Sources have said Britain’s first independent trade policy since 1973 – due to come into force in January – would involve lobbying for low tariffs and greater powers for the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Originally, the UK had left the EU on January 31, however, it is still subject to most of its rules until ‘New Years Eve’ 2020. Only after this will the government be able to pursue a completely independent trade policy, according to an exclusive in The Mail on Sunday.
In terms of trying to break down the obstacles to allow freer commerce around the globe, the aim is for Britain to use its year-long presidency of the G7 to do just that.
The G7 otherwise known as the Group of Seven advanced nations is an international intergovernmental economic organization consisting of the seven major countries.
Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
They are members because of being the largest IMF-advanced economies in the world.
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister UK
The UK will also push to give the WTO back its legal teeth with which to inflict painful punishment on countries that break trading rules.
And officials will strive to work with a loose coalition of like-minded states, such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, to turn back a tide of protectionism that started after the financial crisis in 2008.
This has gained momentum since the coronavirus pandemic was blamed by some on international supply chains.
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According to one Whitehall source, “this is a top priority for the PM”.
This makes reference to Boris Johnson’s commitment to allow the free flow of goods and services.
This is also backed up by his appointment of ardent free-trader, Liz Truss, as International Trade Secretary.
Since Britain joined the European Community 47 years ago, both trade policy and the negotiation of agreements with the outside world have been the exclusive province of Brussels officials.
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Euro money (Currency of EU member states)
Furthermore, the UK also assumes the G7 presidency in January.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has meant the next summit for WTO trade ministers has been shifted from this year till next.
It should give Britain a chance to use its G7 platform to push the organisation in the direction it wants it to go.
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As ever, Britain is keen to pursue trade liberalisation and restore the powers of the Geneva-based WTO to punish countries that defy trade agreements.
President Donald Trump has accused the organisation of taking a soft stance on China and has been blocking appointments to the WTO’s Appellate Body.
The EU and others have proposed an alternative court that would exclude the US. However, the UK would prefer to get the existing body back on its feet.
Julian Braithwaite, UK’s ambassador to the WTO, has seen his trade team in Geneva increase four-fold since the Brexit vote in 2016.
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Asked about the likely direction of the country’s trade policy once it is fully back under national control, the DIT said: “At the heart of the UK’s independent trade policy is a commitment to free, fair, rules-based trade.”
“Coronavirus has shown us the importance of keeping trade flowing and building diverse supply chains that are robust in a crisis.”