Former WTO chief warns ‘the more Britons move away from the EU, the more it will cost them’

Former Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Pascal Lamy, arrives to give evidence to the Exiting the European Union Committee of members of parliament at the Houses of Parliament in London. (AFP)
Updated 27 February 2018
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Former WTO chief warns ‘the more Britons move away from the EU, the more it will cost them’

LONDON: Britain may have to endure a period of political crisis before a compromise can be found between Brexit hard-liners and the need to protect the economy, former global trade chief Pascal Lamy told AFP on Tuesday.
“The more Britons move away from the EU the more it will cost them,” Lamy, a former director-general of the World Trade Organization, said in an interview.
“The compromise between moving away enough to satisfy Brexit supporters but not so much that the British economy pays the price is not available at the moment.
“There needs to be work within the government and perhaps even a period of political crisis, before such a compromise can appear,” said the 70-year-old, who also served as a European trade commissioner.
Lamy said his experience in world trade negotiations in the past had shown him that they were “horribly complex” and usually take longer than people think.
“That’s why they last a crazily long time,” Lamy told AFP, cautioning also that Britain leaving the European Union was “like taking an egg out of an omelette.”
Lamy also said that, while leaving the EU would free Britain up to negotiate its own trade deals, the scale of its market compared to the EU could hinder it.
“In trade negotiations, you weigh up scale of your market. You would make an effort to access a market because it is a big market but if it is a small market you would not pay the same price,” he said.
He pointed out too that Britain will “need to rearm” in terms of trade negotiating expertise as this has been handled by European officials currently.
“Expertise is time and money,” he said.
The issue of the border between the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state, and British-ruled Northern Ireland after Brexit, has proved particularly complex in UK-EU negotiations so far.
“Whatever happens, if Britain leaves the single market and the customs union there will have to be a border somewhere, either between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland or between the island of Ireland and mainland Britain,” Lamy said.
He said that on the Irish issue “there is no solution on the table.”
Lamy also cast doubt on the British government’s stated aim of negotiating a withdrawal agreement and a deal on the future UK-EU partnership before Britain leaves as expected next year.
“Under these conditions, the date of March 29, 2019 is far too close for the terms of an agreement that will govern future relations between the EU and Britain to be possible,” he said.


Trump threatens tariffs on all $505 billion of Chinese imports

Updated 20 July 2018
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Trump threatens tariffs on all $505 billion of Chinese imports

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said in an interview released Friday he is willing to hit all Chinese goods imported to the US with tariffs if necessary.
“I’m ready to go 500,” the Republican leader told the US network CNBC, referring to the $505.5 billion in Chinese imports accepted into the US in 2017.
“I’m not doing this for politics, I’m doing this to do the right thing for our country,” Trump said.
“We’ve been ripped off by China for a long time,” he added.
After weeks of apparently fruitless negotiations, the US early this month imposed 25 percent tariffs on approximately $34 billion of Chinese mechanical and technological products — sparking an immediate response from Beijing, which said it would hit back dollar for dollar.
China accused the US of starting the “largest trade war in economic history.”
A second tranche of $16 billion in products is under review and could soon be added to the US measures.
In the full interview released Friday Trump reiterated his claim that the US is “being taken advantage of” on issues including trade policy.
“I don’t want them to be scared. I want them to do well,” the US president said of China. “I really like President Xi a lot. But it was very unfair.”
The US-China spat is the largest and broadest of several trade fights picked by Trump.
The growing share of international trade under threat has raised the prospect the escalating trade war could harm the global economy by disrupting companies supply chains, pushing firms to hold off on investments and making goods more expensive for consumers.
In excerpts of the interview released on Thursday Trump had broken with the long-established executive branch practice of not commenting on the Federal Reserve’s decisions out of respect for its independence.
“I’m not thrilled,” Trump told the network in an interview excerpt aired Thursday. “Because we go up and every time you go up they want to raise rates again.”