Subscribers' Views Economy & trade Brexit options & no-deal

Looking at Brexit from on top, rather than from underneath

Written by Paul Marshall

Sir Peter Marshall advocates rebuilding the World Trade organisation

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The Prime Minister has revealed that President Trump advised her to sue the EU.

Mrs May would be fully justified in doing so on the grounds of de Gaulle’s brutal veto in 1963 of our application to join the EEC,  and of the exorbitant price of accession demanded of us a decade later,  on which Mrs Thatcher subsequently secured a substantial rebate.

The  present situation has some affinities. The President’s line is that if we do a deal with the EU on the present basis, the Americans would in fact be dealing with the EU.  This would probably kill the deal.   Presumably this analysis would apply to doing deals with other countries.

The Article XXIV GATT/WTO justification for the special treatment accorded to customs unions is the contribution they make,

or can make, to the expansion of world trade.  That cannot be said of the EU approach. The EU is the cuckoo in the WTO nest..

Perhaps we have reached the ultimate absurdity:  it is the UK’s democratic decision to leave – repeat leave – the EU; it is in everybody’s – repeat everybody’s – interest that we do so with the minimum of friction; but the EU has so little flexibility or imagination that we can only do so by accepting some sort of client status, which is in nobody’s – repeat nobody’s – interest.

As always,  there is a long history to the problem.

The Bretton Woods Conference of 1944,  when establishing the IMF and IBRD,  recognised the need for a comparable

and complementary institution for trade. The Americans,  together with the UK,  took the lead in drafting a Charter for

an ITO (the Havana Charter)   Congress would not wear it.  so it failed.  Establishing the GATT was a limited but very

useful British-led salvage operation.  But by the 1970s the need for something like the ITO was clear to all concerned.

The WTO has never had the clout nor the resources required for it to do its ever-expanding task.  It has had to play catch-up.

The time has come to rebuild the WTO nest.  A start could be made at the meeting of the G 20 in Argentina later in the year.

We must look at the issue from on top, rather than from underneath.  We live and work not in a rules-based system,  but in a values-based interdependent society,  which,  if it is to endure, requires responsibility and a sense of obligation from all its members.


Peter Marshall

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Paul Marshall