UK foreign policy in a shifting world order Contents

Chapter 4: Multilateralism and the rules-based international order

Challenges facing established international organisations

172.There are several challenges facing established international organisations: first, the qualified support of major powers for the concept of a rules-based international order—resulting from the changing balance of power and populism discussed in Chapter 2 and its root causes, in part rapid technological change; second, the growing complexity of international problems; and finally, the digital communications revolution.

173.The qualified support of major powers for the concept of a rules-based international order presents a major challenge to the established post-war institutions. Fabrizio Hochschild, Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Co-ordination, UN, told us that there was an increasing unwillingness by states to pursue multilateral solutions.256 Ms Thornberry told us that “there is a lack of respect for multilateralism; a lack of respect for organisations where the world comes together.”257 Lord Ricketts said that “some … major powers”, including China and Russia, were “impatient with the rules that they inherited from the post-war settlement.”258 Combined with the “major move of economic investment, power and influence towards Asia” described by Sir Martin Donnelly, this put “new challenges to a rules-based system that was designed primarily between North America and Europe.”259

174.We considered the approaches of the US, China and Russia to multilateral institutions. Professor Evans said that “multilateralism has certainly been under very visible, spectacular siege from the United States for quite some time, but really now under the Trump Administration in particular.”260

175.On 25 September 2018 President Trump made a speech to the UN General Assembly in which he said that “America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism. Around the world, responsible nations must defend against threats to sovereignty not just from global governance, but also from other, new forms of coercion and domination.”261

176.Professor Evans said the US’s “sense of exceptionalism—that the multilateral order is all fine and good provided that the United States is exercising a controlling influence over it”—pre-dates the current Administration.262 Mr Wilson said that, while President Trump and former President Obama were very different, both had “a sense of over-reach of American engagement in the world”.263 The Trump Administration had amplified that trend—seen, for example, by its imposition of tariffs on its allies, and withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran nuclear deal), the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.264

177.Dr Haass described President Trump as “sceptical of international organisations”. He “seems to prefer bilateralism, certainly in trade, and to prefer the freedom of action and manoeuvre that would come with the United States being apart from certain institutions”,265 a point also made by many of those we met during our visit to Washington.266 Dr Haass advised that “we have to take the Administration at face value and assume a certain anti-institutional bias in its behaviour”.267 Sir Mark Lyall Grant said that the US was “the traditional champion of the rules-based international order”, and so the fact that “the President of the United States, does not currently believe in it” was “certainly a challenge.”268 The Foreign Secretary did not think President Trump was “set on the wholesale destruction” of the rules-based international order. He thought the President was “trying to reconstruct the system to remove what he perceives as unfairness to America.”269

178.Turning to China, Professor Foot said that “in very broad terms, China has been at times a difficult but often a reasonable partner in the central organisations of the post-1945 world”.270 Mr Magnus said it “wants to play by the rules of established international organisations, up to a point, because the last thing that China wants is chaos and instability”.271

179.Professor Tsang said that “The Chinese Government are completely, totally and absolutely committed to globalisation as long as it works for the interests and advantage of China.”272 There was “a lot less acceptance” in China of the idea that “there are international rules and norms that we have to obey, even if sometimes they do not work in our interests”.273 Ms Gracie agreed with Professor Tsang: while President Xi was now presenting himself as a champion of globalisation, on “the question whether the view of globalisation is the same as ours, of course it is not”.274

180.Professor Morton described China as “quite a transactional actor in multilateral institutions”,275 an approach Ms Rand described as “multipronged” and not always coherent.276 For example, China had engaged “very effectively” in the WTO,277 and had a “genuine willingness” to take the lead on climate discussions according to Professor Evans,278 but had “looked to water down and shift the discourse and traditional narratives” particularly on human rights.279

181.Professor Evans said China’s government did “not want to be rule takers; they want to be rule makers”.280 Sir Simon Fraser said he did “not see China at the moment deliberately pursuing a policy of seeking to subvert the international system”. He thought that it sought “to benefit from within that system; it is playing a long game, which is what China does. As time goes by, the psychology and the balance of power within that system are shifting in China’s direction.”281 Both Henry Wilkinson, Head of Intelligence and Analysis, Risk Advisory Group, and Mr Magnus too said that China was seeking to change the international system towards its own rules.282 Some participants in the early-career experts roundtable suggested this was having some impact: they said the decline of multilateralism, and many states’ pursuit of international economic engagement but political unilateralism, may be influenced by China.283

182.Ms Thornberry said there was a role for China in filling the “vacuum” left by the United States. She gave the example of China’s progress on international climate change to show that in some cases “China has shown over the years that it can take a leadership role.”284

183.Lord Ricketts described China’s approach as twofold: to “reinvent” institutions—for example through establishing the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank—”and if necessary ignore them as well.”285 We consider China’s new international organisations later in this chapter.

184.Our witnesses also discussed the approach of Russia to the multilateral system. Lord Ricketts said Russia was “prepared to ignore” the rules-based system “where it suits their interests, as … in Crimea and Ukraine”.286 Sir Tony Brenton said that Russia regarded the rules-based international order as “having been created by the West for the West’s interests and still being driven largely by those concerns”. He said that “when the Russians hear the words ‘liberal international order’, what they think is, ‘US unipolarity’”.287

185.Dr Antonenko said that Russia had perceived multilateral institutions to “have been broken for some time now.” She thought that this was “in many ways … part of the reason for the annexation of Crimea and the Russian intervention in the Donbass: they … felt that there was no longer any platform on which Russia’s interests could be heard, respected and acknowledged.”288

186.Dr Antonenko said the current situation was that “pretty much every institution which Russia and the West are members of is … paralysed completely.” This was “a very dangerous phase”, where there was “disagreement about norms”. This resulted in institutions such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the UN Security Council becoming “just platforms on which there is endless debate and controversy”.289 Dr Kuhrt, however, said that Russia was “not necessarily trying to paralyse or break” multilateral organisations, and wanted “to maintain those that already exist” where they suited Russia’s interests, such as the UN, where it has a veto.290

187.A second challenge to established international organisations is the complexity of issues facing the international community. Mr Hochschild told us that the major international issues facing countries—such as migration, the impact of climate change and the growth in terrorism—transcend national boundaries.291 Dr Kello thought international organisations such as the UN and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had “retained a lot of their salience and effectiveness when it comes to addressing traditional problems”, such as non-proliferation. However “the agenda of issues and problems has grown drastically in scope”. There were “a new suite of problems—things such as information warfare and politically motivated hacking, the incapacitation of vital infrastructures using malware and so on”. 292 Mr Kramer likewise identified new challenges, such as the “problems that exist with new tech, the impact of the private sector and empowerment of non-state actors”. These issues made “for a different world, and that’s a major change from the turn of the millennium”.293

188.James Rogers, Director, Global Britain Programme, Henry Jackson Society, identified a final and pervasive challenge to the rules based international order as the “digital communication revolution”. He said that “more people than ever” were “equipped with electronic devices, and connected through social media”. This provided new ways for countries which either take a revisionist approach to the multilateral system—such as Russia—or “shirk” their “responsibility in the burden of upholding the rules-based order”294 to “influence social, political and economic ideas and traditions in unpredictable ways”.295

The UN

189.The United Nations Association UK (UNA-UK) said that “rising big power tensions”—as set out above—had been reflected in recent proceedings of the UN Security Council.296 Professor Evans described “a hail of vetoes” on Syria, “particularly from Russia and to some extent China”297, and UNA-UK highlighted stalemate over Iran, Israel–Palestine, Yemen, Syria and Myanmar.298 Lord Ricketts said that this “difficulty of reaching agreement on major issues in the Security Council” meant that the UN was “to some extent blocked”.299

