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A Zero Tariff UK Economy

by John Brian Shannon

Think about it for a second. The thing we call Brexit is being held-up by a tiny item called tariffs. It’s ridiculous. (OK, there are some other things too, but for today let’s talk tariffs)

At the moment, the UK is still a dues-paying member of the European Union and is therefore obligated to charge the same tariffs as any other EU country, and such broad agreement on external tariffs, combined with low or no tariffs between members, or even standardized tariffs between members, is part of what makes up what’s commonly called a Customs Union.

When the UK exits the European Union it’s right to assume that the UK will no longer charge the same tariffs as the EU.

In fact, that difference is part of the problem between the EU and the UK in the post-Brexit timeframe, and businesses near the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland border may find themselves affected by this change-up.


How Would a Zero-Tariff UK Economy Work vis-à-vis the European Union post-Brexit?

What if the UK decides to embrace an economy where no tariffs are charged?

There would, of course, be people who complain (on the UK side) about a loss of tariff revenue for UK government budgets, while on the Republic of Ireland (RoI) side, businesses located near the border might worry their customers will drive to Northern Ireland (NI) to save 6.5% worth of tariff value on their purchases.

Which are immensely easy problems to solve!


How to Solve a Disparity in Consumer Prices (Due to Tariffs) Across an Uncontrolled Border

  1. Offer a rebate to Republic of Ireland businesses located within, say, 100 miles (160 kilometres) of the Irish border and such rebates would be equal to the (tariff portion of the) savings RoI consumers would enjoy by shopping in Northern Ireland. In this way, RoI shoppers won’t bother travelling to NI to save (usually about 6.5%) on the price of imported goods and consequently, RoI businesses won’t lose sales to the (then) zero-tariff regime north of the Irish border. We’re talking about small amounts of money on each transaction — but over the course of a year, especially for small ‘Mom and Pop’ businesses in RoI, it could add up and potentially at least, represent a hardship for those business owners. Who will cover the cost of the rebates? The UK, of course. Why would the UK government want to do that? It’s just one more irritation that the UK government can remove from the negotiating table to simplify Brexit. Such rebates might cost the UK government as little as £1 million per year. Of course, it might cost as much as £20 million per year. But, with so much to gain (a quicker and less hairy Brexit) the UK government could afford to pay the Republic of Ireland those rebates a full 10-years in advance at the beginning of each decade.
  2. For businesses in the EU that import from other countries and are required to charge tariffs on behalf of their government — all they need to do after March 29, 2019 is add the UK to the list of countries they must charge tariffs.
  3. For companies that export from the UK in the case where those goods are shipped to the EU or other countries — there’s no hassle with a UK zero-tariff regime because there are no UK tariffs to add to the final price — no matter where those goods land in the EU or wherever in the world they go after that.
  4. The same is true for goods that originate in America (for example) but are shipped through the UK before being shipped on to the EU. Whatever the price of the item from America + zero tariffs added by the UK = landing in the EU with only the taxes or tariffs that originated in America. The UK adds nothing in the way of tariffs, nor takes anything away from those tariffs. It’s called being revenue-neutral.

It’s so easy when you know how!


How Could the UK Recover Lost Tariff Revenue and Pay the Proposed Irish Tariff Rebates?

There would be two costs for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to cover:

One would be the loss of tariff revenue which would represent a large annual cost — and the other would be the relatively small cost of rebates to RoI businesses located within 100 miles (for example) of the Irish border.

