Who’s afraid of the WTO?

A post by guest blogger Marie Parys

In August 2019, the US national security advisor visited the UK bearing the news of a trade deal. Perhaps not as conspicuous as it was odd was his statement that a future US-UK free trade agreement could be done on a “sector-by-sector-basis”. WTO rules decree that legal free-trade agreements must cover “substantially all trade”. This renders sectoral trade liberalization impossible. Or does it? Despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson conceding that negotiating a UK-US free trade agreement will be a “tough old haggle”, he has stated that it is the “single biggest deal” the UK needs to do following Brexit. Would the UK and the US be willing to flaunt WTO rules to get to the golden goose of an albeit gradual free trade agreement? Are WTO rules binding and enforceable, and why do most Members follow recommendations of the WTO dispute settlement system? In other words: how sharp are the WTO’s teeth and why do they bite? Continue reading “Who’s afraid of the WTO?”

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