Monday, 19 October 2015

Not even scratching the surface...


A new CEBR report projects that giving British firms greater access to "European" markets in energy, transport and digital services, combined with new global trade deals, could add £58 billion a year to the UK economy by 2030 – that’s nearly £1,000 per person, claims "British Influence".  

"could add", they say. But actually they are just guessing. They have no idea. Moreover, they have no idea how long it would take to complete, or even whether it would succeed. How long have TTIP negotiations been going on now? And while it may pass eventually it will be a shadow of its former self.

Curiously, on the first day of my new job I'm looking at a project centred around an emerging trade consortium initiative headed by Royal Mail dealing specifically with access to Chinese markets. The precise nature of the project I am not at liberty to discuss in any detail, however, it has opened up a few new lines of enquiry.

Some of what I'm looking at pertains to intellectual property which is absolutely a competence of those global entities we've spoken of in recent weeks. While not a new dynamic at all, I'm bumping into more and more examples of inter-regulatory agency pacts that bring us much closer to a global single market.

One such example is this one from 2008 between WIPO and ARIPO. The World Intellectual Property Organization and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on October 2, 2008 in Geneva, to strengthen and expand cooperation between the two organizations. The MOU covers traditional areas of cooperation relating to capacity building, as well as a special project to boost ARIPO’s patent information capacity.

Pretty mundane stuff. But this is the engine of globalisation. Similarly dry is the HKTDC/WIPO memorandum of understanding on green technology innovations. The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) signed an MOU on 10 April, 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland. Through the strategic partnership, the HKTDC and WIPO will jointly promote the trading of intellectual property via their respective online marketplaces, the Asia IP Exchange (AsiaIPEX) and WIPO Green. With the signing, WIPO Green becomes the 23rd partner of the HKTDC’s AsiaIPEX.

Like we say, the world is creating a single regulatory area of its own with more and more pacts between non-state actors, unbundling various concerns from intellectual property rights to renewable technologies. It's a more agile and dynamic approach that the EU's big bang approach. Every moment we are in the EU we are missing out on that while we wait for the stodgy old EU to creak into gear. I don't think we can afford to wait.

Just one MOU between China and any one of the many non-state actors or consortia can bring entire ranges of products onto the Chinese market. Tmall, China's answer to Amazon (and a magnitude larger in scale) has a potential market over six hundred million people. In terms of market access, this is unrivalled.

This is of course, a superficial analysis as much is covered under the China EU cooperation agreement and this progresses step by step in much the same vein, but when all eyes are on the likes of TTIP, there is a whole strata of global trade going on under the radar of our media and our political machine, without the slightest understanding of the seismic shifts in global trade where the nation state and the supranational bloc is being usurped by inter-organisational pacts. Were it not for the day job I could get quite carried away exploring this. One thing is abundantly clear - the EU is not the be all and end all of trade, and the Brexit debate isn't even scratching the surface.

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