Table 1: Vetoes at the UN Security Council 1990–present


Agenda item

Permanent Member casting negative vote

1 June 2018

Middle East situation, including the Palestinian question


10 April 2018

Middle East

Russian Federation

26 February 2018

Middle East

Russian Federation

18 December 2017

Middle East situation, including the Palestinian question


17 November 2017

Middle East

Russian Federation

16 November 2017

Middle East

Russian Federation

24 October 2017

Middle East

Russian Federation

12 April 2017

Middle East

Russian Federation

28 February 2017

Middle East


Russian Federation

5 December 2016

Middle East


Russian Federation

8 October 2016

Middle East

Russian Federation

29 July 2015

Letter dated 28 February 2014 from the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/2014/136)

Russian Federation

8 July 2015

The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Russian Federation

22 May 2014

Middle East—Syria


Russian Federation

15 March 2014

Letter dated 28 February 2014 from the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/2014/136)

Russian Federation

19 July 2012

Middle East—Syria


Russian Federation

4 February 2012

Middle East—Syria


Russian Federation

4 October 2011

Middle East—Syria


Russian Federation

18 February 2011

Middle East situation, including the Palestinian question


15 June 2009


Russian Federation

11 July 2008

Peace and Security—Africa (Zimbabwe)


Russian Federation

12 January 2007



Russian Federation

11 November 2006

Middle East situation, including the Palestinian question


13 July 2006

Middle East situation, including the Palestinian question


5 October 2004

Middle East situation, including the Palestinian question


21 April 2004


Russian Federation

25 March 2004

Middle East situation, including the Palestinian question


14 October 2003

The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question


16 September 2003

The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question


20 December 2002

The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question


30 June 2002

The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina


14-15 December 2001

The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question


27-28 March 2001

The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question


25 February 1999

The situation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia


21 March 1997

The situation in the occupied Arab territories


7 March 1997

The situation in the occupied Arab territories


10 January 1997

Central America: efforts towards peace


17 May 1995

The situation in the occupied Arab territories


2 December 1994

The situation in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Russian Federation

11 May 1993

The situation in Cyprus

Russian Federation

31 May 1990

The situation in the occupied Arab territories


17 January 1990

Letter dated 3 January 1990 from Nicaragua to the President of the Security Council


Source: United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld Library, ‘Security Council—Veto List (in reverse chronological order)’: [accessed 4 December 2018]

190.Professor Evans said it was necessary to “restore credibility to the Security Council” by re-establishing “much greater willingness to achieve consensus on … difficult issues.”300 Dr Haass thought such a development unlikely: “We are not going to move towards a Security Council-dominated world.”301 He said “the structure of the Security Council—who is there and who is not, and the role of the veto—is going to dramatically limit the UN’s role”.302

191.Our witnesses reflected on the different approaches of major countries. Sir Peter Westmacott said there was widespread concern about the US “going through the machinery of international organisations, such as the Security Council, in a way that is somewhat cavalier and not based on the usual process of trying to seek allies”.303 He gave the examples of the US Ambassador to the UN having “more or less said, ‘We know where you live’, to those who dared to vote in a way she did not want” at the Security Council,304 and the US’s decision to refer street protests in Iran—not a traditional national security issue—to the Security Council.305

192.As discussed in Chapter 2, the US Administration has withdrawn from a number of UN-related agreements. In June 2017 President Trump announced that the US would cease implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change, which built on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.306 Professor Evans said this had “alienated just about everybody”.307 In May 2018 the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, which had been endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015).308 Professor Evans described this as “a spectacular source of alienation for everybody except Israel”.309

193.In June 2018 the US announced its decision to leave the UN Human Rights Council. In his speech to the UN General Assembly on 25 September 2018, President Trump reiterated criticisms that the council was “a grave embarrassment to this institution, shielding egregious human rights abusers while bashing America and its many friends”. He also reiterated that the US does not recognise and will not co-operate with the International Criminal Court.310

194.Turning to China, Professor Foot said that it “states that the United Nations is the most authoritative, representative and important international organisation that we have and that it cherishes the UN charter”.311 Lord Ricketts, however, said China was reluctant to be drawn into “wider responsibilities [for] international peace and security” under the UN Charter,312 although it is a member of the P5, and Ms Rand said it “perhaps does not see itself benefiting from the traditional systems of the UN Security Council and the P5”.313 However, Professor Evans said China was “an enthusiastic participant” in UN peacekeeping.314 It had been “very visibly and actively” involved, “more so than any of the other” permanent member of the UN Security Council.315

195.Professor Foot said that in the Human Rights Council, China was “using within the UN system the more powerful economic weight of their contributions” both “to try to restrict the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and to prevent UN peace operations spending … a significant part of their budget on the human rights aspects”.316

196.Both Professor Evans and Sir Mark Lyall Grant expressed concern at China’s “militarisation of the South China Sea”,317 in breach of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In 2016 an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under UNCLOS found in favour of the Philippines in a dispute with China on this issue,318 a verdict which China has rejected.319 Professor Evans said China was “thumbing its nose at the Law of the Sea Treaty and the Hague Tribunal decision”.320 Sir Mark Lyall Grant described this as “a threat” to the rules-based international order.321

197.On Russia, Dr Kuhrt said that it “is a member of the P5, and according to Russia the UN is working very well at the moment”. It aimed “to ensure that the locus of international authority remains within the UN Security Council” for this reason.322 Sir Tony Brenton said that Russia would “continue to use its veto” at the UN Security Council “if it thinks its interests are under threat”.323 Consistent with the increasingly close relationship between China and Russia discussed in Chapter 2, Dr Antonenko added that Russia and China “quite often co-ordinate their positions” at the Security Council.324

198.Professor Sullivan de Estrada said that the UN was “hugely important to India”.325 The norm of non-intervention was “important for India’s security concerns” and participation in the Security Council—India has been a member seven times—”brings status benefits”. It had also made an “unsurpassed contribution” to peacekeeping missions. However, India was pursuing a permanent seat on the Security Council, and if membership remained “an institutional reflection of Western dominance”326 and India continued to be “side-lined and left out of conversations at the global high tables”, it would “turn … perhaps to smaller groupings that exclude the traditional centres of power in the West.”327 These new organisations are discussed further later in this chapter.

199.Sir Mark Lyall Grant said that reform to the Security Council was “at the forefront” of the necessary changes to global governance structures.328 The UK Government supports such reform.329 Sir Mark Lyall Grant said that “one of the biggest obstacles” was China, which did not wish to “share its permanent membership limelight with its Asian neighbours Japan and India”. Reform was nonetheless needed, as a way of “binding some of the emerging powers, not just China, into the governance structure in a way that makes them feel ownership of it so they will take more responsibility for it”.330

200.Lord Hague said the case for reform to the UN Security Council was “worthy” but “impossible to bring about at any point in the foreseeable future”. He thought that “by the time anybody managed to bring it about, the correct countries to bring in probably would have changed.” Failure to reform the Security Council to date had not “either destroyed or seriously undermined the legitimacy of the UN Security Council”, but if reforms were not made by 2045, “it will be losing its authority and legitimacy”.331

Internal UN reform

201.Dr Haass said that, rather than focus on the Security Council, “the most important priority for the UN in the coming years might be to strengthen some of its capabilities; for example, professionalised peacekeeping and improving the World Health Organisation”. Mr Maidment said the UN was “a hugely bloated and not necessarily very effective bureaucracy”,332 and the UNA-UK also said that reform was “much needed”.333

202.In our report, The UK and the UN: Priorities for the new Secretary-General, published in November 2016, we identified a number of institutional reforms to overcome fragmentation and incoherence in the UN system, and allow the organisation to meet new demands and challenges.334 We emphasised the importance of rationalising the UN budget and improving leadership. In our follow-up report, The United Nations General Assembly 2018, published in June 2018, we called for action to rationalise UN structures, and to foster greater coherence among UN agencies and officials.335

203.The US has threatened to reduce its funding for UN Peacekeeping and to move from assessed to voluntary contributions.336 The UNA-UK said the US Administration was pushing for UN reform, but via a “combative, cuts-focussed approach”. The US “drive for quick, heavy-handed action could lead to budget cuts without the necessary changes to make UN programmes more effective.” The US’s approach was “doing little to create the consensus required for reform. On the contrary, it is exacerbating divisions between the wider UN membership and the Security Council”.337

204.The Foreign Secretary’s view is that the Trump Administration’s objective is to reform rather than disrupt and damage the UN. We are more sceptical, having heard evidence of actions it has taken which could undermine the UN. The Government should continue to resist US challenges to the UN and should work with other like-minded countries to compensate any resulting shortfalls in resources for the UN and its agencies.

