are happy to bring you the major trade and development headlines and analysis from across the Caribbean Region and the world from the past week.

THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS

This week, leaders of the EU-27 at their summit in Brussels approved the draft Brexit deal struck between the UK and EU. Ahead of the UK parliamentary vote later this month, Prime Minister Theresa May has been trying to sell the deal to UK parliamentarians and the UK public alike, including in a public letter to the nation.

G20 leaders met in Buenos Aires from November 30-December 2 for the group’s thirteenth summit and its first held in a South American country. Specifically, the leaders noted the following at paragraph 27 of their declaration:

International trade and investment are important engines of growth, productivity, innovation, job creation and development. We recognize the contribution that the multilateral trading system has made to that end. The system is currently falling short of its objectives and there is room for improvement. We therefore support the necessary reform of the WTO to improve its functioning. We will review progress at our next Summit.

On the sidelines of the G20 Summit, the leaders of the US, Mexico and Canada signed the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), meant to replace NAFTA. The deal now needs domestic ratification.

In regional news, The Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotia Bank), announced its withdrawal from nine Caribbean countries. Its operations are being sold to the Trinidad-based financial services group, Republic Financial Holdings. This move has raised concern in several of the affected countries.

Some sad news is that the Geneva-based International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) closed its doors this week. Through its publications, the ICTSD was a reliable source for free, timely, high quality and cutting-edge trade reporting and analysis relied on by trade and development academics, practitioners and policymakers alike. Their presence will indeed be missed.

Please see below some of the other major headlines:

REGIONAL

T&T to host special CSME meeting in December

LoopTT: Trinidad and Tobago will host a Special Meeting of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) from December 3 to 4 which will focus on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).  Read more 

Takeover of Scotiabank likely to be raised in caucus at special CARICOM meeting

Stabroek: Republic Bank’s planned acquisition of Scotiabank’s operations in Guyana and eight Caribbean countries is not on the agenda of the upcoming special meeting of the Caribbean Community Heads of Government on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) but Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge expects that it will be raised in caucus. Read more 

Republic Financial Holdings to acquire Scotiabank in nine Caribbean countries

Nation News: Republic Financial Holdings Limited (RFHL) announced today, that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Scotiabank’s banking operations in Guyana, St Maarten and the Eastern Caribbean territories, including Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Read more 

Josie Warns Of Potential For Dire Consequences From Scotiabank Sale

St Lucia Times: Former government minister, Peter Josie, has warned of potential dire consequences from a decision by Scotiabank to exit nine Caribbean countries, including Saint Lucia. Read more

 

CARICOM Sugar Industries prepared to supply total regional demand

RJR News: The Sugar Association of  the Caribbean has stated that for the 2017/18 crop, its members met 80 per cent of  the brown sugar needs of  Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Read more 

T&T can lose CARICOM market for fuel

Trinidad Guardian: T&T faces the pos­si­bil­i­ty of los­ing Cari­com mar­kets for the ex­port of fu­el as the price of fu­el com­ing out of T&T is like­ly to in­crease. Read more 

Cuba’s most valuable exports: its doctors

TRT World: Cuba over the last 50 years has honed in on its medical expertise to be able to punch above its weight in the international arena and garner soft power. Cuba has begun to withdraw more than 8,300 Cuban doctors from Brazil, potentially leaving millions of Brazilians, particularly its indigenous communities, without access to basic healthcare. Read more

CARICOM Leaders claim T&T has unfair advantage in manufacturing sector

Power 102 FM: Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, says CARICOM leaders believe this country has an unfair advantage in the manufacturing sector because it benefits from lower electricity rates. Read more

CARICOM calls for seat on ICAO council

Stabroek: CARICOM is calling for a seat on the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as a means of having its concerns properly represented. Read more 

CARICOM highlights work against gender violence in the region

Prensa Latina: The Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), Irwin LaRocque, highlighted on Sunday the important work being done in the region against gender violence. Read more 

CARICOM Secretary General describes new management system

CARICOM: A detailed update on the new Results-Based Management (RBM) System being pursued by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat was described by Deputy Secretary-General, Ambassador Dr. Manorma Soeknandan during a courtesy visit with Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris. Read more 