a. For as long as the UK has been in the EU Customs Union, consumers have unknowingly paid the cost of tariffs on goods imported from outside the EU. In some cases the tariffs involved are quite low, but in other cases EU countries are required to charge up to 18% tariffs on certain goods coming into the EU28. All EU consumers pay an average of 6.5% more for goods imported from outside the EU due to those EU tariffs. But as soon as the UK leaves the EU Customs Union it would no longer charge EU tariffs and the cost of imported goods in the UK would fall by an average of 6.5%. Which is a good thing, except that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would need to cut spending by that total sterling amount or, add 1% (or less) to the national sales tax to make-up for that lost revenue. Most Britons won’t even see the difference. But if you’re a Briton who buys a lot of imported goods you’ll be slightly better off.
b. If you’re a UK business, it’s one less piece of paperwork you have to deal with and one less revenue stream you must collect on behalf of HM government.
c. If you’re the Chancellor of the Exchequer, you’ll lose millions in tariff revenue, but you’ll gain even more from the (less than) 1% addition to the national sales tax. But even more important, you’ll save millions of pounds in spending to oversee, police, and navigate all that tariff collection. Those tariffs don’t get collected by themselves! Nor does every business remember to forward those tariff revenues to the government on time, etc. Nor will the Chancellor be required to keep abreast of competitor nation tariff structures and constantly adjust tariffs for the UK to remain tariff competitive, nor will the Chancellor be required to notify the WTO about tariff changes. Because, no tariffs!


A Word About the WTO

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is a great organization that was created to ensure countries play fair with each other, especially on tariffs and on the dumping of goods at outrageously low prices, thereby harming the country importing their goods. And if you’re a developing country, you definitely want to be a WTO member as the WTO will protect you from larger, more aggressive countries and their powerful transnational corporations.

However, it makes rules in accordance with its membership wishes and some of those rules may surprise you.

WTO rules do not apply to trading partners that charge tariffs lower than the WTO tariff schedule (which was recently increased to an average of 6.55% on a long list of goods) therefore, trade deals can be done more quickly without WTO tariff regulations to complicate things.

The WTO won’t arbitrate between non-WTO members, nor will it intervene where countries charge tariffs that are lower than the WTO tariff schedule. Nor will it involve itself where two countries have a dispute within a free trade agreement previously agreed by both sides — unless requested by one or both parties to mediate disagreements within that free trade agreement.

In short, countries that don’t charge tariffs have no dealings with the WTO, they owe it nothing, and they have no tariff disputes. (Because they have no tariffs to argue about)


Summary

Many things come together beautifully for the UK were the government to decide to operate a tariff-free economy.

Not only would Brexit be streamlined, the Irish border situation becomes simpler to settle, relatively small rebates can offset any hardships for RoI businesses located close to the Irish border, CEO’s from other countries would appreciate the ease of doing business in the UK, any losses in tariff revenue for HM government can be offset by a (less than) 1% increase in the national sales tax, and free trade agreements become simpler to negotiate.

The UK wouldn’t need to re-apply to become a WTO member, nor would it fall under WTO jurisdiction in trade matters, nor would the UK need to pay annual dues to the WTO.

And imported goods in the UK would become cheaper by an average of 5.5% roughly speaking (dropping the 6.5% average tariff on imported goods + 1% national sales tax increase on all goods = 5.5% cheaper on imported goods) which can help consumers in regards to their discretionary spending.

The government would save millions of pounds sterling annually because it wouldn’t need thousands of workers to work in the Treasury’s tariff section, adjusting tariffs, comparing tariffs, ensuring tariffs are properly implemented, ensuring that tariff revenue is properly submitted to the government by UK business, dealing with the WTO, and handling lawsuits caused by disagreements over which tariff schedule must be applied on a given product. And many more miles of red tape than that, that the UK government could forget about forever.

Just another list of the benefits of Brexit, my friends! Happy weekend!

How Canada and the UK Could Work Together post-Brexit

by John Brian Shannon

Until the official Brexit date of March 29, 2019 the UK remains in the European Union — which means that Britain remains a party to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada.

And the CETA accord is a very fine agreement (as it should be, because it took 7-years to negotiate) but it may take another year or two to become fully implemented. At the moment CETA is only partially implemented, but eventually 98% of tariffs between Canada and the EU will be eliminated.

Once Brexit happens on March 29, 2019, the UK will cease to be a CETA signatory and something else (a ‘drop-in’ agreement) will need to replace it.

That is the topic of this blog post.

Enter the United States, Canada, and NAFTA.


Where’s Canada on the International Trade Map?

Canada is a surprisingly strong exporting country. With a population of only 36 million and a territory that measures 3.855 million square miles, it means the country is practically empty.