205.Reform to the UN Security Council is necessary but difficult to achieve. We regret that efforts by the UK and France to reform the Security Council by expanding its membership have not progressed. The Government should focus on advocating reforms to the UN to overcome fragmentation and incoherence, as set out in our report The United Nations General Assembly 2018.

206.The Government should support efforts by the UN to engage with other groups, such as NGOs, to make it a more responsive and modern organisation, more than 70 years after it was founded.


207.General Sir Adrian Bradshaw said that “for decades, the bedrock of the defence stability of Europe has been NATO”.338 The principle of collective defence is enshrined in Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty (see Box 3). Our witnesses raised a number of issues facing the Alliance, including the commitment of the US and of Turkey, and how it should respond to cyberwarfare.

208.In our report, The NATO Summit 2018, published on 5 June 2018, we concluded that “the degree and credibility of the US commitment to the principle of collective defence that underpins NATO remains uncertain”.339 Mr Wilson said that President Trump was questioning or reversing the established idea that NATO was the best means for the US to guarantee its own security.340 This resulted from “a dystopian world view that comes out of the Oval Office that our allies are taking advantage of us”.341

Box 3: NATO’s Article 5

The North Atlantic Treaty, also known as the Washington Treaty, was signed in 1949 and forms the legal basis for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

Article 5 of the treaty states that an armed attack on one Ally is considered an attack on all. The collective defence clause reads:

  • “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
  • Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.”

Article 5 has been invoked only once in the history of the Alliance, in response to the 11 September 2001 attacks against the US. NATO responded by establishing the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which took part in the war in Afghanistan.

Source: NATO, ‘Collective defence—Article 5’: [accessed 4 December 2018]

209.Lord Ricketts said that in the context of President Trump’s scepticism about multilateralism overall, his “hesitations over the value of NATO and over recommitting to the Article 5” were “most worrying to me when it comes to our national security”.342 Chancellor Merkel’s statement after the 2017 G7 Summit that “Europeans must take our fate into our own hands” had been a “significant statement from the German Chancellor and an indication of declining European confidence in the American underwriting of NATO.”343 Sir Adrian Bradshaw said “we have been reminded that we cannot take for granted the size of the American contribution to that collective effort”.344

210.Sir Peter Westmacott, however, said that “on NATO we are in a better place than we were when the President appeared to question the United States commitment to Article 5”, a point also made by Lord Hague and Lord Ricketts.345 During our visit to Washington, officials from across the Administration expressed their, and the President’s, support for the Alliance.346 Dr Jim Townsend, Adjunct Senior Fellow, Center for New American Security, and Dr Schake said that there was also widespread support among the US public for NATO: Dr Shacke said the US was “the NATO country in which the largest proportion of the population believes that an attack on any NATO ally should be met with a military response from the United States”.347 However, the US public thought European nations should contribute more to their own defence through NATO.348

211.In 2006 an agreement was reached by the defence ministers of NATO countries to commit a minimum of 2% of their GDP to defence spending.349 This was formally agreed at the 2014 NATO Summit (see Box 4). General Sir Adrian Bradshaw said 2% of GDP was “ a rather useful marker in the sand for the nations of NATO in the absence of any other helpful way of defining what capability is required, because it is by far the easiest way of getting people up to some sort of sensible level. “. If all NATO countries met their commitments, “collectively we would be a lot better off”.350

Box 4: The NATO 2% spending commitment

At its 2014 summit in Wales, NATO leaders agreed the following statement:

“we agree to reverse the trend of declining defence budgets and aim to increase defence expenditure in real terms as GDP grows; we will direct our defence budgets as efficiently and effectively as possible; we will aim to move towards the existing NATO guideline of spending 2% of GDP on defence within a decade,351 with a view to fulfilling NATO capability priorities. We will display the political will to provide required capabilities and deploy forces when they are needed.”

As of June 2018, of the 29 member states, only five were estimated to be meeting the 2% target: Estonia (2.14%), Greece (2.27%), Latvia (2.0%), the UK (2.1%) and the United States (3.5%). The estimated average expenditure on defence by the European members of NATO in 2018 is 1.5%, an increase from 1.44% in 2014.

Source: NATO, ‘The Wales Declaration on the Transatlantic Bond’: [accessed 4 December 2018] and NATO, ‘Defence Expenditure of NATO Countries (2011–2018)’: [accessed 4 December 2018]

212.Dr Townsend told us that President Trump had not understood how NATO was funded and so mistakenly thought that other Allies had not paid their ‘dues’.352 One senior official we met in Washington said that when considering President Trump’s criticism of European countries’ contributions to NATO, they should “focus on the message not the style”.353

213.Sir Peter Westmacott said that President Trump “had a point … in saying that America was carrying a disproportionate share of the cost of the Alliance. It cannot be right or sustainable for America to pay 75% of the cost of an alliance of nearly 30 different countries.”354 General Sir Adrian Bradshaw too said that “individual nations within the European part of NATO” should be prepared “to contribute fairly”.355 The Foreign Secretary said the President was right to say “that it was unacceptable for the United States to be spending 4% of its GDP on defence and for many European countries not even to be honouring the 2% NATO commitment”. He had been “seeking to get his NATO allies to agree that there should be proper burden-sharing and once he had secured—or believed he had secured—that, things would carry on as normal.”356 We raised the issue of the NATO target of 2% of GDP on defence spending in our report, The NATO Summit 2018, published on 5 June 2018.357

214.After the 2018 NATO Summit, President Trump said “NATO now is a really a fine-tuned machine”. NATO countries were “paying money that they never paid before” and “the United States is being treated much more fairly”.358

215.Mr Wilson said that NATO was in any case made resilient by the “habit of co-operation”. The UK and US military establishments were closely enmeshed—through NATO’s integrated military command structure—and this was more significant than the approach of any one leader.359 This is consistent with Sir Mark Lyall Grant’s assessment of the UK–US relationship, discussed in Chapter 2.

216.On Turkey’s commitment to NATO, Sir Peter Westmacott and Dr Haass said that the US–Turkey relationship had deteriorated.360 Dr Haass said Turkey was “distancing itself from the United States, NATO and Europe”.361 However, Sir Peter Westmacott said he did not think Turkey was on the verge of leaving NATO.362

217.Finally, our witnesses considered the challenges posed to NATO by cyberwarfare (an issue discussed in Chapter 2). Ms Maigre, Director, NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, said NATO had been working closely on cyber issues since 2014, and had “defined cyberspace as an operational domain: that is, a likely battlefield” at the 2016 Warsaw Summit.363

218.In order to respond as an Alliance, NATO countries would need “a common understanding that international law applies in cyberspace”, “basic cyber literacy or situational awareness”, and to “be similarly attuned to the threat”. Ms Maigre said NATO now had a plan “to implement cyberspace as a domain of operations”, covering 10 areas, including systems development, command and control, NATO doctrine and strategic communications. NATO Allies were not yet at full readiness on all these issues, but “considerable progress” was being made. She highlighted the establishment of the Cyber Security Operations Centre in Mons, which was “dedicated to thinking about and planning the role of cyber in NATO operations”, and was “the custodian of NATO doctrine on cyber operations”.364 She drew to our attention “good progress” on training, through “cyber exercises [which] offer that lifelike environment, which is second best to actually being attacked in real life.”365

