Category: David Collins

The WTO’s Essential Security Exception and Revocation of Russia’s Most Favoured Nation Status following the Invasion of Ukraine

David Collins

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.

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Legal Services Provisions in the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement: Good but Incomplete

David Collins

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.
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The CPTPP as a New Regime for World Trade?

David Collins

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

Canada’s new model FIPA and UK-Canada FTA negotiations

David Collins

On the occasion of the UK’s ongoing re-negotiation of the placeholding UK-Canada Free Trade Continuity Agreement rolled over last year from the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU, it is useful to draw attention to Canada’s newly issued model Foreign Investment Promotion Agreement (FIPA). Upgraded from the 2014 version, the 2021 model FIPA sets out Canada’s starting asks for its trading partners in the field of investment – a key feature of modern Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) as well as a vital contributor to the economies of both countries. In 2019, the inward stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the UK from Canada was £20.0 billion accounting for 1.3% of the total UK inward FDI stock.

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UK Accession to the CPTPP: Setting a Precedent for New Members?

David Collins

The Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is a comprehensive free trade agreement which went into force in December 2018. Its membership consists of 11 Pacific Rim countries: Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia and Peru, together comprising roughly 13 per cent of the world’s GDP. Despite having no geographical presence in the Pacific (unless you include the British Overseas Territory the Pitcairn Islands), the UK submitted formal notice to join the CPTPP in February 2021, a centrepiece of its ‘Global Britain’ trade strategy.

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Work in progress: The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement as a “platform” for shaping future trade relationships

Giulio Kowalski

After four years of turbulent discussions and 1,400 pages of complex provisions, the EU and the UK (the “Parties”) signed the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) on 24 December 2020. Now that the much-feared risk of a no-deal Brexit seems to have been avoided, it could be high time to start digging into the details of the TCA and critically assess whether it is an effective and all-encompassing regulation or just a “platform” created in view of future negotiations and developments in the EU/UK (trading) relationships.

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New UK- Singapore trade agreement could help shape global rules on digital trade

David Collins

The UK signed two more free trade agreements (FTAs) this past week, adding to the already impressive total of 57 and nearly £200 billion worth of trade that many sceptics had felt would be impossible once outside the EU’s protective sphere. By making further ground in Asia (after the success with Japan) the UK is in a strong position to help establish global rules in the vitally important sphere of digital trade, now one of the focal points of economic activity in many sectors.

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The new UK-Japan CEPA bodes well for Digital Trade

David Collins

It scarcely needs repeating that trade in digital products and services has become essential to the economy of both the UK and the world. The Covid-19 epidemic has accelerated this trend, with the result that rules governing this sphere of economic activity will only become more important over time. While it has lagged relative to other areas, international law governing digital trade is beginning to take shape and the UK quite rightly aims to be at the forefront of these developments.

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