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What about a shrimp stir fry, Brexiteers!

14 September, 2018

• FANCY a fancy Asian fish dish for supper, what about a shrimp stir fry? Sounds very tasty.

So why does the EU ban imports of certain kinds of shrimp from Asia? The shrimps they ban have been treated with antibiotics. Surely this is a good thing? Not if you risk going blind.

I mention this is to demonstrate trade agreements cover a huge range of standards. The Tory hard Brexiteers keep on telling us that we can easily trade with the EU, and the rest of the world on World Trade Organisation terms.

The argument is that while we would have to adopt tariffs we would take back control of setting the rates and could set them at zero. For imports perhaps but not for our exports. They miss the point by a country mile.

The biggest issue in international trade is standards, their regulation, and systems for inspection. These standards and inspections have to be agreed and implemented with the force of law. In this respect the EU market is recognised as a “Regional Trade Agreement” by the WTO.

In fact most of our trading partners belong to some kind of RTA and all enforce some kind of standards and inspection. This is why the EU not only has some 60 Free Trade Agreements but as many as 750 bilateral agreements with individual countries. So, for example, the EU has 38 separate agreements with the USA and some 65 with China.

If we leave the EU next year without some kind of agreement then under WTO terms we become a Third Country and lose the benefits of the EU’s network of trade deals. It really isn’t about tariffs it’s about agreed standards and so far we have no internationally agreed schedules of standards.

The WTO may set fallback tariffs but it doesn’t set any standards. Do we really care if those antibiotic treated Asian shrimps are tariff-free if we risk going blind?



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