219.Ms Maigre said that a collective NATO response to a cyber-attack would take place only if that country chose to refer the issue to the Alliance.366 On the possible use of Article 5 in relation to cyber-attacks—an issue raised in our report, The NATO Summit 2018367she said that many of the “attacks currently going on in cyberspace qualify below Article 5”368. It was important to recognise that invoking Article 5 was “the ultimate response”. Sir Adrian Bradshaw said:

“Article 5, as applied to more conventional military situations, is good in that it is very clear to understand. There are obvious physical red lines and national boundaries. The incursion of military forces across a boundary is very identifiable and gives a very obvious trigger, that everybody understands, for collective defence to be invoked.”369

“New elements”, such as “cyber and a rather different information environment” led to “some ambiguity when interpreting actions and deciding whether they represent overt aggression”.370

220.In March 2018 Lord Hague proposed that NATO should develop an “Article 5B”, to “make clear that the use of a hybrid and undeclared attack would trigger a collective response from the Alliance”.371 Mr Kramer thought this was already clear: “NATO decided a couple of years ago that cyber-attack can fall under Article 5—we didn’t define how much harm but it was more the consequences and the resulting politics and geopolitics”.372

221.Dr Franke said that Article 5 was “perfectly prepared for different scenarios”. It did “not specifically state how one needs to react to an attack”—it was possible for the Alliance to “recognise that there has been an attack on a NATO member” but to decide that “the attack is not sufficient to warrant a response”. She said there was “a lot of flexibility” and she “would not want to expand it [Article 5] at the risk of watering it down”.373 Sir Adrian Bradshaw too said that Article 5’s “degree of ambiguity” was “helpful”. He explained that it gave NATO countries “a chance to sit down as an alliance and decide on the appropriate proportionate response with cool heads, without being forced to do something because one has drawn a red line.” He thought that modernising Article 5 would be “potentially very tricky”.374 Mr Kramer concluded that NATO Allies “don’t need a red line but we should have responses in our pocket and we would undertake proportionate responses in the event of an attack that called for them”.375

222.Ms Maigre said that the Alliance was still considering measures available to it below the level of Article 5. It was “important to look at what already exists in NATO’s toolbox.” For example, there were “the various measures that are indicated in the North Atlantic Treaty itself, between Article 3, which requires each state to build its own resilience, and Article 4, which allows states to convene consultations among all allies.”376

223.We commend the UK’s efforts to encourage European Allies to meet their agreed 2% NATO commitment. This is important both to ensure that NATO has the requisite capabilities and to sustain US support for the Alliance.

224.Quality of spending is also important: NATO Allies should spend a substantial proportion of their 2% defence expenditure on major equipment including research and development.

225.The strategic ambiguity of NATO’s Article 5 in the context of cyber-attacks provides Allies a degree of flexibility and guards against unwanted escalation. We conclude that amending Article 5 is unnecessary; the Government should oppose any proposals to revise it.

Global trade and the Bretton Woods institutions

226.Sir Martin Donnelly said that the global financial crisis had called into question “whether the economic system we have been used to, which had a lot of credibility globally until [then] and which no longer reflects accurately the economic balance of power in the world, serves anyone’s interests.”377 This has implications for the global financial and economic institutions—such as the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO.


227.US officials we met during our visit to Washington said there was concern in the Administration about the workings of the WTO and support for its reform.378 They said that some WTO members were blocking efforts to reduce trade barriers through the use of vetoes.379 Sir Peter Westmacott saw continuity in the US’s approach to the WTO: it “uses the machinery of the WTO just as it did in the past. There are moments when it slaps huge countervailing tariffs on imports from countries that it thinks are dumping. America has done that in the past and will do it in the future, with all the consequences that flow from it.”380

228.Dr Richard Haass said that the US was starting to use the “various trade ‘remedies’ that are available unilaterally”, such as sanctions. But a “major American distancing from the WTO” was also “quite possible”.381

229.In his address to the UN General Assembly in September 2018, President Trump said the system of world trade was “in dire need of change”. He said:

“countries were admitted to the World Trade Organisation that violate every single principle on which the organisation is based. While the United States and many other nations play by the rules, these countries use government-run industrial planning and state-owned enterprises to rig the system in their favour. They engage in relentless product dumping, forced technology transfer, and the theft of intellectual property.”

He said that since China had joined the WTO, the US had “lost over 3 million manufacturing jobs, nearly a quarter of all steel jobs, and 60,000 factories”, and “racked up $13 trillion in trade deficits”.382

230.The US would “no longer tolerate such abuse” and he outlined “tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese-made goods for a total, so far, of $250 billion”.383

231.In addition to imposing tariffs and threats from President Trump to leave the WT0,384 the US Administration has twice blocked the reappointment of a judge to the WTO’s Appellate Body,385 a standing body of seven judges which hears appeals in disputes brought by WTO members.386 There must be three judges for the Appellate Body to report. The fourth member of the panel’s term expired on 30 September 2018; the US opposed his reappointment. Its objection to the reappointment was “no reflection of any one individual but reflects our principled concerns”. These concerns included the Appellate Body’s reports having “gone far beyond the text setting out WTO rules in varied areas” and its “disregard for the rules set by WTO members.”387

232.Ms Bronnert said that the US Administration was raising “legitimate” questions about “whether the appellate body has started to expand its remit in a way that was not intended when that body was set up.” 388 The EU has agreed to work with the US Administration towards reform of the WTO to try to break the impasse,389 and Ms Bronnert said the UK was “part of the EU common position”.390 The Foreign Secretary said there were “very fair reasons why” the US “should want WTO reform”.391 Sir Martin Donnelly, however, said “the American Administration’s attacks on the World Trade Organisation, imperfect though it is, are definitely a move in the wrong direction” for maintaining open trade and investment flows.392

233.Other witnesses reflected on the perspectives of China and India. Mr Magnus said that joining the WTO had been very positive for China and had been a catalyst for economic growth.393 Ms Gracie and Dr Steve Tsang both alluded to President Xi’s speech at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, where he said that China’s decision to join the WTO had “proved to be a right strategic choice”.394

234.On India, Professor Sullivan de Estrada said that while there was “a tendency in some countries” to regard the WTO as “an essential part of the rules-based economic order”, she was “not sure that India sees the WTO in quite that way”. India had “not seen huge advantages to itself”, which meant “the WTO is not necessarily an important home for trade from an Indian perspective”. Its approach had been that of “brinkmanship”, and there might be “a growing discontent with that institution among India’s traditional developing country followership”.395

The Bretton Woods institutions

235.The Overseas Development Institute said that the multilateral development banks were “today considered by many—particularly in developing countries—to be too inflexible, bureaucratic and dominated by wealthy non-borrowing shareholder countries, so that their governance … does not fully reflect the new global economic order”.396

236.Professor Foot noted that China had “asked for a larger voice in the IMF and the World Bank”.397 Ms Rand said that China had assessed that the IMF “was not fair towards China”, and that the IMF had “thought that China would not reform in a rapid enough fashion”.398 For example, a significant reform to the IMF—to increase China’s voting share from 3.8% to 6.1%—was agreed in 2010 but not implemented until 2016, because the US Congress did not ratify the agreement. The US continues to hold a veto in the Executive Board’s formal decision-making process.399

237.Professor Evans said that this reluctance to reform the Bretton Woods institutions was “counterproductive or against the possibility of bringing China into that order.”400 A number of witnesses, including Lord Hague, Lord Ricketts and Sir Simon Fraser, said the creation of new financial institutions by developing countries, led by China, was in part the result of such delays and partial reforms.401 These new non-Western regional organisations are discussed below.

238.Maintaining the World Trade Organisation and the Bretton Woods institutions, and developing the rules of international trade and finance, will become even more important to the UK after it leaves the EU. This will be necessary to prevent trade anarchy, leading to worse things—as was the hideous story of the 1930s.

