It’s become a cliché to say that the world will never be the same after the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was supposed to be the set-piece occasion that would set the tone for five years – at the very least – of Conservative majority government.
After Brexit, our attention to UK trade policy has focused mostly on future FTAs, and in particular trade negotiations between the UK and the EU. But another front has quietly been opened.
December 11, 2019 was a watershed moment for the global trading system. On that day the Appellate Body of the WTO, the final arbiter of trade disputes, became defunct, only 24 years after its creation had been trumpeted as a major advance in the rule of international law.
At the recent G20 and G7 meetings in Osaka and Biarritz, world Leaders again expressed serious concern about the state of the WTO. From varying perspectives, it has not been able to stem rising protectionism, or to solve trade disputes efficiently, or to make progress on modernising trade rules.
With Parliament declaring a climate emergency and the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) setting the target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, there is little doubt that climate issues and the demands for action will remain high on the political agenda.
Hard Brexit proponents in the UK extol the virtues of leaving the EU without a deal on what is known as ‘WTO terms’. It is argued that much of global trade already takes place on such terms and there is nothing to fear about the UK falling back on this structure.