by John Brian Shannon | August 26 2016
As the UK government gears up to deal with the will of voters, four paths to trade in Europe appear that merit consideration
- EEA membership
- EFTA membership
- WTO rule-based membership, sans EEA or EFTA
- Negotiated trade deals that are none of the above
EEA membership would qualify Britain to trade with other EEA member nations, all of which are located in Europe, but not all are members of the European Union.
From the EEA website:
The EEA Agreement provides for the inclusion of EU legislation covering the four freedoms — the free movement of goods, services, persons and capital — throughout the 31 EEA States. In addition, the Agreement covers cooperation in other important areas such as research and development, education, social policy, the environment, consumer protection, tourism and culture, collectively known as “flanking and horizontal” policies. The Agreement guarantees equal rights and obligations within the Internal Market for citizens and economic operators in the EEA.
What is the EEA Not?
The EEA Agreement does not cover the following EU policies:
- Common Agriculture and Fisheries Policies (although the Agreement contains provisions on various aspects of trade in agricultural and fish products);
- Customs Union;
- Common Trade Policy;
- Common Foreign and Security Policy;
- Justice and Home Affairs (even though the EFTA countries are part of the Schengen area); or
- Monetary Union (EMU).
The Agreement on the European Economic Area, which entered into force on 1 January 1994, brings together the EU Member States and the three EEA EFTA States — Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway — in a single market, referred to as the “Internal Market”.
Switzerland is not part of the EEA Agreement, but has a bilateral agreement with the EU. You can read more about this agreement on the European Commission website, and on the Swiss Federal Administration website.
EFTA membership governs free trade relations between EFTA States, which in 2016 are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Britain was a founding member of the EFTA in 1960 until 1973 when it joined the EC. It would need to apply to the EFTA in order to become a member.
From the EFTA website:
The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is an intergovernmental organisation set up for the promotion of free trade and economic integration to the benefit of its four Member States.
The Association is responsible for the management of:
- The EFTA Convention, which forms the legal basis of the organisation and governs free trade relations between the EFTA States;
- EFTA’s worldwide network of free trade and partnership agreements; and
- The European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement, which enables three of the four EFTA Member States (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) to participate in the EU’s Internal Market.
EFTA was founded in 1960 on the premise of free trade as a means of achieving growth and prosperity amongst its Member States as well as promoting closer economic cooperation between the Western European countries. Furthermore, the EFTA countries wished to contribute to the expansion of trade globally.
Based on these overall goals, EFTA today maintains the management of the EFTA Convention (intra-EFTA trade), the EEA Agreement (EFTA-EU relations), and the EFTA Free Trade Agreements (third country relations). The EFTA Convention and EFTA free trade agreements are managed by the Geneva office, and the EEA Agreement by the Brussels office.
EFTA was founded by the Stockholm Convention in 1960. The immediate aim of the Association was to provide a framework for the liberalisation of trade in goods amongst its Member States. At the same time, EFTA was established as an economic counterbalance to the more politically driven European Economic Community (EEC). Relations with the EEC, later the European Community (EC) and the European Union (EU), have been at the core of EFTA activities from the beginning. In the 1970s, the EFTA States concluded free trade agreements with the EC; in 1994 the EEA Agreement entered into force. Since the beginning of the 1990s, EFTA has actively pursued trade relations with third countries in and beyond Europe. The first partners were the Central and Eastern European countries, followed by the countries in the Mediterranean area. In recent years, EFTA’s network of free trade agreements has reached across the Atlantic as well as into Asia.
EFTA was founded by the following seven countries: Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Finland joined in 1961, Iceland in 1970 and Liechtenstein in 1991. In 1973, the United Kingdom and Denmark left EFTA to join the EC. They were followed by Portugal in 1986 and by Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995. Today the EFTA Member States are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
World Trade Organization (WTO) membership is perhaps the easiest way forward as Britain (and virtually all nations) are already members and the WTO is merely a standardized set of rules that govern trade between nations.
The present ruleset governing UK trade is the EU ruleset, meaning that who the UK trades with, tariff rates, and other rules and conditions have been decided by 28 EU nations — and not always in the interests of the UK — but in the combined interest of 504 million EU citizens.
The main thrust of this means that WTO rules would continue and that the UK would not be allowed to charge higher tariffs on EU-sourced imports, than what the EU charges on UK imports into the EU. Although the UK could certainly decide to charge lower tariffs than the EU charges. That could be a significant benefit for some UK industries.
There are other benefits to WTO membership. And as most nations are WTO members anyway, the ruleset is well-understood around the world.