239.The US Administration’s unilateral approach to trade is a major concern. The Government must do all it can to uphold the functioning of the WTO. It should consider with like-minded countries ways of circumventing the US blockage on appointments to the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanisms.

New non-Western regional organisations and groupings

240.Mr King said:

“We are beginning to witness the creation of 21st-century institutions that look rather like the globalisation institutions of the mid-20th century, but they are China-led rather than American-led or European-led. There is a different flavour to them. They may be rivals to the existing institutions or they may simply be bolt-ons to those institutions, but they are different and they reflect China’s increasing political reach.”402

He said that China had identified “an opportunity in Asia, and indeed in Europe, which partly results from the fact that the US is no longer so enthusiastically embracing the global institutions that the US itself helped to create in 1944 and beyond”.403

241.Mr King said that China was beginning to exercise a “gravitational pull” in Asia, and to an extent there was “increasing support for institutions that are China-led” such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO).404 Professor Sullivan de Estrada said China had “approached India at the beginning of the founding” of the AIIB, and so “India felt included”. India was “the second largest voting partner” in the AIIB, and “the largest recipient of loans”.405

242.Professor Foot said that new regional organisations established by China were different to existing international institutions: the new organisations “have specific low-level goals that are not particularly demanding on the individual players within the system.” She described them as “not binding … in any sense”, and there was “no pooling of sovereignty of any kind”.406

243.Lord Hague said “global governance” was “further fractured” by the creation of such organisations.407 Sir Mark Lyall Grant said that “the one thing” that organisations such as the AIIB and the SCO—discussed below—and the Belt and Road Initiative (discussed in Chapter 2) “have in common is that they do not include the United States”. They were “rival organisations” to the established post-war multilateral system. He said that “in future this poses a threat to the current international governance system”, but qualified that this was “more of a potential threat rather than a direct national security threat”.408

New financial institutions

244.The AIIB and the New Development Bank became operational in January and February 2016 respectively. Box 5 provides an overview of these two organisations.

Box 5: The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is a multilateral development bank “with a mission to improve social and economic outcomes in Asia.” Headquartered in Beijing, it began operations in January 2016 and has 87 approved members worldwide (as of 8 October 2018).

The AIIB has 24 non-regional members, including the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.

A total of USD 96.19 billion is subscribed to the AIIB by its members, of which 76.8% is from regional members and 23.22% is from non-regional members. The countries with the largest vote share are:

(1)China (26.6%)

(2)India (7.6%)

(3)Russia (6.0%)

(4)Germany (4.2%)

(5)South Korea (3.5%)

(6)Australia (3.5%)

(7)Indonesia (3.2%)

(8)France (3.2%)

(9)The UK (2.9%)

(10)Turkey (2.8%)

Major decisions taken by the AIIB require the consent of at least 75% of the voting shares, giving China veto power.

The UK holds a seat on the AIIB’s Board of Directors, where it represents seven other non-regional members. In 2016 Sir Danny Alexander, former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was appointed as the AIIB’s Vice President and Corporate Secretary.

The New Development Bank

The New Development Bank (NDB) is a multilateral investment bank established by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in 2014. Its aim is to “mobilise resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies, as well as in developing countries”.

The NDB was established with an initial authorised capital of USD 100 billion.

The NDB’s Articles of Agreement state that all members of the UN could become members of the bank, but as of October 2018 no non-BRICS country had joined. Each of the NDB’s five members have equal voting rights.

Source: AIIB, ‘Introduction—Who we are’:; and ‘Members and Prospective Members of the Bank’: [accessed 4 December 2018]; New Development Bank, ‘About us’: [accessed 4 December 2018]

245.The Overseas Development Institute said that there were “considerable funding gaps in infrastructure development in the region” which the AIIB could “help fill”. Competition between the AIIB and the existing multilateral development banks (such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank) could “help make operations of other financiers more efficient”.409

246.Mr King said that there was “no doubt that, whereas the Asian Development Bank is led by the Japanese as a proxy of the Americans and the World Bank is led by the Americans, the AIIB is fundamentally different.”410 Mr Maidment too said that the AIIB was “part of a Chinese attempt to create a parallel global governance architecture that will run at a lower level but will eventually compete” with the post-war global institutions.411

The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation

247.Box 6 sets out the role and origins of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO).

Box 6: The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation

The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) is an intergovernmental organisation formed in 2001 by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In June 2017 India and Pakistan became members.

Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia are observer states. President Xi Jinping has signalled China’s support for Iran’s accession to the SCO, following the lifting of UN sanctions against Tehran.

The original mission of the SCO was co-operation on security issues, with regional security and extremism a particular focus. This aspect of the SCO has been expanded with joint SCO military exercises. The remit of the SCO has expanded over time and it now describes its “main goals” as:

“strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states; promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, research, technology and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas; making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.”

Source: ‘The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, ‘The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’: [accessed 4 December 2018]

248.Professor Morton said the SCO was “representative of a different kind of regional multilateralism”. It was a framework for managing many “shared, overlapping but also diverse interests”,412 including energy security.413 Dr Antonenko described it as a “framework” for Russia and China to “reconcile their interests in central Asia in a peaceful manner”,414 while Sir Tony Brenton described it as “basically an east Asian anti-NATO group”.415

249.Jean-Christophe Iseux, Baron von Pfetten, former specially invited member, Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said the SCO was important both as an organisation which was “binding” Russia and China together, and as a possible future “NATO of the East”.416 Dr Antonenko, however, said that the SCO used to have “a major role, but its importance is now declining”,417 while Dr Kuhrt described it as “somewhat moribund”.418 Dr Antonenko attributed this to China “losing interest”. It had wanted the SCO “to become a more economic institution”,419 but China’s proposal to develop a SCO development bank was blocked first by Uzbekistan, and then by Russia.420 China now instead had the BRI initiative and the AIIB.421 Mr Pantucci said China was also sceptical of the SCO as a security organisation. Its creation of a separate grouping—the Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism with Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan—to deal with Afghanistan, “one of the biggest hard-power issues” facing the SCO, demonstrated that China “does not put a huge amount of faith” in the SCO.422 China had also allowed the inclusion of both India and Pakistan, which had made the organisation “incoherent”.423 Russia was also “losing interest” in the SCO, in favour of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation.424

250.Mr Pantucci said that the SCO “cannot do a huge amount, because the members do not all agree on what should be done.” He said that while “it is nice to have a forum for engaging with everyone in this way … everyone has a veto”.425 For China, the SCO was “another umbrella … a multilateral organisation that they can use, but ultimately they get their business done at a bilateral level.”426


251.Professor Foot said that “if one looks inside these organisations, one will probably find a particular narrative and a set of policies that one might describe as something of a challenge to the liberal aspects of the international order.”427 Witnesses said that the lending conditions of China were different to those of the West. However, Professor Foot noted that “in its early projects” the AIIB was “working with well-established international organisations such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank and is therefore to some degree subject to the lending conditions of those banks”.428

252.Sir Martin Donnelly saw a role for the UK “in trying to maintain a degree of good governance in difficult parts of the world” where China was investing. He thought it “in no one’s interest to find, say, African countries under great pressure because their governance systems are collapsing, and other investors, whether Chinese or European, then facing difficult choices about how to respond, or how not to respond.”429 Professor Miskimmon and Professor O’Loughlin, Professor Clarke and the Environmental Investigation Agency also suggested a role for the UK in the AIIB and the BRI in maintaining legal standards, ensuring projects are managed responsibly and habituating China to the rules-based international order.430

253.The FCO said that the UK had “participated in the negotiation of the AIIB’s founding principles to ensure it is well governed, open, transparent and accountable”. The UK currently had “one of the five Vice President positions and a seat on the Board of Directors.”431 Sir Peter Westmacott said that “by joining at an early stage”, the UK was “able to influence the principles on which that investment bank was formed”.432 He said that joining the AIIB had resulted in a “spat” with the US: “everybody from President Obama downwards was initially extremely critical of the position that we took”. However, “an awful lot of people in the State Department and in international trading organisations took the view that in fact the UK had made a sensible choice”.433

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (the Trans-Pacific Partnership)

254.Dr Schake noted that Canada, Japan and Australia had “agreed to move ahead with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, even without American participation … because it remains in their interests”.434 Eleven countries have decided to continue with the rebranded Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which will reduce both tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade. The participants are Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam.435 It will come into force on 30 December.

