Can the UK renegotiate trade agreements in time? Comment from Aline Doussin, trade partner at Hogan Lovells

Despite the UK and Switzerland recently signing a trade continuity agreement, it has been reported that government officials have said that they will not be able to renegotiate all trade treaties involving the EU by the end of March.

Aline Doussin, who heads the UK trade team at global law firm Hogan Lovells, commented: “For those who have been closely following the Department for International Trade’s efforts to ensure continuity of trade for UK businesses trading with nations covered by existing EU trade agreements, the news is not totally unexpected. 

“So far only a limited number of trade continuity agreements have been inked – which, while welcome, do not account for a great quantity of the UK’s trade. These deals include agreements struck with the Faroes Islands and Chile, which cover only a limited amount of UK's trade with third country partners. 

“Nonetheless, the deal recently agreed with Switzerland is very welcome, if somewhat surprising, in terms of how positive it is for mutual recognition of industrial products for instance, or cooperation in customs and judicial matters and how straight forward the deal was. Though of course the UK and Switzerland historically have had a good trading relationship. 

“However, we continue to find ourselves in a wait and see mode with much more significant countries such as Japan, Canada and South Korea who have their own wide-ranging trade deals with the EU. With less than fifty days until 29 March it remains to be seen whether deals with those nations can be struck in time and I am sure this will be closely watched. 

“Something worth noting is that those deals contain text relating to rules of origin like unilateral cumulation for EU content (where EU content will count as UK content to qualify for preferential access to the Chilean market for example). So far there has been no meaningful indication from the EU about whether they would be happy for this aspect of the EU’s existing trade agreements to be rolled over into the UK-only agreements.”   

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