WTO | 2023 News items

The Committee considered the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, Goods and Services, under the Transparency Mechanism for RTAs. The agreement was provisionally applied on 1 January 2021 following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and entered into force on 1 May 2021. The EU said the agreement establishes preferential regimes between the two parties in areas such as trade in goods and services, digital commerce, intellectual property, public procurement, energy, social security coordination, law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, cooperation and participation in EU programs.

The deal offers predictability to facilitate trade, the EU said, noting that the tariff liberalization in the deal is unprecedented and ensures low prices for consumers and producers. Other provisions will ensure the EU and UK maintain strong trade and investment ties, the EU said.

The UK highlighted provisions of the agreement such as liberalization of investment, trade in services, energy and free movement of capital. The agreement also includes disciplinary and transparency obligations for subsidies. It achieves a high level of ambition and is resilient to the changing regulatory environment for the digital economy, the UK said.

The Committee also considered the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between ESA countries and the UK, Goods. The agreement entered into force on January 1, 2021 for the United Kingdom, Mauritius, Seychelles and Zimbabwe. Madagascar and the Comoros have also signed the agreement but have not yet implemented it under domestic law. In a joint statement, the four current parties to the agreement said that the EPA provides continuity and certainty for ESA and British companies after the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. Total trade was worth £1.1 billion in 2022 and all parties are excited for further growth.

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The agreement is development-oriented with commitments on asymmetric tariff liberalization and offers duty-free and quota-free market access for goods originating in ESA countries on the UK market. The agreement also provides for generous rules of origin to allow more ESA products to be eligible for tariff preferences. On the other hand, the ESA countries will gradually liberalize their tariffs for goods originating in the UK over several decades.

The EPA also allows ESA countries to maintain regional preferences over other African countries and regions without extending them to the UK. The UK must also extend any more favorable treatment resulting from a future trade agreement with a third party to the ESA countries. The asymmetric tariff liberalization schedule is designed to help ESA countries expand their economies and participate in world trade.

On the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), Goods and Services, which came into effect on January 1, 2021, the two members said in a joint statement that the CEPA builds on the EU-Japan EPA and beyond this goes beyond continuity arrangements introduced during the UK’s exit from the EU. In the longer term, 94% of Japanese tariffs and 99% of Japanese imports from the UK will be fully liberalised, while more than 99% of UK tariffs and UK imports from Japan will be fully liberalised. The CEPA includes more liberal rules of origin to support established supply chains.

The provisions on trade in services, meanwhile, include amendments from the WTO Joint Initiative on Domestic Services Regulations and include commitments on the temporary mobility of highly skilled workers. The UK and Japan also expect to work together under the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP) once the UK’s accession is complete.

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For the India-Mauritius Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement, the Committee examined the services aspects of the agreement, as the goods aspects are dealt with in the Trade and Development Committee. India said the deal is its first with an African country. The agreement, which came into force on April 1, 2021, contains provisions on the free movement of individuals, telecommunications, financial services, dispute resolution and cooperation in other areas. As of 2005, India has been among Mauritius’ largest trading partners and is one of the largest exporters of goods and services to Mauritius, India said.

Mauritius said the conclusion of the agreement marks an important milestone in relations between the two countries. Mauritius said the parties made commitments related to insurance services, banking, telecommunications and professional services.

The Committee also considered the Türkiye-Serbia free trade agreement, services, which came into effect on June 1, 2019. Türkiye said the deal expands existing agreements on trade in services between the two parties. She added that the parties to the agreement followed a similar approach to the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Türkiye noted commitments to liberalize business services, construction services, distribution services, and leisure, cultural and sports services.

Serbia, a WTO observer, said the deal’s main purpose is to improve bilateral economic cooperation, facilitate investment and increase trade. Tourism and transport are the main service sectors traded between the two countries. It is now more important than ever to support an open trade environment based on global trade rules that underpin mutual growth and prosperity, Serbia said.

election of the chairman

At the start of the meeting, members elected Ambassador Clare Kelly from New Zealand as the new committee chair. She replaces Ambassador Taeho Lee of Korea.

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Improving the work of the committee

The Committee noted seven RTA notifications, three of which were new RTAs. Ambassador Kelly pointed out that there are 51 RTAs with WTO members and 37 with non-members for which a factual presentation needs to be prepared, counting goods and services separately. Fact presentations for seven service agreements, one involving a non-member, are on hold pending the negotiation of the service commitments. She also noted that the Secretariat had circulated a list of 57 RTAs currently in force that had not been notified to the WTO, while 194 RTAs were due for end of implementation reports by March 2023.

Members discussed how the workings of the Committee could be improved in response to questions circulated by the United States in January. Summarizing the informal discussions, the Chair noted that there was a keen interest in ensuring that members made the most of the Committee. The Chair said she would hold further informal consultations with members on the matter.

next meeting

The next committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for July 3-4.


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