255.Lord Hague thought “joining … organisations [such as the CPTPP] for trade links could be meaningful and important”. He said that the UK would be likely to find “a good deal of support” from “countries such as Japan” for this.436 In October, Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, said Japan would welcome the UK into the CPTPP “with open arms”.437 The Foreign Secretary said he “would love us to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.”438

256.We welcome the UK’s engagement with new international institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The UK should use its membership to seek to shape the lending terms and governance of these bodies.

257.The Government should also follow closely the development of other regional groupings—such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. We echo Lord Hague’s view that participation in new organisations could be very valuable, and we highlight the potential of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and the Pacific Alliance.

The role of networks

258.Mr Kramer reflected that “the world is made up more now of series of networks that are interacting”. He said that “a state is a key element in many of the networks but so are the non-states actors”. He gave the example of security issues—as discussed in Chapter 3—where “non-state actors are more engaged”. They could be used to meet new challenges such as “new tech, the impact of the private sector and empowerment of non-state actors”.439

259.The British Council emphasised the importance of engaging with “new international networks and actors, in addition to traditional diplomatic relationships.” It said that “the role and importance of networks and non-state institutions in international relations is significantly increasing”. The world was becoming increasingly “hyperconnected”, with an “increasing role in global policymaking and networks of influence” played by “global civil society organisations, businesses, NGOs, universities, media organisations and cultural institutions, as well as influential individuals”.440

The Commonwealth

260.The Foreign Secretary said the Commonwealth was “particularly important because it is the strongest north/south alliance of nations there is. It is quite unusual. It has a mixture of established and newer democracies, but democratic values run through all Commonwealth members.”441

261.Lord Hague said its value was “as an extraordinary network”.442 It could be used for “expanding trading links, links between universities and the myriad of civil society links”. The FCO too said the Commonwealth “stimulates a wide range of political, non-governmental and people-to-people engagement across different regional and cultural environments”. The “global and diverse character” of the Commonwealth and the “enduring nature” of these relationships “offers the UK and its members potential, long term, to reinforce the international rules-based order, and to complement and enhance UK engagement in other multilateral fora.” 443

262.Sir Ciarán Devane said he “absolutely subscribe[d] to the vision of the Commonwealth as a network.” He said it “gives us something extra. It allows us to leverage the diversity of the Commonwealth and have conversations that we could not have just bilaterally”, for example with schools and universities.444

263.Some witnesses ascribed less significance to the Commonwealth as a forum in itself. Lord Hague said while its reach was “extraordinary” it was “quite difficult to turn it into something with a united political impetus or trading purpose … You soon come up against the limits of the political and diplomatic purposes for which you can use such a disparate group from so many continents.”445

264.Mr Roy-Chaudhury said that there was some interest from India in “re-energising the Commonwealth and on stepping up India’s role” in it. The UK and India could work together to some extent, but although India had “found a new rationale for the Commonwealth”, this “will not necessarily coincide with the UK’s views”. India looked at the Commonwealth “from its own national interest perspective”, considering issues such as “How do you deal with small states in the Commonwealth with which India does not have diplomatic relations?” Delhi would “try to shift the traditional Commonwealth human rights-based approach to one that focuses on capacity development and so on”.446

265.The Government should be willing to develop and work with appropriate networks (such as the UN Global Compact, which supports the global business community in advancing UN goals and values through responsible corporate practices) and groups of countries to find solutions to international challenges.

266.Contacts and engagement between civil society groups and individuals have the ability to generate enduring connections and activities across borders. The Commonwealth network, based on increasingly close links at all levels of society, may prove remarkably well adapted to the modern age of connectivity.

Responding to these challenges and changes

267.Many of our witnesses, including Ms Maddox, Sir Simon Fraser and Dr Niblett urged the Government to defend the rules-based international order.447 Dr Niblett said being “an absolute champion” of the rules-based order, should be the UK’s “core mission”.448 Mr Wilkinson said “if liberal democracies are not protecting … liberal institutions in the international system, no one else is going to”.449 Mr Maidment said the US’s “step back from promoting liberal democratic values … opens up space for the UK to fulfil that role to a certain part.”450 Lord Ricketts hoped “that the current American dislike for multilateral engagement is a passing thing, and Britain is right to do what it can to maintain the dynamic in those organisations.”451

268.Ms Bronnert said the UK was already actively “defending the international rules-based system”.452 The FCO’s written evidence likewise stated the UK’s “support for the rules-based international system; for free markets; our values and the rule of law”.453 The Foreign Secretary said “the United Kingdom must be an actor and not an observer.” The UK had the ability to shape [the] world order—not to control it but to shape it. Because we are the country that, alongside the United States, was largely responsible for the current world order, I think people will be looking at us and asking what we are going to do to protect the values that all of us here believe in so strongly.”454

269.Some witnesses however took a slightly different view. Dr Tara McCormack, Lecturer in International Relations, University of Leicester, said that the UK had itself weakened the rules-based international order through its “military intervention and at times regime change”.455 Ms Thornberry said “we cannot just trot out the phrase ‘the rules-based international order’ and then not adhere to it ourselves.”456 Mr Rogers said that “war weariness” and the economic dislocation caused by the global financial crisis had “sapped, to some extent” the willingness of the UK (and the US) to act as “custodians” of a rules-based international order.457 Professor Evans cited the UK’s decision to leave the EU—”a gold-standard multilateral institution”—as “a depressing indicator”, part of the trend away from multilateralism, although he noted that there were “obviously other factors in play” in the decision.458

270.Sir Mark Lyall Grant said that the UK should “stand up and very loudly defend our values, whether they are democracy, the rule of law, [or] human rights”.459 This defence was necessary because if a “rival governance system” were to be “established around China” it would “not be based on our value system”, which would be “very damaging for us”.460 Dr Niblett said that to defend the rules-based international order, “we in Britain and the countries in the West … need to put emphasis on some pretty basic principles of good governance domestically, with separation of powers, primacy of the judiciary and the rule of law … and an independent civil society”. The UK should “call out any backsliding that takes place”, referring to developments in some European countries.461

271.Dr Niblett cautioned, however that the UK might not “want to lecture other countries” depending on “the stage of their political evolution, development or cultural desires”.462 Sir Mark Lyall Grant said that in defending its values, the UK might need “to be a little more sensitive … in not pushing some of our beliefs down the throats of countries that are not ready for them”. The UK had sometimes “been a little too assertive in insisting that everyone follows our value system when clearly they do not”.463 He said that “tactically some of the Western countries, including ourselves, [had] pushed a little too hard on LGBT rights, capital punishment and things such as that which brought in more conservative African and Caribbean countries on the wrong side of the argument”.464 In a potential “battle” between the values of China and the West, the UK would need to “make sure that the middle ground, which is the vast majority of countries in the world, is attracted by our system rather than the Chinese one”.465

272.The UK’s trade relationships were raised by Ms Thornberry in the context of the balance between values and interests. She asked whether the UK was “interested only in trade deals” or whether it stood by its “principles and what we stand for as a country”.466 Ms Thornberry raised Saudi Arabia, “a long-term ally” to which the UK sells defence equipment. In the context of Saudi Arabia’s role in the war in Yemen and she said the UK should not “indulge” Saudi Arabia, and should “not think that anything it does is fine because we rely on it.”467

