The bloc, accounting for 30% of the world’s population and 30% of global GDP, is larger than the European Union.

By Oliver E. Browne and Isuru Devendra

As the United Kingdom continues to negotiate trade agreements with the European Union and other trading partners, 15 Asia-Pacific countries recently signed a new multilateral trade agreement named the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). That agreement, the subject of negotiations since 2012, is expected to shape the Asia-Pacific economy in the decades ahead by establishing a single set of harmonised and predictable trading rules applicable across developed and developing economies in the region. The new framework presents economic opportunities for many countries, including those outside the Asia-Pacific region, and provides the United Kingdom and its private sector new opportunities in a post-Brexit economy.

By Paul Davies, Charles Claypoole and Michael Green

We have commented previously about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and its relationship with environmental obligations. Here, following Brexit, we turn our attention to future trade arrangements for the UK and the implications for environmental law.

As a member of the EU, the UK was not able to negotiate its own trade agreements with non-member countries, and could only do so as part of the EU Common Commercial Policy (CCP). Following Brexit, and assuming that a post-Brexit relationship between the EU and the UK does not involve UK participation in the CCP as a means for participating in the Internal Market, the UK can negotiate in its own trade agreements with non-member states and put in place trade arrangements with the EU following its withdrawal (assuming Brexit proceeds).  As such, the UK Government has already suggested that discussions will take place on a new free trade deal with China – which has never had a free trade agreement with any EU country.  Further, Commonwealth countries, such as Canada, Australia, India and Singapore, have also expressed interest in negotiating trade agreements with the UK.

By Paul Davies, Charles Claypoole and Michael Green

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU), assuming the UK does not negotiate continued participation in the EU’s Internal Market and the Common Commercial Policy (on similar terms as now), will impact its existing participation in EU trade agreements and free trade access. Once the UK has withdrawn from the EU, the UK will need to commence national trade negotiations – early indicators suggest that there are already a number of countries (e.g. Australia, Canada, India and others) that would be interested in fast-tracking the process. Trade agreements strive to increase economic activity by reducing or removing barriers to trade across international borders. For example, trade agreements may negotiate reduced taxes applied to imports, reduce compliance costs associated with foreign jurisdiction regulations, and/or require signatory countries to outlaw child labour.

Typically, trade agreement objectives indirectly impact on environmental obligations for businesses and touch on a wide spectrum of environmental issues that affect consumers, including: food safety (the use of GM crops, for example); pesticides; chemical regulations; energy resourcing; and contamination liability. One of the most contentious agreements currently being negotiated is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is between the EU and the US. There are concerns that the current TTIP may stall or fail altogether due to the UK’s departure from the EU. However, if it does happen, we can expect the draft proposal to influence the content and format of many future trade agreements (including those that the UK will be looking to negotiate and enter into).