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Future EU-UK trade relationship: Rules of origin

03-04-2020

The United Kingdom (UK) withdrew from the European Union (EU) on 1 February 2020, and moved into the agreed transition period, running until 31 December 2020. The EU and UK have launched negotiations towards a free trade agreement (FTA) that will shape their future trade relationship. Both parties expressed a preference for reducing 'trade frictions' to the extent possible, and rules of origin will play a role in that regard. Rules of origin (RoO) are provisions in FTAs that govern the conditions ...

The United Kingdom (UK) withdrew from the European Union (EU) on 1 February 2020, and moved into the agreed transition period, running until 31 December 2020. The EU and UK have launched negotiations towards a free trade agreement (FTA) that will shape their future trade relationship. Both parties expressed a preference for reducing 'trade frictions' to the extent possible, and rules of origin will play a role in that regard. Rules of origin (RoO) are provisions in FTAs that govern the conditions under which an imported good is recognised to 'originate' from the FTA partner country and becomes eligible for preferential trade. These conditions are restrictive – implying trade 'frictions' – to various degrees and designed product-by-product, following operation- and/or value creation-based rules. Importantly, the EU's RoO admit the 'cumulation' of preferential origin across other existing FTAs signed by both parties. As RoO thus create incentives for manufacturers to allocate production and sourcing across countries, they are an important trade instrument. The European Commission and European Parliament favour RoO provisions in the EU-UK FTA that are consistent with the EU template and protect the EU's interest; the UK government has declared that it is seeking 'appropriate and modern' RoO, providing for cumulation across common FTA partners. The EU and UK positions therefore converge in favour of unrestrictive RoO. Nevertheless, the geographical distance between the EU and UK is short and the resulting shipping costs low. In this context, should the UK unilaterally lower its production costs after the transition period – through, for instance, lower labour and environmental standards, and State aid – less restrictive RoO will provide manufacturers with incentives to increase the UK share in the production chain, penalising the EU. This explains the call in the Political Declaration for frictionless trade 'and' the alignment of standards. Indeed, protecting EU interests implies that RoO are likely to be restrictive, unless the UK commits to aligning standards.

Future EU-UK trade relationship

20-02-2020

The withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU) came into effect on 1 February 2020, following the large majority gained by the Conservative Party, led by Boris Johnson, in the UK general election in December 2019. The transition period began on the same day and is due to run until the end of 2020. During this period, although no longer part of the EU institutions, the UK remains in the customs union and single market, and within the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of ...

The withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU) came into effect on 1 February 2020, following the large majority gained by the Conservative Party, led by Boris Johnson, in the UK general election in December 2019. The transition period began on the same day and is due to run until the end of 2020. During this period, although no longer part of the EU institutions, the UK remains in the customs union and single market, and within the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the EU (with some exceptions). Negotiations during the transition period are aimed at reaching agreements that will shape the future EU-UK relationship in a range of domains, and especially that of trade. In the Political Declaration accompanying the Withdrawal Agreement, the EU and the UK 'agree to develop an ambitious, wide-ranging and balanced economic partnership'. However, some major obstacles have surfaced. The UK insists that it is unwilling to submit to EU Court of Justice jurisdiction, and demands autonomy in its regulatory and trade policies. The UK indicates that it seeks a free trade agreement similar to that agreed between the EU and Canada: comprehensive, but very different to the previous relationship. The EU has taken note of the UK objectives, but emphasises that the deeper the trade agreement, the more UK regulations and standards must align with those of the EU. To the EU, alignment is essential to preserve a level playing field, on the grounds that the EU and UK are close neighbouring economies and strongly interconnected. The European Commission's 3 February 2020 recommendation for a Council decision authorising the opening of negotiations on the future relationship confirms this approach. In this context, time is critical. The Withdrawal Agreement allows for an extension to the transition period, but the UK Withdrawal Act explicitly prohibits extension. In addition, to allow for ratification, the trade agreement should be ready well ahead of the end of the transition period. The Commission recommendation insists on including fisheries (a highly sensitive area of negotiation), in the new economic partnership and that related provisions should be established by 1 July 2020. Time-constrained negotiation may give rise to a limited economic and trade agreement that covers only priority areas, rather than the ambitious single comprehensive agreement sought under the Political Declaration and Commission recommendation.

Multilateral Investment Court: Overview of the reform proposals and prospects

28-01-2020

The Council of the European Union has authorised the European Commission to represent the EU and its Member States at the intergovernmental talks at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), with a view to reforming the existing investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system. The latter provides a procedural framework for disputes between international investors and hosting states, and relies on arbitration procedures. However, there have been growing concerns among states ...

The Council of the European Union has authorised the European Commission to represent the EU and its Member States at the intergovernmental talks at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), with a view to reforming the existing investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system. The latter provides a procedural framework for disputes between international investors and hosting states, and relies on arbitration procedures. However, there have been growing concerns among states and stakeholders about the system's reliance on arbitrators, given its lack of transparency, issues over the predictability and consistency of their decisions, and the excessive costs involved. UNCITRAL talks aim to address these concerns by reforming the system. The EU and its Member States support the establishment of a multilateral investment court (MIC), composed of a first instance and an appellate tribunal staffed by full-time adjudicators. UNCITRAL talks on ISDS reform started in 2017. In April 2019, the working group finalised the list of concerns regarding the current ISDS system and agreed that it was desirable to work on reforms. The states then tabled reform proposals that provided the framework for the discussions that started in October 2019. The proposals range from introducing binding rules for arbitrators to setting up formal investment courts comprised of first instance and appellate tribunals. All in all, the proposals reflect two distinct approaches. Some states back the creation of tools – such as a code of conduct and/or an advisory body for smaller economies and small and medium-sized enterprises – to complement the current system. Others favour fundamental changes through the creation of a two-court system with appointed members. The latest round of talks took place in January 2020, and another is scheduled for March/April 2020. Although states are eager to reform the ISDS system, the complexity of the issue is likely to require additional sessions before agreement can be reached.