273.Dr Haass said that “at a minimum” it was desirable to “preserve” existing international organisations. To do so, reform was needed to “virtually every” international institution and arrangement—from the EU to the CPTPP to the Iran nuclear deal. He said that institutional reform should be the agenda of countries such as the UK.468

274.Our witnesses detailed what such reforms might entail. First, Sir Mark Lyall Grant said it was “important for us to recognise that international governance structures need to change and adapt to the new geopolitical realities”.469 Sir Martin Donnelly said that if the “new players” were not better engaged, the challenges to the global economic system were “likely to be greater”,470 a point also made by Sir Mark Lyall Grant in the context of UN Security Council reform.471 Sir Simon Fraser urged the UK to seek to “adapt the system to accommodate China”, an agenda “on which, frankly, we do not have a very good record.”472 Sir Peter Westmacott said allowing a greater role for China in the global financial institutions was particularly important.473

275.A second priority would be for the UK to engage with other countries on the reform of existing institutions. Lord Hague said the UK should “work with a future US Administration, China and others on reform where we can of [global] institutions”.474 Professor Evans said there was “a whole agenda of issues out there on which there is huge scope for co-operation with China to bring it into the global order and have it behave as a ‘responsible stakeholder’”475. Professor Clarke similarly said that “the interest of the West” was “not to isolate China but to habituate it to the sort of rules-based order that we want to try to preserve”.476 However, Professor Tsang cautioned that China thought it was already “fulfilling its own standard of what a responsible stakeholder is”.477

276.The Foreign Secretary also saw an opportunity for the UK to work with the US on reform to multilateral institutions:

“the way that … large multilateral organisations work at present does not work for the United States of America and they are seeking to change that … But I firmly believe that if we can get the proper reforms we want in that system, President Trump would be a big supporter of that system, but he needs to see it working better. I think that is the long-term purpose.”478

277.Sir Martin Donnelly highlighted a third area requiring reforms: international economic governance. He said it was important to strengthen the system “in trade, in finance, in economic affairs and in the G7 style of overview of how the world economy is going”. There was “perhaps more unease about new investment, not just from China but from elsewhere, as regards ownership and the domination of supply chains or particular sectors than there was 10 or 15 years ago”. This is “a global issue that has to be handled, at least partly, through global institutions. If at the same time we are sceptical about global institutions, we will find it much more difficult to maintain open capital, investment, services and, indeed, trade in goods flows than we have in the past.”479

278.Lord Hague cautioned that while reform to the existing international organisations was desirable, “we have to have an approach ready on the assumption that this will not work and that over the next few decades global institutions will steadily lose more of their ability to solve the world’s problems”.480 Mr Kramer agreed that there was a place for the adaptation of current institutions, but there were “real questions” about whether good institutions can be built from a membership with both “converging” and “diverging” interests.481 Professor Evans was more optimistic: despite major challenges, some subjects—such as the response to health pandemics and the increase in UN peacekeeping operations—provided “grounds for a greater degree of optimism about the survivability of the multilateral order”. While “a commitment to national identity and the nation state” was “a pretty visceral phenomenon worldwide”, “that does not mean it is not possible in that context to do an awful lot on the multilateral front”. On this basis, he said efforts should still be made to address issues such as non-proliferation and disarmament.482

279.Dr Niblett identified an opportunity for the UK to work with the private sector in defence of the rules-based international order. He said that multinational companies (MNCs) “have global brands” and find it “easier to hew to one regulation”; for this reason, most MNCs had not reacted positively to President Trump’s changes to US regulations.483 MNCs could “become soft projectors of some rules just for ease of doing business and for enlightened self-interest”, and the Government should therefore “think intelligently” about how it designs regulations, and “who you have at the table”.484 Dr Albright said that, in order to garner their support for maintaining the rules-based international order, “representatives of the private sector should sit early on in international institutions, not just deal with it when they are supposed to pick up the pieces”.485

280.Dr Haass thought that, beyond the existing international organisations, there was “a powerful argument for trying to create global arrangements, mechanisms, norms and institutions” for dealing with major issues such as cyberspace, infectious diseases or climate change. He drew attention to what he described as the “quite ingenious” Paris Agreement on climate change as an example, which had “allowed countries to join it and to set some of their own goals”. Observing that “one finds partners where one can”, he thought that, “particularly in the strategic area”, such initiatives might be undertaken by “networks, alliances and clusters of countries that are not necessarily allies in the formal sense but are strategically associated”.486

281.Lord Ricketts said that “much important international activity goes on outside [the] formal structures” of international organisations, through “contact groups” of countries. For example, the UK had played a leading role in the contact group leading up to the Iran nuclear deal. Such “small group diplomacy” would continue to be important, and the UK should continue to engage with both existing groups and seek opportunities for wider engagement, for example in Asia.487

282.The rules-based international order in all its manifestations—which is critical to the UK’s national interest—is under serious threat from multiple directions.

283.The policies of major powers—Russia, China and increasingly the United States—present considerable challenges to the multilateral institutions that underpin this order. Yet many of the problems facing states, such as climate change, terrorism and migration, are increasingly complex and trans-national. The Government should make the defence of the rules-based international order a central theme of all its bilateral relationships. This is particularly important in the UK’s engagement with the US, China, Russia and emerging powers such as India.

284.Pressures on the rules-based international order also come from beyond the state, in the form of technology and protests. The roots of this instability are many, but one is the enormous access to information and spread of opinion caused by communications and connectivity.

285.The Government must not lose sight of its core values—particularly the rule of law and respect for international commitments—which are fundamental to the good functioning of a rules-based system for international trade, economics and security. Tension between the UK’s commercial interests and its values is likely to occur more frequently in its relationships with authoritarian countries and its pursuit of new trade deals across the world.

286.In the context of the US Administration’s hostility to multilateralism, the UK will need to work with like-minded nations to move ahead on some global issues without US participation or support, or a changed nature of engagement. But it should always leave the door fully open for the US to join at a later stage.

287.The UK should be a vocal champion of reform to international institutions. It should support reforms both to make these institutions more efficient, and to give a greater voice to emerging powers—particularly China and India—to build their support for the rules-based international order.

256 Oral evidence taken on 9 May 2018 (Session 2017–19). The Committee took evidence from Mr Hochschild as part of a one-off session in advance of the 2018 UN General Assembly. International Relations Committee, The United Nations General Assembly 2018 (4th Report, Session 2017–19, HL Paper 156)

261 The White House, ‘Remarks by President Trump to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, NY’ (25 September 2018): [accessed 4 December 2018]

263 International Relations Committee, Record of the session held in partnership with the Atlantic Council in Washington D.C. (1 October 2018):

264 Q 124 (Professor Gareth Evans)

266 International Relations Committee, Note from Committee visit to Washington D.C 11–15 June 2018 (1 October 2018):

273 Ibid.

274 Ibid.

277 Ibid.

279 Q 89, Q 92 (Kathryn Rand)

282 Q 34 (Henry Wilkinson), Q 86 (George Magnus)

283 International Relations Committee, Record of roundtable discussion with early-career experts 27 June 2018 (1 October 2018):

286 Ibid.

291 Oral evidence taken on 9 May 2018 (Session 2017–19)

293 International Relations Committee, Record of the session held in partnership with the Atlantic Council in Washington D.C. (1 October 2018):

294 He identified Germany, Italy, Spain and The Netherlands as “shirkers” for having cut their military and intelligence spending and Overseas Development Assistance.

