LeaveHQ, 19/12/2015  

Ditching the parochialism of EU politics, we must turn to the more interesting news of the formation of a new international public-private sector coalition, the Global Alliance for Trade, an alliance designed to streamline border management in developing countries associated with implementation of the new WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).

The new alliance was announced at the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya and consists of governments, international companies such as Maersk Group, DHL and Wal-Mart, and the International Chamber of Commerce and the World Economic Forum.

The objective of the Global Alliance for Trade is to accelerate trade facilitation reforms by supporting swift and wide implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). Today, customs processes can involve large amounts of documentation that typically are not digitalised. This and lack of coordination between private and government actors adds unnecessary waiting time and delays to traded goods, resulting in added inventory costs and the risks of penalties for importers and exporters.

Reforms aiming at reducing transit time of goods across borders can increase trade flows significantly and thus drive growth and job creation in low- and middle-income countries. The WTO estimates that a full implementation of the TFA can add $1 trillion to the global GDP annually and 21 million new jobs globally.

A successful implementation will therefore benefit all countries involved, as well as importers and exporters. The first step for the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation is to diagnose the largest trade barriers in specific countries.

A new player on the scale of the Global Alliance for Trade should actually be major news. News of it came to us, not via the BBC but from Maersk's own Twitter feed. That speaks to the irrelevance of the media.

It is not yet clear just how influential this alliance will be but in the past, WTO alliances have helped shape global regulations that even the EU has adopted. It will likely have a much greater consultative input than the EU in opening up new markets - and when it comes to the defining international agreements, it will sit alongside the EU as a power in it's own right.

This is another marker in the timeline of global trade whereby the big deals are no longer between nations and blocs but between non state actors and regulatory agencies. This is very much the birth of a global single market.

In addition to Myanmar, Norway, Vietnam, Brunei, Zambia and Ukraine, the following WTO members have also accepted the TFA: Hong Kong China, Singapore, the United States, Mauritius, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, Botswana, Trinidad and Tobago, the Republic of Korea, Nicaragua, Niger, Belize, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei, China, Liechtenstein, Lao PDR, New Zealand, Togo, Thailand, the European Union (on behalf of its 28 member states), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Pakistan, Panama, Guyana, Côte d’Ivoire, Grenada,  Saint Lucia and Kenya.

This is a forum where nation can speak unto nation in bringing down barriers to trade. Unless of course you happen to be an EU member, where instead we have to go off to Brussels and ask nicely if they would consider raising our concerns on our behalf. 

Just imagine that - a global forum on trade where little old Norway can have a veto and an independent vote, yet the UK, the fifth largest economy cannot. This is the real top table - this is the real engine of global trade. This is real global engagement. From this will flow new agreements to adopt new regulations. 

The notion that we would be isolated outside the EU ignores the fact that nobody is isolated - and nations are free to pick and choose alliances and coalitions according to what suits their most pressing trade concerns. There are any number of configurations that can rival the EU as a power - and even the threat of voting against the EU (if we had our own vote) would be leverage we do not presently have as members. As members we can be summarily overruled - and we are forced to adopt the common EU position.

Very often that common position is less to do with doing what is best for global trade than it is protecting the EU's internal economy. Far from engaging with the world, the EU is putting up more barriers and acting on the global stage with a view to asserting its own presence rather than working in the spirit of cooperation. 

In fact the EU is often criticised by global regulatory agencies and trade alliances for gold plating regulations specifically to create further barriers and tilt the playing field in its own favour. It stands in the way of better regulation and creates administrative burdens where none previously existed. As it seeks to usurp its own member states, critical regional expertise is muscled out, depriving the global community of valued input. 

Our view is that we do not require a middleman to act on our behalf at the top tables. It is our view that we need to be fully engaged at the top table getting the very best for British business. That is in the best interests of Britain and Europe. It is also our view that the supranationalism of the EU is an obstacle to global harmonisation of trade and a drag factor on the creation and implementation of global conventions.

We are also of the view that a fixed entity like the EU cannot properly represent the diverse needs of Europe and that it can't possibly reconcile the breadth of concerns and interests within. Smaller, more regional, more agile blocs have a better change of reaching internal agreements where nobody is overruled. 

The EU is locked into an idea from the last century that is blind to the march of globalisation and has become inward looking and set in its ways. The big bang deals like TTIP are only the tip of the iceberg in global trade and more progress is made by smaller partial scope agreements. Small incremental improvements do more for global trade.

The way forward for Britain is to accept that EU integration has gone as far as it can go without being a Euro member. It is our belief that the EU recognises this too, which is why we will eventually see a treaty that creates a two speed EU.

It means there will be a supreme government for the eurozone that will be irreversible. That is the choice of our European allies - which we recognise and support, but as we are no longer travelling the same path, we must be free to travel our own, rather than on a leash to the Eurozone EU. Existing as a subordinate to the Eurozone EU without a voice at the top table is intolerable.

If we continue our membership of the EU our future is destined to be one on the sidelines of Europe, and nowhere to be seen on the global stage. The real question we are voting on in this referendum is whether we want the EU to be our supreme government, acting on our behalf - and whether we wish to delegate global participation to a bureaucratic middleman whose main concern is advancing a flawed ideology from the last century.

As we continuously point out, there is a whole universe of trade and governance over and above the EU and the myopic fixation we have with little Europe is damaging our global standing as well as holding back global progress. We think it's time to cut the apron strings and step out into the new world. The EU will still be our ally and friend, but we cannot allow it to be our master. The world has moved on and the future is different to the one they imagined. It's time to move on up.

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