Monday, 24 July 2017

Empty words from Fox

Of the events from the last week, one is not inclined to jump on the bandwagon of US-UK trade relations. I have already set out my thoughts on that with some further thoughts on Tremr yesterday. There is zero chance of a trade agreement with the USA happening until Brexit is concluded. Furthermore we could very well be wasting our resources in that TTIP is not dead. It just smells funny.

The EU-US Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) on inspection of medicines manufacturers will come into force on 1 November 2017. A building block to TTIP by the back door. The EU has discovered unbundling. We may as well negotiate with the EU to carry over these agreements as they are installed since we are in all likelihood going to remain inside the EU's sphere of regulatory influence.

The main event of the week in my view was Liam Fox's speech to the WTO. The speech itself was quite good. Straight out of the multilateralist playbook, no risks taken, no stupid remarks about Brexit and plenty of boilerplate mentions of flagship WTO initiatives.

Clearly it was too sensible to have been written by Fox. An adult was involved. I suspect Julian Braithwaite, UK Permanent Representative to the UN and WTO in Geneva is behind it. He is no fool. We do have some good guys working behind the scenes even if it doesn't feel that way.

Fox has said "For all the benefits that FTAs have brought to international trade, they are far from the only tools at our disposal – from mutual recognition agreements, to ministerial dialogues, to trade working groups, and greater cross-border facilitation. For the United Kingdom, the future of global trade will be shaped by three things - the digital economy, the promotion of trade as the main tool of development, and unlocking the vast potential of the trade in services. In all of these areas, the WTO has the potential to set the agenda, ensuring that such developments are approached in a way that remains both mutually beneficial, and dedicated to the principles and values of the organisation".

This is music to my ears, but what is saddening is that Fox has only mouthed the platitudes, as indeed one does at the WTO. I might have spoken those words with conviction, but for Fox, these are meaningless concepts. The Tories are still trapped in the FTA mentality - which explains this ill advised junket to America.

That said, the speech is a marker of a sort, entered into the official record. It is a yardstick by which to measure future efforts. These words may yet take on meaning when the penny drops that we are not ready to run with FTAs. Sooner or later it will dawn on them that we are no longer playing that game. We are going to need an entirely new approach - and this old dog needs new tricks, fast.

No comments:

Post a Comment