WTO celebrated the Centenary mark of Nelson Mandela, with publishing the speech he gave at the WTO ministerial in 1998 marking the 50th anniversary of the GATT.

Link to the speech

At the EU-Japan summit in Tokyo, Presidents Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, signed today the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

The trade agreement is the biggest ever negotiated by the EU and will create an open trade zone covering over 600 million people.

As a response to the last months developments in relation to an emerging trade war this is a powerful step forward for world trade.

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said: “The document we signed today is much more than a trade agreement. It is of course a tool that will create opportunities for our companies, our workers and our citizens and that will boost the European and Japanese economies. But it is also a statement. For its content, its scope and also its timing. It is a statement by two likeminded partners that together represent nearly a third of the world’s GDP and reiterate their commitment to uphold the highest standards in areas such as labour, safety, environmental or consumer protection.

And what we’re saying is that we believe in open, fair and rules-based trade. What we are saying is that a trade agreement is not a zero sum game, but a win-win for the involved parties. This agreement will bring tangible benefits to both sides and at the same time safeguard each other’s sensitivities.”

Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Trade, said: “Together with Japan, we are sending a strong signal to the world that two of its biggest economies still believe in open trade, opposing both unilateralism and protectionism. The economic benefits of this agreement are clear. By removing billions of euros of duties, simplifying customs procedures and tackling behind-the-border barriers to trade, it will offer opportunities for companies on both sides to boost their exports and expand their business.

The European agriculture sector in particular has something to celebrate, with access to the enormous Japanese market and protection for over 200 distinctive food and drinks like Champagne and Parma ham. I now call on the European Parliament to approve this agreement quickly so that firms, citizens and farmers can reap the benefits as soon as possible.”

The agreement will remove the vast majority of the €1 billion of duties paid annually by EU companies exporting to Japan, and has led to the removal of a number of long-standing regulatory barriers, for example on cars. It will also open up the Japanese market of 127 million consumers to key EU agricultural exports and will increase EU export opportunities in a range of other sectors.

The Economic Partnership Agreement will also in addition strengthen cooperation between Europe and Japan in a range of areas, reaffirm their shared commitment to sustainable development, and include for the first time a specific commitment to the Paris climate agreement.

Read more here: EU Japan Trade Deal

These days are days when the EU and UK negotiators are talking about the next steps of the process. EU is digesting the UK White Paper and mo official repsonse has been published yet. The clock is ticking and the world is waiting.

Where will Brexit go? It is a complicated matter and anybody that says it is not, is simply not correct. So what is the road to Brexit?

The politics is the real challenge here. Will the deadlock break? And when?

I have said for a long time that from a technical perspective this is not a difficult problem. We know how to design a fast and safe border today, using Trusted Trader concepts to move Customs, tariffs and non-tariff border formalities ways from the border – and using modern low friction technology for the border identification process. It is possible to create a non-stop-shop at the borders, while still fulfilling all formalities regulated by international law. This is not the real challenge.

The real challenge is to get to the point where this can be agreed at the lowest possible cost for everybody involved.

Is this what will happen? We don’t know yet. But hopefully soon we will know. Since we all need to start preparing for a post-Brexit environment.

WCO has released its framework of standards on cross-border eCommerce, which is still mainly an overarching document – but all guidance on this extremely important topic for all of is welcome.

WCO writes that Customs administrations need to engage with all relevant stakeholders with a view to collectively defining the appropriate approach to adopt both from a trade facilitation and enforcement perspective. WCO also clearly underline that the AEO instrument should be used also for eCommerce:

“Customs administrations should explore the possibilities of applying AEO Programmes and Mutual Recognition Arrangements/Agreements in the context of cross-border E-Commerce”

Cross-border eCommerce is the ’elephant-in-the-room’ of our time.

WCO also states that, ”Customs administrations should explore the possibilities of applying AEO Programmes and Mutual Recognition Arrangements/Agreements in the context of cross-border E-Commerce, including leveraging the role of intermediaries, to enable Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) and individuals to fully benefit from the opportunities of cross-border E-Commerce”.

E-commerce has become a game changer in the international trade arena and this is the big challenge to solve for the future.

You can find the entire document here: WCO Cross-Border eCommerce Framework of Standards

Manny ‘PacMan’ Pacquiao night back in the ring. With his first knockout in nine years he won the title match last might against Argentinian Lucas Matthysse.

“I lost to a big fairy and a big legend in Manny Pacquiao, Matthysse said after the loss. Last Manny Pacquiao, 39, went to a match in July 2017. Then he unexpectedly fell to Jeff Horn and lost the WBO title in welterweight.

After 378 days and a change of coach, the Philippine politician and boxing legend were back in the ring last night. In Kuala Lumpur, Manny Pacquiao took over the WBA title in welterweight, after defeating Lucas Matthysse. The match was settled in the seventh round.

“I’m surprised since Matthysse is a very tough opponent and I knocked him down. I was focused and patient in the field and I have worked hard on the training”, said Pacquiao, after the victory, according to ESPN.

According to The Guardian thid was the biggest boxing match in Malaysia since Muhammad Ali won sgainst Joe Bugner in 1975. The President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duerte attended the match, and acclaimed his countryman.

So it is time for some time in Boulouris-sur-mer outside Saint Raphael on the Cote d’Azur in France.

We have the last ten years spent part of the year here in our place in Provence, and we absolutely love it here.

It is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and I know – I have searched the planet having visited 169 countries.

We also love the wine, the food, the people here. We have many friends around us here in this paradise, below the Esterel mountains.

If you haven’t visited Saint Raphael-Frejus I strongly recommend you to do so.

This is where I write my books and articles, where I re-load my batteries and where I relax.

Even though this summer it – to be honest – have been mostly about work.

There is a lot of things happening in the Customs and Trade world right now. We live in exiting times.