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P&R handed the power to agree to free trade deals

P&R handed the power to agree to free trade deals

Monday 13 September 2021

P&R handed the power to agree to free trade deals


Policy & Resources has been given the powers to make executive decisions on joining the UK in future Free Trade Agreements.

Following the dissolution of the UK’s relationship with the EU, the UK Government has been pursuing a series of FTAs with other countries outside of the European Union.

An FTA is an agreement made between two sovereign states that removes trade restrictions, in order to stimulate economic growth.

P&R brought a policy letter to the States, asking for decisive powers to join the UK in future FTAs when appropriate, the argument being that these moments can be fast paced and would benefit from more executive powers. 

“[We need to prepare for] speed and unpredictably of negotiations and there is a need to act quickly and to meet condensed timelines,” said P&R's Lead for External Affairs, Deputy Jonathon Le Tocq.

“This letter sets a new framework, because our current framework is not geared in that direction,” he said.

Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq

Pictured: “We need to decide which FTAs we want to participate in – before the UK ratifies these FTAs,” argued Deputy Le Tocq.

The new framework allows our Government to act nimbly when dealing with large jurisdictions, alongside the UK.

“FTAs are a big part now of our international focus, this framework will let us facilitate the best possible opportunities for Guernsey and its future,” said Deputy Le Tocq.

It was noted during debate that an agreement between the UK and Japan - of which Guernsey is now involved – was handled by the UK so quickly that the island didn’t have a chance to adopt a position properly.

On the flip side, it was argued that it has been a hugely beneficial agreement for us to be involved with.

“Japan is the UK’s 11th largest trading partner, and the market access opportunities are interesting for us,” said the President of Economic Development, Deputy Neil Inder.

“It is anticipated that our analysis in relation to Japan could be used as a template or policy baseline for future negotiations with the likes of places like Australia,” he said.

Deputy Neil Inder

Pictured: “Once the island is included in the UK’s new FTAs, that will ensure we’ll be able to maximise any benefits from preferential market access opportunities,” said Deputy Inder.

Deputy John Dyke raised concerns that giving P&R the ability to make quick decisions might place Guernsey within agreements it can’t get out of.

“Once we’ve entered into these treaties, we probably won’t be able to change them, so one has to be very careful,” he said.

“Is there really such a hurry that P&R can’t come back to us?

“The UK isn’t entering into these treaties that quickly – obligations and conditions could be quite wide ranging, these things can be very invasive and I wonder if they should come back to the States before they enter into them,” he suggested.

His concerns were touched upon by the former President of P&R, Deputy Gavin St Pier, who leant heavily on past experiences.

“I do think that it is necessary that P&R have the discretion to move quite quickly as Deputy Le Tocq indicated when he spoke,” said Deputy St Pier. “These things always move far faster than anyone would wish.”

The policy letter was passed unanimously and unamended.

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