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Trading partners seek post-Brexit clarity at WTO

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Missing deadlines has become a tradition in EU-U.K. negotiations. But this time, Brussels is getting increasingly nervous about the ticking clock.

Brexit talks are set to stretch into next week after insufficient progress was made in negotiations in London this week, thereby passing the deadline of mid-November. Officials expect talks to continue Friday, pause over the weekend and then resume in Brussels next week.

The next informal deadline suggested by EU officials is the videoconference of European leaders next Thursday. If a deal is not been reached by then, Brussels will put forward the contingency legislation it has prepared to prevent a cliff-edge scenario in the event of a no-deal, one EU official said.

Major trading partners called on Britain and the European Union (EU) on Friday to clarify terms for renegotiating tariff levels after Brexit and for compensating their suppliers for any lost market access, a Geneva trade official said.

At a closed-door meeting of the World Trade Organization, held just 50 days before the end of the transition period, they also sought details of how EU-UK trade will be treated in the absence of a bilateral agreement, he said.

Australia, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, New Zealand, Paraguay, the United States and Uruguay were among delegations to take the floor at the talks, the official said.

“The time-clock counting down to the UK’s final departure from the EU Customs Union has been ticking ever more loudly and insistently – with now less than 50 days to go until the end of the UK transition period,” New Zealand’s delegation was quoted as saying by the official.

Yet there had been only “limited engagement” by the UK and the EU on addressing fundamental concerns raised by a large number of WTO members regarding their respective proposals to cut back market access opportunities, it said.

One of the issues members complained of was a lack of clarity on renegotiations of so-called tariff rate quotas which fix duty levels on imported goods.

The UK, which only gained its own seat at the Geneva-based trade body after leaving the EU in January, said it was looking forward to building on recent negotiations. The European Union said it hoped to move towards the finalisation of discussions with as many WTO members as possible by the end of the year.

Politico / Reuters

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