Across this huge landscape are fields of crops larger than the entire UK, but Canada’s few cities are large. In fact, the Greater Toronto Area (the GTA) is larger and has a greater population than the New York Metropolitan Area.

And it’s an exporting superstar; Making it the 11th highest exporting nation in the world.

“Canada is currently the fourth largest exporter of cars in the world and the ninth largest auto producer in the world, making 2.1 million cars a year. Trade with the U.S. is by far the most powerful driver for the automotive sector.”Export Development Canada


What if There’s No New NAFTA Agreement?

If the NAFTA agreement falters due to insufficient efforts between U.S. and Canadian negotiators Canada will end up producing cars for itself — which means it won’t be exporting 1.8 million cars to the United States annually once NAFTA is terminated (or) once President Trump slaps a 25% tariff on Canadian cars exported to the United States.

Which means a lot of Canadian autoworkers are going to become unemployed the day after that announcement.

Which means that Canada (insert drum roll here) needs a ‘Plan B’.


President Trump Isn’t ‘Being Evil to Canada’ He’s Protecting American Interests Because That’s His Job!

You can’t blame him for that. For goodness sake he’s the President of the United States, not of Canada.

But Canada can’t sit idly by and wait for the world to end. The country must pick itself up and get on with business.

And the best way to do that is to respectfully approach the UK and inform them that it’s likely NAFTA will be terminated or changed in ways that result in Canada having an excess auto manufacturing capacity of up to 1.8 million units per year.

Such manufacturing capacity could be very useful to the UK government and to UK industry.


How Canada and the UK can Work Together for Mutual Benefit

The cost of living in the UK is much higher than it is in Canada, therefore wages in the UK are higher than in Canada.

And it’s the reason why only premium car lines are built in the UK where the high labour cost for exceptional hand-built cars are reflected in the final price and nobody minds paying extra. See; Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover, etc.

Even Rolls Royce and Bentley were forced to move to continental Europe because they couldn’t afford the high labour costs of UK workers and the costly land/building/business costs of manufacturing cars in the United Kingdom.

Post-NAFTA, huge opportunities exist for Canada to export lower-priced GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler (FCA) cars and trucks to the UK — freeing-up huge amounts of disposable income for Britons.

Which means that saved money will be spent elsewhere in the UK — whether on home renovations, tuition, school supplies, vacations or investments — because it isn’t going anywhere (it isn’t going to magically vanish!) it will simply be spent on other items.

Any Canadian-built vehicles that are exported to the UK over what the UK market can sustain can be forwarded to Commonwealth of Nations countries by UK re-exporters.

India alone has a population of 1.32 billion and its economy is rising fast to become the third-largest consumer economy in the world. There’s no lack of demand for cars and trucks in the Commonwealth.

A Must Read: India Poised To Be Third Largest Consumer Economy (Forbes)

All of which works to help the UK economy.


Trump Wins, Trudeau Wins and May Wins!

President Trump wins because he will have prevented Canada from exporting 1.8 million vehicles to the United States annually, and American factories (meaning American workers) will need to fill that demand gap, Prime Minister Trudeau wins because he will have saved the Canadian jobs associated with the manufacturing of those 1.8 million cars and trucks, and Prime Minister May wins because she will have ushered in three new lines of lower-priced vehicles for UK consumers and those savings will translate into higher levels of disposable income for British consumers that can be spent elsewhere in the UK economy.

It’s so easy when you know how...

Is There Enough Demand ‘Out There’ to Float a post-Brexit UK Economy?

by John Brian Shannon

The China Internet Network Information Center says the country recorded a jump in internet users of 30 million during the first half of 2018 alone

Excerpt from Bloomberg News: “Chinese internet users have crossed the 800 million mark for the first time ever as of June 2018, according to the 42nd China Statistical Report on the Internet Development issued by China Internet Network Information Center. With 802 million internet users, China’s user-base is larger than the combined populations for Japan, Russia, Mexico and the U.S., according to International Monetary Fund data.”

Is There Enough Demand to Float a post-Brexit UK Economy?

Some Britons wonder if there are enough business opportunities ‘out there’ in the wider world for the UK to thrive and prosper, post-Brexit.