In February 2014, the Swiss voted in a referendum to no longer pursue EU membership and left the bloc. The government of Switzerland has therefore negotiated a series of bilateral trade agreements with the European Union AND is a member of the EFTA, but not the EEA.
Of course, WTO rules still apply — unless both parties agree to abrogate or change some of the WTO rulesets.
Keep in mind that both the EFTA and EEA are European trading area agreements and don’t apply anywhere else in the world, while the WTO applies everywhere.
Therefore, non-EU trade will be largely governed by WTO rules (as is the case with most countries) while Britain’s trade with the EU could take several different paths.
Any combination of WTO, EFTA, or EEA, or bilateral agreements that supercede WTO rulesets could be negotiated between Britain and the EU.
At the end of it all, why did 17 million+ voters choose to Brexit?
Two main themes appeared to gain considerable traction during the campaign.
One, the democratic deficit in Brussels, and two, the wholly unregulated movement of people from eastern Europe and the Middle East/Levant and a complete breakdown of the Schengen Area border control system.
Brexit effectively solves the democratic deficit problem in Brussels by returning governance to the House of Commons and the House of Lords. While the mass migration problem is solved as Brexit returns sovereignty of Britain’s borders to the UK government.
The revised EFTA convention (the Vaduz Convention) extends beyond free trade in goods, and includes provisions on free trade in services and the free movement of capital and of persons. None of these should be problematical to the UK given that the Vaduz Convention only applies between its members and so would not act as a gateway for the free movement of persons from the r-EU or elsewhere. All four EFTA states have standards of living comparable to or even higher than the UK so do not present any mass migration risk. — Brexit and International Trade Treaties, The European Free Trade Association (EFTA)
Recommended Read Brexit and International Trade Treaties by Lawyers for Britain
None of this can occur until Article 50 is triggered and a 24 month clock begins ticking to end Britain’s membership in the European Union.
It would be quite wonderful if Prime Minister Theresa May would hold a press conference every six months to inform Britons of the various areas of progress and ongoing obstructions until the Brexit process is complete — a process that could take as long as 5-10 years from the June 23, 2016 start date.
We are in uncharted waters and Britons are excited to be getting their country back. They know it’s going to take time, resolve, and they know full well that there will be difficulties along the path to restoring Britain’s full sovereignty. But the payoff in 5-10 years will be brilliant.
Whatever Britain is now, it’s only going to get better.
by John Brian Shannon | August 19, 2016
Globalization has done much to lift the total GDP of many nations, except that inequality has increased by orders of magnitude (even within rich countries) due to the sloppy and sometimes corrupt implementation of the thing we call Globalization.
Read the prescient 2014 article by the New York Times’ Neil Irwin You Can’t Feed a Family With G.D.P.
‘Interdependence’ would be a better catchword to replace the word ‘Globalization’.
‘But aren’t they the same thing?’ some might ask. Well no, they’re not.
Globalization can best be described as ‘having the ability to export to other countries in exchange for goods or currency (and only if we must) accept goods from other countries, and pay for them in goods or currency.’
Whereas Interdependence could be described as ‘mutually beneficial trade between nations, where each block of transactions can be recorded as a ‘Win-Win’ for those trading partners.’
Yes, it’s a bit more complicated than just dumping your stuff in another country and getting the loot. (Globalization in a nutshell)
But if each block of transactions were properly engineered to produce the Win-Win result from the beginning, we wouldn’t have the follow-on effects of Globalization to deal with — inequality and the ‘trickle-up economy effect’ whereby in 2016 the 1% own 50% of the world’s total wealth and by 2030 will own 76% of the world’s wealth, and financial crises and trillions (globally) paid by taxpayers in corporate welfare over the postwar period, mountains of debt that will never be repaid, and deteriorating democracies as corporations take the reins from governments, and if TPP isn’t stopped soon the corporations will be taking governments to court for lost profit opportunities due to governments following the instructions of voters!
Originally, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was a great agreement designed to make North America more competitive vis-à-vis the other continents — but it was badly implemented by mediocre minds — which resulted in it being spoken of in the same tone of voice reserved for other words deemed filthy, such as that ‘Globalization’ word.
In regards to such agreements, it seems that no matter how noble and exceptional the original agreement (with the exception of the Montreal Protocol) it seems that proper implementation of these agreements fail. see; Kyoto Accord, see; hundreds of unfulfilled UN resolutions, etc.
But one step better than enforcing the terms and conditions of globalization’s international trade agreements, would be to have ‘Interdependence’ become the new catchword thereby superceding (Canadian spelling) Globalization.
Civilization must always advance.
