Events over the past 18 months have put trade at the centre of international economic diplomacy and may potentially lead to dramatic shifts in the global trade order.
On the one hand, significant developments have occurred that suggest that barriers will now emerge where trade has flowed freely. For example, the United States – traditionally the dominant voice in international trade – is seeking to rebalance U.S. trade policy through vigorously pursuing an “America First” policy in the name of restoring a level playing field and
defending U.S. workers.
Similarly, Brexit may lead to fundamental changes in the trade relationship between the United Kingdom and the European
Union, creating barriers where none have existed for four decades.
On the other hand, the United Kingdom has argued that Brexit is a precursor to its launching a highly ambitious plan to forge free trade agreements with countries across the globe. Other countries are also advancing the free trade agenda. The
European Union is actively pursuing trade agreements with its key trading partners, having agreed landmark deals with
Canada and Japan, and has other significant negotiations underway, including with Australia and Mercosur.
China has placed momentum behind establishing a regional trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which, once finalised, is estimated to account for almost half of the world’s population,
about 30 percent of global GDP and a quarter of world exports.