This article was originally published on 16 January on the blog of the UK Trade Forum.
The inconclusive outcome of the WTO’s Eleventh Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires in December 2017 has once again strengthened calls for plurilateral or ‘critical mass’ approaches to break the deadlock in multilateral trade negotiations. The UK government, which has claimed a leadership role in the WTO for the time after Brexit, seems to wholeheartedly support plurilateral trade deals and has repeatedly highlighted the importance of these agreements for Britain’s future commercial relations.
Britain’s post-Brexit trade strategy explains that the UK wishes to remain part of the Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA), to finalise the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) and to resume the negotiations on the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). However, no two plurilaterals are alike and, consequently, challenges and opportunities for Britain vary considerably across these initiatives. Focusing on the three plurilateral agreements highlighted in the white paper, this post discusses the UK’s options and the potential benefits and risks of plurilaterals.