Guidance

Trading under WTO rules

How to trade with other countries if there is no UK trade agreement in place after 31 December 2020.

The UK has left the EU

This page tells you what you'll need to do from 1 January 2021. It'll be updated if anything changes.

You can also read about the transition period.

If there is no trade agreement between the UK and another World Trade Organization (WTO) member after 31 December 2020, you will have to trade with that country under WTO rules.

Existing trading arrangements

The EU has issued a notification to third countries stating that the UK is to be treated as a member state for the purposes of EU trade agreements until 31 December 2020.

EU trade agreements will not apply to the UK from 31 December 2020. The UK is seeking to reproduce the effects of these existing EU trade agreements, in order to ensure continuity of trading arrangements for UK businesses.

Find out more about UK trade agreements with non-EU countries.

How your business operations will change under WTO rules

WTO and the Most Favoured Nation rule

WTO rules state that the same trading terms must be applied to all WTO members, unless, for example, there is a trade agreement between 2 or more countries. This is known as Most Favoured Nation (MFN) treatment.

MFN means that the UK cannot offer better trading terms to one country and not to WTO members, unless, for example, it has a trade agreement.

Paying tariffs on imported goods into the UK

From 31 December 2020, you may need to pay different rates of tariffs on imports into the UK.

Paying tariffs on exports from the UK

From 31 December 2020, an importer in another country may need to pay different rates of tariffs on exports from the UK.

The tariffs on your exports will vary by country. Each country decides its own import tariffs. If you are exporting a product to a country that the UK has no trade agreement with from 31 December 2020, the importer will pay the non-preferential tariff rate applied in that country to its imports.

Trading in services

To provide services in other countries you will need to follow the terms set out in the legislation of the host country. This includes commitments that the host country applies to all WTO members.

Public procurement contracts

Find out about the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) until 31 December 2020.

Contact your trade adviser to find out more about how WTO rules may change the way you trade with other countries.

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Published 15 August 2019
Last updated 4 February 2020 + show all updates
  1. Updated as the EU has notified those countries with which it has trade agreements that EU trade agreements can continue to apply to the UK during the transition period.

  2. First published.