Government minister Liam Fox takes veiled swipe at Donald Trump’s trade policy in major speech

Cabinet minister will suggest Trump administration’s actions at the WTO risk decades of progress

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Friday 01 February 2019 01:07
The international trade secretary will call for Britain to ‘remember that there is a world beyond Europe’
The international trade secretary will call for Britain to ‘remember that there is a world beyond Europe’

Cabinet minister Liam Fox is to take a veiled swipe at Donald Trump’s trade policy, branding the idea that it will protect the US from globalisation a “mirage”.

The international trade secretary will instead suggest actions being taken by the Trump administration at the WTO will create a “free for all” that threatens decades of international progress.

It comes as the president’s approach to the WTO is set to paralyse its dispute settlement mechanism – which post-Brexit Britain could rely on to resolve trade rows in the future.

Mr Fox will raise the issue in a major speech he is to give in London on Friday, in which he will call for Britain to “remember that there is a world beyond Europe and there will be a time beyond Brexit”.

The minister will say that the UK must take a “multilateral” approach to promoting the liberalisation of trade in services at the WTO.

But it is there that Mr Trump’s officials have refused to allow the independent disputes panel to continue its work, risking the return to a system in which all rows must be solved between the two countries involved – something favouring big nations like the US.

Without specifically mentioning the US strategy, Mr Fox will say: “Economic nationalism may look like an attractive shelter from the winds of change that have come with the era of globalisation – and even more from the technological revolution in which we find ourselves – but it is a mirage.

“The alternative to an international rules-based system is at best a deals-based system that will suit the strongest and at worst a free for all that will put at risk much of the progress we have made in recent decades.”

The problem at the WTO centres on the US refusal to appoint judges to the appellate body of the disputes settlement mechanism.

Without new judges the panel will not have enough to be quorate and will cease to operate, forcing all disputes to be settled one on one.

Once the UK leaves the EU it will take up its own seat at the WTO, have its own schedule of tariffs there and rely on the disputes panel to settle trade spats.

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