U.S. Boost for Fox’s WTO Nomination

Liam Fox’s nomination to become the next Director-General of the World Trade Organisation – and Global Britain – received a significant boost yesterday, just two days after his formal appointment to the competition by the PM. Speaking to a Chatham House event last night, the US Trade Secretary Robert Lighthizer told the audience Fox was “one of the favourites”, lavishing praise:

“I’m an admirer of his … I’ve had many a conversation with him. I’ve even had the occasional cocktail with him. He’s smart, he knows the area, he has a good philosophy.”

Last month Lighthizer told lawmakers the US is looking to back “someone who understands the nature of the problem of free economies dealing with China”, which may not be too difficult a manifesto for Fox to get on board with, given the UK’s shift away from warm relations over Hong Kong, and an impending u-turn on Huawei. Fox wasn’t one of the favourites before, however such praise from the world’s largest economy can’t hurt…

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Mandelson’s Latest Attempt at Relevance

Prince of Darkness Peter Mandelson is back from the dead, perhaps awakened by the same Blairite resurrection that’s directing Sir Keir’s Labour leadership. Today he has launched a campaign to be selected as the UK’s nomination for the next director-general of the World Trade Organisation. That’s the same Lord Mandelson who during the EU referendum claimed Brexit would leave Britain with “no real trade negotiating capacity”…

Writing for the Times today, Mandelson explains that the global economy over the last 30 years has been one in which “corporate strategists have concentrated on finding new markets and minimising costs”. As explained by a pre-eminent corporate global lobbyist…

The former EU trade commissioner claims the state of global trade – and the WTO – is “not in good health and needs fixing”, arguing his main virtues would be:

  • Trade liberalisation, as something that advances economic progress
  • Fair negotiations with respect for less developed economies
  • Consciousness of trade’s human, social and environmental consequences

Given he’s up against pro-Brexit, former trade secretary Liam Fox – whose team is currently directing journalists’ inquiries straight to the official No. 10 press office – the term ‘non-starter’ seems like an understatement…

 

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Brexit Britain Retakes Seat at WTO

One immediate change that Brexit has brought about is the UK regaining its World Trade Organisation seat after 47 years of being represented by the EU and its predecessor the EEC. Yesterday Julian Braithwaite, the UK’s ambassador to the WTO, took up his new seat in Geneva next to the United States’ WTO Ambassador Dennis Shea. From there, he made the first remarks representing the UK as an independent country…

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OECD Chief Says WTO Brexit Will Be Seamless & Low Cost

OECD chief Jose Angel Gurría is so chillaxed about a no-deal Brexit. Telling Sky’s Ed Conway in Davos, “What’s the worst scenario? A no deal, WTO rules…the whole world is running by WTO rules these days!”

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Miriam Forgets She Wrote the Book on WTO Regulation

“There is nothing in the WTO about regulation,” Miriam Durantez said on the Daily Politics earlier. Which is a slightly curious comment given she wrote a book on WTO regulation called “Regulatory Aspects of the WTO Telecoms Agreements”. To be fair, sounds forgettable.

H/T @henrynewman
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Davis Dismisses Major’s Claim That No Deal is Worst Outcome

Speaking to the Brexit select committee this morning, David Davis has dismissed John Major’s claim that no deal is the worst possible outcome. He made clear the government’s position is that no deal is “not as good an outcome as a free trade, friction-free, open agreement”, though insisted it would not mean a hard border with Ireland and offered this sensible assessment of a WTO Brexit:

It’s not as frightening as some people think but it’s not as simple as some people think. In the event that we don’t get [a deal] we will have a fairly extensive contingency plan which is already underway. And we will have, whatever happens, a sharply improved access to the rest of the world off the back of a large number of free trade agreements which will be coming into effect shortly after we leave… [No deal] is by no means the worst possible outcome. By no means.”

As Guido reported on Monday, this is the argument senior Leavers want the government to make a bit more forcefully. You can’t go into a negotiation if you aren’t prepared to walk away. 

Sir Keir Starmer, the Guardian et al are jumping on Davis saying no economic assessment of a WTO Brexit has yet been carried out. This is a bit of a red herring, they have repeatedly said planning is underway and Davis says they will have an assessment in a year’s time.

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