IIUC WTO trade schedules can be unilaterally set, but are open to dispute and, when disputes are resolved, “certification”.

Schedules can exist and take effect while not certified.

I have read the following:

The other 163 WTO Members (actually, 27 of these are EU Member States, so there are fewer voices than that) do not have a veto over the UK’s scheduled commitments.

They do have a veto over the certification of these schedules. But certification has merely evidentiary weight. It is like coronation. The UK’s scheduled commitments exist even if they are not certified, just as a monarch is a monarch prior to coronation. Indeed, the EU itself has not traded under certified schedules since 1974. The sky has not fallen.

So some or all EU trade schedules remain uncertified. Is this correct and if so what are the implications (if any)?

1 Answer 1


You appear to be close to answering your own question here. Certification is a step in a bureaucratic process, mandated by international agreement, in which the Director General sends round a second copy of a draft schedule submitted by a member of the WTO, saying "right chaps, it's 3 months since I sent out the last copy of this one, and none of you have objected, so this one's real."

As such any draft schedule change the EU submits which is either:

  1. Sufficiently new that the circulated draft is less than 3 months old or,

  2. Received an objection to the draft within three months of its circulation

will not have had a certified copy circulated, thus, they would be subject to modification during the WTO dispute resolution procedure (which could presumably involve money moving from one state to another as reimbursement for tariffs already charged).

Taking a concrete example, in December 2016, the DG of the WTO certified modifications made by the EU to its schedules in recognition of expanding from 15 to 25 members in 2004. The version of the schedule eventually certified had been submitted in April 2014, with modifications in February and September 2016.

The principal difficulty for us mere mortals when seeking to see what changes between versions is that the WTO only releases the certified versions to the general public, so that unless the member making the submission releases the text, it can be hard to find the earlier versions.

  • Thank you. So the author of the quoted passage is simply saying some of all EU schedules have been in dispute at any one time since its creation?
    – 52d6c6af
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 9:03
  • 1
    Well, he or she could plausibly be saying that since 1974 EU schedules haven't been certified until after they were already out of date, due to later changes. For example the current lot being sorted out deals with the EU expanding to 28 members, and if it doesn't get resolved before March, then it'll be old again.
    – origimbo
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 9:15
  • Thank you. And schedules are changing on a frequent basis such that they might spend extended periods in non-certified status?
    – 52d6c6af
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 11:39
  • 1
    A combination of regular changes every few years and regular objections.
    – origimbo
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 12:23

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