That doesn’t mean that gadgets become more sophisticated (although some might think that’s the whole point of it) what it means is that our thinking must advance — all those shiny gadgets are merely a consequence of that higher thinking, not the purpose of it.
Our thinking about governance could move forward by a quantum leap if we’re advanced enough to grasp it.
Globalization = The ability to dump our goods in other countries and get loot for it, is one thing.
Interdependence = Ongoing, engineered agreements between nations (bilateral, trilateral, multi-lateral, as the case may be) where each agreement must result in a ‘Win-Win’ for each of the participant nations or there’s no signing ceremony.
Do you see the difference?
The difference is a more civilized world, fewer socio-economic problems generally and less inequality specifically, and fewer conflicts.
The reason we no longer live in trees and eat bananas is that we can grasp larger concepts; Hence, here we are, today.
The questions; Is this it? Is this who we are? Is Globalization our highest accomplishment? Or are we a people capable of better-yet?
Time will tell.
Renewing Economic Ties with Russia
It may surprise some that for hundreds of years Britain enjoyed a good working relationship with Russia mainly via their respective Royal Families, and that the Allied Powers received especially valuable cooperation from the Soviet Union during WWII. And after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Britain once more enjoyed a strong relationship with Russia and it’s leaders.
All of which means, there’s no reason good enough that the UK can’t enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship with Russia. All that’s required is to hit the right note to resume that formerly beneficial relationship.
Russia has much to offer Britain — especially in light of the Brexit vote. It’s a country rich in oil and gas, metallic ores and minerals, and in forestry and agriculture. In short, all the resources that a developed nation needs.
But more than that, Russia is a rapidly modernizing nation with 146 million consumers who have displayed a distinct appetite for travel and for European history.
Buying massive amounts of raw resources from Russia, adding value to them, then exporting them to the global marketplace is a natural for the United Kingdom. In this way, the future of Britain would be inexorably linked to Russia and in a mutually beneficial way. As demand for value-added goods rise, so will demand for Russia’s resources.
This is the kind of symbiotic relationship that Britain must advance with Russia, as it’s the only model that is a ‘Win-Win’ for both nations.
As we’ve seen in recent decades, setting up Win-Lose paradigms eventually leads to Lose-Lose outcomes.
Therefore, Win-Win is the only acceptable course for Britain in regards to Russia.
Renewing Strategic Ties with Russia
During WWII, the level of cooperation between the former Soviet Union and Britain was at an all-time high. The Soviets lost +20 million people during the war as the Soviet Army struggled against Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa “in the largest German military operation of World War II.”
But Soviet communications with Britain were of uniformly high quality and information content, and weren’t intercepted by the Nazis as had been feared by British commanders.
The ‘Lend-Lease’ programme, created by the United States and Great Britain to assist their ally, exported aircraft, navy ships, howitzers, and ammunition to the Soviet Union in an attempt to stop Hitler’s army from taking the entire country along with its unimaginable resources.
The cooperation between the three countries during WWII was unparalleled and it worked to benefit all three nations. Millions of lives were saved (especially in Britain) due to this unprecedented arrangement.
Opportunities as Big as the Sky, Where Economic and Strategic Links Meet
It makes sense that northern nations should work together to advance security in their hemisphere, particularly among those nations that own or claim part of the Arctic Ocean and its rich resources.
It would be interesting to locate some Scottish islands where the wind blows constantly (that would be all of them) and install a couple hundred wind turbines along with housing for +3000 presently unemployed blue-collar workers, so they might smelt aluminum ore for export.
But not only aluminum, refining crude oil or making steel uses obscene amounts of electricity too. With cheap wind power located right on-site — one of the biggest production costs for smelters and refiners (energy) is lowered by half — which translates into a pricing advantage for exporters.
Working together, hundreds of billions of pounds could be unlocked to invest in Russian oil and gas, and other resources, inside Russia proper or in the Arctic Ocean.
Hundreds of billions more could build new factories in Russia, taking advantage of the lower energy, labour and regulatory costs there, which could allow Russia to duplicate the astonishing manufacturing leap made by Japan in the 1970-2000 timeframe.
If British banks are financing these operations, and British companies are part-owners with their Russian counterparts, there will be plenty of incentive on all sides to make it work. The very definition of Win-Win.
Over the next 30 years Russia could match the incredible economic leap made by Japan while Britain’s banks get to earn profit on financing that transition, and both British and Russian workers enjoy a fast-paced and profitable economy.
Isn’t that a better future for British and Russian kids than sliding backwards toward a new Cold War?
Image credit: By Celinaqi – http://atlas.cid.harvard.edu/explore/tree_map/export/rus/all/show/2014/ CC BY-SA 4.0