US Government makes US$1 million computer equipment to CARICOM IMPACS

Bajan Reporter: U.S. Embassy Bridgetown, through its Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), participated in an official handover ceremony to commemorate the Government of the United States of America’s U.S. $1 million computer equipment donation to the CARICOM IMPACS/Joint Regional Communication Centre (JRCC). Read more 

INTERNATIONAL

G20 agreement backs ‘rules-based’ order but bows to Trump on trade reforms

The Guardian: World leaders have signed off on an agreement which reaffirms a basic commitment by the world’s biggest economies to multilateral trade and a “rules-based international order”, but bows to US demands for urgent reform of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Read more 

G20: US and China agree to suspend new trade tariffs

BBC: US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have agreed to halt new trade tariffs for 90 days to allow for talks, the US says. Read more

WTO reform: EU proposes way forward on the functioning of the Appellate Body

EU: The EU together with other members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) – Australia, Canada, China, Iceland, India, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore and Switzerland – unveiled a proposal for concrete changes to overcome the current deadlock in the WTO Appellate Body. The proposal will be presented at the meeting of the WTO General Council on 12 December. Read more

USTR Statement on China’s Auto Tariffs

USTR: U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer released a statement regarding China’s tariffs on U.S.-produced automobiles. Read more

Brexit: Trump says May’s Brexit plan could hurt UK-US trade deal

BBC: Donald Trump has suggested Theresa May’s Brexit agreement could threaten a US-UK trade deal. The US president told reporters the withdrawal agreement “sounds like a great deal for the EU” and meant the UK might not be able to trade with the US. Read more

Argentina, India agree to increase trade flows

Prensa Latina: Argentine President Mauricio Macri and India”s Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged on Saturday to increase trade flow on several fronts and delved into the possibility that Argentina exports lithium to India. Read more

EU leaders agree UK’s Brexit deal at Brussels summit

BBC: EU leaders have approved an agreement on the UK’s withdrawal and future relations – insisting it is the “best and only deal possible”. Read more 

U.S., Mexico and Canada ink new trade agreement, but final ratification remains big hurdle

USA Today: President Donald Trump and the leaders of Mexico and Canada signed a revised trade pact Friday that changes many of the rules governing the free flow of commercial goods across North America.  Read more 

After signing new North American trade pact at G-20, Trump turns sights to China

Washington Post: President Trump suggested his Saturday showdown with Chinese President Xi Jinping could produce a cease-fire in the tariff war, capping a day that saw the American leader reach a milestone in his populist economic crusade by signing a regional trade deal with Mexico and Canada. Read more

Parties to government procurement pact approve UK’s terms of participation post-Brexit

WTO: At a meeting of the WTO’s Committee on Government Procurement on 27 November 2018, parties to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) approved in principle the United Kingdom’s final market access offer to take part in the GPA, in its own right, following its departure from the European Union. Read more

New WTO publication analyses potential impact of Blockchain on international trade

WTO: Amid growing interest and debate on Blockchain, the WTO launched a new publication today (27 November) that seeks to demystify the technology and analyse its capacity to transform world trade. The publication entitled “Can Blockchain revolutionize international trade?” explores how the technology could enhance areas related to WTO work and examines challenges that will have to be tackled to unlock the technology’s potential. Read more 

World Trade Outlook Indicator signals further loss of momentum in trade growth into Q4

WTO: Trade growth is likely to slow further into the fourth quarter of 2018 according to the WTO’s latest World Trade Outlook Indicator (WTOI) released on 26 November. The most recent WTO reading of 98.6 is the lowest since October 2016 and reflects declines in all component indices. It is below the previous value of 100.3 and falls under the baseline value of 100 for the index, signalling that trade growth in the coming months is expected to be below-trend. Read more 

Unlocking Africa’s trade potential

Forbes Africa: The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has identified intra-African trade as a critical factor for unlocking Africa’s trade potential. Read more 

Study: Trade supports over 36 million jobs across the EU

EU: Two new studies published today by the European Commission highlight the increasing importance of EU exports for job opportunities in Europe and beyond. Read more 

The Caribbean Trade & Development Digest is a weekly trade news digest published by the Caribbean Trade Law & Development Blog. Liked this issue? To read past issues, please visit here. To receive these mailings directly to your inbox, please follow our blog.

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