Saturday, 28 January 2017

US trade is not the priority

What the foaming Toryboys do not understand, and likely never will, is that trade is not some grand marketplace where we haggle over tariffs on smoked salmon. It is a meticulous and difficult process of agreeing standards and practices that facilitate free passage of goods and services. A big part of this is mutual recognition of classification systems.

One such example of this is health/treatment classification codes. There is a global system but unsurprisingly the US has its own and it is well established. If we concoct a deal with the US on say cosmetic surgical implants, a lot is going to depend on what is culturally viewed as cosmetic and what is viewed as a medical necessity. The WHO definitions are hotly disputed by the US as their insurance system does not equate well-being with medical necessity.

That means some products within the sector could fall under categories that we would not accept and vice versa. By way of recognising their system of classifications we could very well be opening up our markets to products we view as unsafe or products that we would classify another way and have protectionist tariffs on. That's where lobbying interests come in.

Now your average toryboy has it in his head that "protectionism is baaad, m'kay". Except that we might very well maintain a particular definition not to close down a market but instead to ensure we maintain compatibility with other markets - not least the EU.

If we allow produce which does not meet reseller export specifications then customs risk assessment views us as a weakness in the chain thus opening us up to more customs inspections on the frontier with the EU. This is something we don't want.

So something that is seemingly straightforward becomes intensely political and if bundled up into a broader trade deal may cause the whole enterprise to stall. That is why TTIP took so long and ultimately the cause of its failure.

For sure, out of the EU there are fewer defensive concerns but you can't do a deal with the USA until you know what the basis of your EU relationship is and what has the potential to spark EU penalties.

If at this point I have lost you, don't worry. This stuff is complex - and that is the take home point. It's a balancing act and one that requires a good deal of scientific and political input - and in the case of healthcare, there are religious considerations too. Every prodnose has an opinion which must be accounted for.

This then gets expanded to cover the bacterial mitosis rate in soft cheeses and the maximum permitted levels of formaldehyde in furniture. This ultimately marks the folly of leaving the single market. Most of this has already been addressed in terms of EU trade.

In that regard, what is more important than a US deal is maintaining frictionless trade with the EU, and by proxy all of the deals we enjoy as members. Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the USA, Israel and Switzerland all have MRAs on conformity assessment with the EU. China also formalised an MRA on AEOs and other areas of customs co-operation, considerably easing the flow of trade between China and the EU. We're about to bin all this in the hope of a "prosperity zone" and a deal with the USA which is just as likely to fail as TTIP.

The bottom line is a comprehensive deal with the USA is highly unlikely. Theresa May will get a deal, it will likely be asymmetric in US favour and it won't begin to compare with the single market. It will be constrained by reality. That though will not stop the Toryboys hailing it as a great success even if May comes home with only a carrier bag full of damp dishcloths. Global Britain it is not.

Like it or not, what we are witnessing is a propaganda show and one that is really not a priority for the UK. Effects based foreign policy aimed at tackling immediate threats such as the global migration crisis is where our focus must be. First and foremost comes our trade relationship with the EU and the proxy arrangements we have, second comes Africa and after that comes the USA which is not something we should bet the farm on. Certainly not until we know what Brexit looks like.

Howsoever, there is no point in trying to explain this to a toryboy. They have a factory reset button when you stress their belief system too much and then they go back to square one. It's a complete regression as if you'd never said a thing. It was a mistake to ever believe I could influence such people. Devotion to tribal scripture is too deeply engrained. With all idiots wedded to one single idea, incapable of taking on board conflicting information, all you can really do is laugh.

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