I've heard trade agreements usually take years to negotiate and implement. Boris Johnson wants to negotiate a trade agreement with the EU in under a year. Are there any precedents for successfully negotiating so quickly?

What's the shortest amount of time a trade agreement has gone from opening negotiations to being enacted? If really simple trade agreements have been agreed and implemented quickly, what's the shortest time an agreement of the complexity suitable for the UK and EU has been negotiated and put in place?

  • The biggest part currently missing in the trade agreement between the UK and the EU is that nobody knows, yet, what the suitable complexity is, which increases the difficulty for the answer. Can we assume we're talking about the rather complex option, which is to leave the Single Market and Customs Union, and negotiate a new bespoke bilateral free trade and customs agreement?
    – Peter
    Jan 17, 2020 at 23:44
  • @Peter-UnbanRobertHarvey I've heard comparisons with Canada's EU trade agreement which took 20 years of planning and 7 years of negotiations. It's supposed to be a similar level of complexity.
    – CJ Dennis
    Jan 17, 2020 at 23:47

1 Answer 1


"put in place" is rather unclear. According to some (partial) statistics, the US has signed a FTA with Jordan in 4 months from the date when negotiations started, but for the same agreement to be implemented it took 18 months from the date when negotiations officially started. (The average for that sample, which only includes US treaties, was much higher though at 18/45 months.)

The article I linked also tries to find predictors for the length of negotiations, but the only reliable ones were a king being involved (as the US partner) or the US being in an election year (interestingly enough). The complexity of the deal was not a reliable predictor.

I don't know if some has done a similar study for EU treaties, but there's an article that says:

The shortest free trade agreement negotiations the EU has ever held were with South Korea and took two and a half years, with another eighteen months for approval and ratification.

In general, treaties with more countries involved take longer to negotiate.

  • As in 18 months of negotiations followed by 45 months to implementation?
    – CJ Dennis
    Jan 18, 2020 at 0:28
  • @CJDennis: no, both lengths of time are from the (official) start of negotiations. Jan 18, 2020 at 0:31

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