The 12th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference took place in Geneva last week with representatives of all 164 member countries in attendance – collectively comprising the WTO’s highest decision-making body. The stakes were high – there have been no major multilateral trade initiatives in decades, leaving the 27-year-old organization struggling to justify its existence in a world increasingly dominated by bilateralism or worse, economic isolationism. In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine, both of which have dealt significant blows to standards of living worldwide, the WTO was under much pressure to deliver tangible progress in trade liberalization. In the minds of many, failure was simply not an option.
Dr Aldo Zammit Borda
This article focuses on the challenges of ‘long-delayed’ prosecutions, that is, criminal prosecutions that begin decades after the conflict, using the experience of the International Criminal Tribunal for Bangladesh (ICT-BD) as a case study. This issue is still an insufficiently discussed topic even though such prosecutions are likely to become more common in the future. This is because of the greater emphasis that is being placed on fighting impunity around the world, as well as legal and historical reckoning with past atrocities. As one ICT-BD prosecutor put it, the establishment of the ICT-BD in Bangladesh has opened the door for the possibility of accountability in other South Asian countries and more broadly. One day, the political leaders of such countries may find the political will to try perpetrators of mass atrocities even after a long delay. Indeed, it is possible that such prosecutions may become more common:
Shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, several nations, led by Canada and Ukraine, suspended the application of the World Trade Organization’s Most Favoured Nation (MFN) treatment to Russian goods. MFN is a foundational principle of WTO law, contained in Article I of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). It promises that all WTO members will receive the same treatment as each other – the lowest tariffs on all goods offered by each WTO member will be made available to all. The effect of this trade sanction against Russia will not be lost on its president – Vladimir Putin’s masters’ thesis was allegedly on the importance of the MFN principle to international trade. The actual impact of the revocation of MFN on Russia may be less significant and the legal issues behind it are complex and troubling.
As the UK continues to establish its own trade policy, it is vital that legal services, which provide more than £60 billion per year to the UK’s economy, are paid sufficient attention in trade negotiations. UK legal expertise is high demand around the world and the service of international clients is a key source of revenue for many UK lawyers. Lawyers rely on the possibility of short-term visits to foreign jurisdictions for the purposes of providing legal advice (sometimes described as fly-in fly-out, or FIFO) as well as temporary secondment/establishment rights in a jurisdiction. While there are many lucrative, fast-growing markets in Asia, the ability for lawyers to continue to provide advice in these ways in the EU is an issue of some importance. The Lawyer’s Establishment Directive ceased to apply to UK lawyers at the end of the transition period. Today UK lawyers seeking to provide legal advice in the EU must deal with 27 separate regulatory regimes.
Fortunately, the principle of home title practice was recognised in the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), finalized at the end of last year. It should be pointed out that the inclusion of any material on legal services in a Free Trade Agreement is in itself a achievement since historically they have been ignored in international negotiations, with the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the agreement in principle between the UK and Australia other notable exceptions. Under the home title principle, parties to the TCA agree to permit practice by lawyers of the other party under their home jurisdiction professional qualification with regards to advice on home country and public international law, as well as arbitration, conciliation and mediation. On their own these are already sizable areas of the legal services market for most UK lawyers serving clients in the EU.
The EU-US trade partnership is the largest bilateral trade and investment relationship between the largest economies in the world (the EU economy accounts for 25.1% of global GDP and the US one represents 21.6%). Although bilateral, the EU-US trade partnership heavily impacts the global economy given that the EU or the US (or both) are the most important business partners for most countries worldwide. Furthermore, although the role of China as the EU’s import source for goods has greatly expanded in the last years, the US remains the EU’s largest trade and investment partner.
After the tensions characterizing the “Trump era” (e.g., US tariffs imposed on EU steel and aluminium recently suspended for a two-year period), the EU-US partnership on trade seems to be experiencing its “Renaissance”. The new Biden administration may provide a chance for a renovated transatlantic partnership, centred on cooperation over global challenges such as climate change and the concerns originating from the digitalisation of the economy. With regard to the latter issue, the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (EU-US TTC), established in June 2021 following an EU-US Summit, proves the improvement in the EU-US relation. In particular, one of the Council’s main goals is to strengthen the EU-US global cooperation on technology, digital issues and supply chains. The summit served to reiterate the EU-US commitment over the reform of the WTO’s negotiating function and dispute settlement system. Nonetheless, as will be extensively illustrated in the following, tensions do not seem to have been dispelled completely (e.g., the suspension of aluminium and steel tariffs is only temporary).
Formal talks on the UK’s accession to the 11-nation Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) began this week after several months of preliminary negotiations. The fast-growing Asia-Pacific region served by the CPTPP promises to eclipse the economic activity of the rest of Europe, if not the world, well into the 21st Century. More than that, the CPTPP may be poised to establish itself as a near-global regime for trade governance in conjunction, or perhaps in competition with the 164 nation World Trade Organization (WTO). Covering matters such as tariff and non-tariff barriers on goods, market access for services, intellectual property and subsidies like the WTO, the CPTPP also has rules on digital trade and investment which the 26-year-old WTO, with all of the problems associated with needing global consensus, does not. Whereas momentum in multilateral trade liberalisation has stalled in recent years with little to no progress on the key issues of agricultural subsidies, fisheries or dispute settlement, interest in the CPTPP is picking up speed. Continue reading
Jonatan Echebarria Fernández
Surprised by the outcome of the 2016 EU referendum, several professors of the Faculty of Law of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) requested a research project to study the process and consequences of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU). Thanks to the funding granted by the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry, and Competitiveness (DER2017-88910-P), they followed the negotiations and dissected their results, reporting the main advances and obstacles in the blog of the research project. They wrote several papers in which they disclosed their investigation and held an international seminar at the end of the transitional period in which they presented the outcomes of their study. After having revised the presentations to incorporate the debate and the news of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, most of the presentations are published in Brexit y libertad de establecimiento. Aspectos fiscales, mercantiles y de extranjería, Atelier, Barcelona, 2021, ISBN: 978-84-18244-53-7. Continue reading
Sekander Zulker Nayeen
In 2015, the United Nations (UN) adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, commonly known as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet recognizing that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality and spur economic growth, and thereby, all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests. At the heart of this Agenda, there are 17 Goals and 169 targets. The normative structures of SDGs basically derived from the juxtaposition of two interdisciplinary spirits: Environment and Development. Continue reading
On Friday 25 June 2021, British tabloid The Sun published pictures of the UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, kissing Gina Coladangelo in his office at the Department of Health. These pictures were, it seems, captured by a CCTV camera in the office and leaked by person(s) unknown to the newspaper. The pictures were soon joined on The Sun’s website by a video clip (seemingly from the same camera). The clip shows Hancock and Coladangelo in what might be described as a passionate embrace. The footage lasts just over one minute and remains online, including on The Sun’s Youtube channel.
The pictures and footage caused instant controversy due to the fact that both Hancock and Coladangelo are married to other people, and due to the fact that Hancock brought Coladangelo into the Department for Health during the pandemic, where after a period of unpaid work she took on a paid role (taxpayer funded) in the autumn of 2020. These facts raise questions of both a moral and political nature. It is also clear that the actions of Hancock and Coladangelo breached COVID guidelines that Hancock had himself played a key role in designing and promoting during the pandemic. This raised the politically toxic spectre of hypocrisy that led to his resignation on Saturday 26 June.