295 Written evidence from James Rogers, Director, Global Britain Programme, Henry Jackson Society (FPW0026)

296 Written evidence from The United Nations Association UK (FPW0010) and Q 17 (Lord Ricketts)

298 Written evidence from The United Nations Association UK (FPW0010)

304 US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley was reported to have written to UN member states that she would report to President Trump the names of those that supported a draft resolution which rejected the US’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Peter Beaumont, ‘US will ‘take names of those who vote to reject Jerusalem recognition’’ The Guardian (20 December 2017): [accessed 4 December 2018]

306 United Nations, ‘The Paris Agreement’: [accessed 4 December 2018]

308 United Nations, Security Council Resolution 2231: [accessed 4 December]

310 The White House, ‘Remarks by President Trump to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, NY’ (25 September 2018): [accessed 4 December 2018]. The US signed the Treaty to establish the ICC, but it has not been ratified. The Administration of President Obama sent observers to the ICC.

317 Q 206 (Sir Mark Lyall Grant) and Q 128 (Professor Gareth Evans)

318 Permanent Court of Arbitration, PCA Case Number 2013–19 in the matter of the South China Sea Arbitration, 12 July 2016: [accessed 4 December 2018]

319 Q 206 (Sir Mark Lyall Grant)

324 Q 106, China and Russia’s relationship is discussed in Chapter 2.

326 Ibid.

329 Written evidence from Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FPW0027)

332 Q 52 (Dr Richard Haass) and Q 8 (Mr Paul Maidment)

333 Written evidence from The United Nations Association-UK (FPW0010)

334 International Relations Committee, The UK and the UN: Priorities for the new Secretary-General (1st Report, Session 2016–17, HL Paper 60)

335 International Relations Committee, The United Nations General Assembly 2018 (4th Report, Session 2017–19, HL Paper 156)

336 The White House, ‘Remarks by President Trump to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, NY’ (25 September 2018): [accessed 4 December 2018]

337 Written evidence from The United Nations Association-UK (FPW0010)

339 International Relations Committee, The NATO Summit 2018, (3rd Report, Session 2017–19, HL Paper 143)

340 International Relations Committee, Note from Committee visit to Washington D.C 11–15 June 2018 (1 October 2018):

341 Ibid.

343 Ibid.

345 Q 18 (Lord Ricketts) and Q 10 (Lord Hague)

346 International Relations Committee, Note from Committee visit to Washington D.C 11–15 June 2018 (1 October 2018):

348 Ibid.

349 NATO, ‘Funding NATO’: [accessed 4 December 2018]

351 In its 2018 Summit declaration, and in subsequent ministerial statements, NATO has not used the term “move towards” when discussing the 2% commitment. The relevant language in the 2018 Summit declaration read: “We reaffirm our unwavering commitment to all aspects of the Defence Investment Pledge agreed at the 2014 Wales Summit, and to submit credible national plans on its implementation, including the spending guidelines for 2024, planned capabilities, and contributions.” NATO, ‘Brussels Summit Declaration’, (11 July 2018): [accessed 4 December 2018]

352 International Relations Committee, Record of the session held in partnership with the Atlantic Council in Washington D.C. (1 October 2018):

353 International Relations Committee, Note from Committee visit to Washington D.C 11–15 June 2018 (1 October 2018): NATO Allies pay for core funding—for the Civil Budget, Military Budget and NATO Security Investment Programme—on the basis of a two-year cost-sharing formula. This is based on each country’s gross national income—with the result that the wealthiest countries pay the largest share. In 2017, the US paid 22.14%. This common funding is separate to the 2% funding target (see Box 4). David M. Herszenhorn, ‘Primer for President Trump: How NATO funding really works’, Politico (31 May 2017): [accessed 4 December 2018]

357 International Relations Committee, The NATO Summit 2018, (3rd Report, Session 2017–19, HL Paper 143)

358 ‘Trump Claims Victory as NATO summit descends into mayhem’, The Guardian (12 July 2018): [accessed 4 December 2018]

359 International Relations Committee, Record of the session held in partnership with the Atlantic Council in Washington D.C. (1 October 2018):

360 Q 32 (Sir Peter Westmacott) and Q 53 (Dr Haass)

367 International Relations Committee, The NATO Summit 2018, (3rd Report, Session 2017–19, HL Paper 143)

370 Ibid.

371 Lord Hague, ‘NATO must confront Putin’s stealth attacks with a new doctrine of war of its own’, The Telegraph (19 March 2018): [accessed 4 December 2018]

372 International Relations Committee, Record of the session held in partnership with the Atlantic Council in Washington D.C. (1 October 2018):

375 International Relations Committee, Record of the session held in partnership with the Atlantic Council in Washington D.C. (1 October 2018):

378 International Relations Committee, Note from Committee visit to Washington D.C 11–15 June 2018 (1 October 2018):

379 Ibid.

382 The White House, ‘Remarks by President Trump to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, NY’ (25 September 2018): [accessed 4 December 2018]

383 Ibid.

384 ‘Trump: US will quit World Trade Organization unless it “shapes up”’, The Guardian (31 August 2018), [accessed 4 December 2018]

385 ‘EU calls Trump’s bluff as he takes an axe to the WTO’, Politico Europe (27 August 2018): [accessed 4 December 2018]

386 World Trade Organisation, ‘Appellate Body’: [accessed 4 December 2018]

387 Mission of the United States to the WTO, Statements by the United States at the Meeting of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body, 27 August 2018: [accessed 4 December]

389 European Commission, Press Release: European Commission presents comprehensive approach for the modernisation of the World Trade Organisation (18 September 2018): [accessed 4 December 2018]

394 Q 89; Xi Jinping, ‘Keynote speech at the World Economic Forum’ (17 January 2017): [accessed 4 December 2018]

396 Written evidence from Overseas Development Institute (FPW0012)

399 Jue Wang, ‘China-IMF Collaboration: Toward the Leadership in Global Monetary Governance’, Chinese Political Science Review, vol 3, Issue 1, (March 2018), pp 62–80:–017-0085-8 [accessed 4 December 2018]

401 Q 92 (Professor Foot and Kathryn Rand), Q 15 (Lord Ricketts), Q 189 (Sir Simon Fraser), Q 13 (Lord Hague), written evidence from The Overseas Development Institute (FPW0012)

409 Written evidence from The Overseas Development Institute (FPW0012)

423 Ibid.

424 Q 110. The Collective Security Treaty Organisation is an intergovernmental military alliance between Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

426 Ibid.

428 Ibid.

430 Written evidence from Professor Alister Miskimmon, Queen’s University Belfast, and Professor Ben O’Loughlin, Royal Holloway, University of London (FPW0015), Written evidence from the Environmental Investigations Agency, UK (FPW0012) and Q 5 (Professor Clarke)

431 Written evidence from The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FPW0027)

435 Jamie Smyth and Robin Harding, ‘Trans-Pacific Partnership to start in December’, The Financial Times (31 October 2018): [accessed 4 December 2018] Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam. have yet to ratify the agreement.

437 ‘Japan’s Abe says would welcome Britain to TPP: FT’, Reuters (7 October 2018): [accessed 4 December 2018]

439 International Relations Committee, Record of the session held in partnership with the Atlantic Council in Washington D.C. (1 October 2018):

440 Written evidence from The British Council (FPW0021)

443 Written evidence from The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FPW0027)

445 Q 12. Professor Evans made a similar point (Q 130).

447 Q 198 (Bronwen Maddox and Dr Niblett), Q 187 (Sir Martin Donnelly) and Q 190 (Sir Simon Fraser)

453 Written evidence from The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FPW0027)

455 Written evidence from Dr Tara McCormack (FPW0025)

457 Written evidence from Mr James Rogers, Director, Global Britain Programme, Henry Jackson Society (FPW0026)

460 Ibid.

462 Ibid.

464 Q 207. On LGBTQ rights Stonewall took a different view, arguing that “The UK Government should make sure its championing of LGBT equality is continued and extended”. Written evidence from Stonewall (FPW0009).

481 International Relations Committee, Record of the session held in partnership with the Atlantic Council in Washington D.C. (1 October 2018):

484 Ibid.

485 International Relations Committee, Note from Committee visit to Washington D.C 11–15 June 2018 (1 October 2018):

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