As the graphic above shows, there are more internet users in China than there are citizens in all of the following countries combined: Japan, Russia, Mexico and the United States.

With internet use in China alone growing at an annual rate greater than the entire population of the United Kingdom you’d think that even the most inept exporters in the world would be lining up to trade with the huge moneypot called China.

Yet, because China isn’t selling itself as a huge marketplace for the world’s exporters and because Brexiteers haven’t ventured to research this part of the Brexit equation, it’s left to Bloomberg News (and me) to inform you of these astonishing developments.

Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group is a fine organization devoted to fleshing-out the political intricacies of Brexit, trade with the EU in the post-Brexit timeframe, and other Eurocentric matters. Yet, when we view charts like the one above it becomes startlingly clear that an Asian Research Group is needed to fully inform us about politics and trade with Asia in the post-Brexit era.


For example: How many Jaguar cars have been sold in the EU over the past 12 months?

And whatever that number is, it will be a static number for the simple reason that only so many EU citizens can afford a Jaguar motorcar and every one of them simply phones the local Jaguar dealership to order the Jag of their dreams and the car is delivered to their home a few days later.

Yet, I can only surmise that *isn’t* the case in China…


How many Jaguars *aren’t* being sold in China

How many Jaguar cars and SUV’s aren’t being sold in Asia because nobody bothered to research the full potential of the Asian market, or if they have, why aren’t Jaguar building three more factories in the UK to meet the demand of the rapidly growing Chinese middle class?

If internet users in China alone have risen from 22.5 million in year 2000 to 802 million partway through 2018, that demonstrates astonishing growth in their middle class. And if those people are ordering goods and services on the internet because their disposable income is rising fast, why isn’t there an entire department of HM government devoted to helping UK companies to get those online orders instead of just standing idly by and allowing other countries to snap up that business?

By 2030, there will be 1.6 billion internet users in China. How many Jaguar sales will have been lost by then?


It’s Not Only Cars…

Millions of pounds sterling are being lost every month since year 2000 because nobody in the UK government was put in charge of this.

Heads should roll over this shameful ‘oversight’ and not only in the government.

Heads also in the Bank of England, London School of Economics, London Stock Exchange and other organizations need to stop whatever they’re doing right this minute and phone whomever it is that can quickly address this stunning oversight.

Driving along the M4 on your way to the LSE right now? Have your driver pull the car over — you’ve got an important call to make — one that’s 18-years overdue.

With the right stewardship of the country, any good or service the UK produces should have seen the same kind of sales increases as the number of Chinese internet users since 2000. Disposable income is disposable income — and it’s better that UK business gets that disposable income rather than businesses from some other country.

From which, I can only assume that there *hasn’t* been proper stewardship of the UK economy since year 2000.

It goes without saying that nobody knew for certain how the internet was going to grow back in the early 2000’s, therefore, policymakers of that era are largely free of blame. But as each subsequent year passed, this should’ve been addressed with increasing urgency. Certainly, everyone on planet Earth knew by 2005 that the Internet of Things (IoT) was going to be a major part of our civilization in a few short years.

But the silence especially in the UK has been deafening.

“The global IoT market will grow from $157B in 2016 to $457B by 2020, attaining a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 28.5%.”Forbes 


Forget About Cars for a Moment – and Think About Everything Else the UK Produces

As noted earlier, it’s not all about the UK-built cars that aren’t being exported to Asia in huge numbers.

Everything that the UK produces or manufactures in a year could be sold to China and the lot of it wouldn’t register a tiny blip on the Chinese financial charts as demand in the country is massive and it continues to grow at a geometric rate.

If the UK tripled its entire annual GDP in goods, services and produce and then shipped all of it to China, it still wouldn’t produce a blip on the charts. And China continues to grow its economy at (artificially held to lower than) double-digit growth rates.

“GDP Annual Growth Rate in China averaged 9.61 percent from 1989 until 2018, reaching an all time high of 15.40 percent in the first quarter of 1993 and a record low of 3.80 percent in the fourth quarter of 1990.” — Trading Economics

Asia is the land of opportunity for all who have eyes to see and ears to hear. There isn’t a reason good enough for the UK government or British business to ignore it one more day.


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