Monday, 29 September 2008

Trade and everything

This time is about tainted milk. As a die-hard WTO imperialist, I cannot help thinking of the possible trade issues involved in the case. SPS? MFN? Art. XX?

Another seemingly irrelevant issue is the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM). According to some people at least, this is THE REASON for the collapse of the Geneva talk a few weeks ago. To tackle the issue, Prof. Robert Baldwin proposed that rather than using import volume as the sole variable, we should also consider the level of import penetration in the domestic market. If imported products are replacing domestic products in the market, a country should be allowed to invoke the SSM.

One problem, however, is how this formula would deal with scenarios such as what happens in China following the tainted milk scandal. Nowadays, few people are buying domestically produced dairy products, but as people still need milk, they are turning to imported dairy products instead. To put that in terms of the Baldwin formula, the average consumption is the same as before (probably a bit lower as some people have chosen to shun milk and drink soybean drink instead), but imports have grown significantly. Thus, under the Baldwin formula, China could invoke SSM in this case. Of course, for political concerns, it's doubtful that China will want to invoke the SSM in the current case. The point, however, is that this could happen in every case where people prefer to choose imports over domestic products because the domestic products are of inferior quality. We all know bad money drives out good, but shall bad (domestically produced) products be allowed to drive out good (imported) products? It seems this theory could potentially be (a)bused by countries for just that purpose.

You can follow this debate by posting replies directly to this blog, or at the IELP blog.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

China Launched website for FTAs

The MOFCOM just launched a website for China's FTAs. According to the
website, China's concluded FTAs includes the CEPA with HK, Macau,
ASEAN, Pakistan, Chile, NZ, and the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement with
Bangladesh, India, Laos, Korea and Sri Lanka. The FTAs under
negotiation includes those with the GCC, Australia, Singapore
(negotiation concluded earlier this month and agreement expected to be
signed in October), Iceland, Peru, Noway and Southern Africa Customs
Union (SACU). Also, China is studying the feasibility of FTAs with
India, Korea and Costa Rica.

The whole site is in Chinese, with some of the agreements have English
texts available.


2008-09-27 09:22 文章来源:商务部新闻办公室
文章类型:原创 内容分类:新闻




WTO Movie

Finally there's a movie for the WTO.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Fwd: SMU School of Law - A Joint Seminar on WTO and FTA

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: LAW <>
Date: Mon, Sep 22, 2008 at 5:17 PM
Subject: School of Law - A Joint Seminar on WTO and FTA
To: SMU_Faculty_Admin <>, "Faculty (Adjunct)" <>, "Faculty (Visiting)" <>

Click here if you are unable to view this page.

School of Law cordially invites you to
A Joint Seminar on
The World Trade Organization (WTO) and
Free Trade Agreements (FTA)
Prof. Mitsuo Matsushita
Professor Emeritus, University of Tokyo
Founding Member, WTO Appellate Body


Prof. William J. Davey
Guy Raymond Jones Chair Emeritus, University of Illinois College of Law
Former Director, Legal Affairs Division, WTO Secretariat

View CV
9 October 2008, Thursday
3.00pm to 5.30pm
Networked Seminar Room 1-3
School of Law Level 1
60 Stamford Road
Singapore 178900

Location Map

Established in 1994, the WTO has quickly become one of the most important international organizations in the world today. Over the past few years, however, the WTO has met many new challenges. One of the most serious challenges is the FTAs that have mushroomed around the world, especially in the Asia region. How would these FTAs affect the WTO? What are the other challenges facing the WTO? How should the WTO deal with these challenges? In this joint seminar, two of the world's most renowned scholars on WTO will share with you their thoughts on these issues and beyond.

The seminar will start with a lecture on "Proliferation of FTA and its Implications on the World Trading System" by Prof. Matsushita, a founding member of the WTO Appellate Body, popularly known as the "World Court on International Trade". In the second part of the seminar, Prof. Davey, former Chief Legal Advisor of the WTO Secretariat, will continue the intelle ctual journey with a lecture on "The Future of the WTO". Afterwards, there will be an opportunity for an interactive dialogue with both speakers on these and other issues relating to the multilateral trading system.

Kindly register by 7 October 2008, Tuesday. Attendance is by registration only.

We look forward to seeing you at this event.

Yours sincerely,

Office of the Dean
School of Law
Singapore Management University
  © Copyright 2006 by Singapore Management University. All Rights Reserved.  

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Conference Announcement: The WTO in Difficult Times: New Challenges and New Prospects

The WTO in Difficult Times: New Challenges and New Prospects

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

It is with great pleasure that we invite you to the International Conference on "The WTO in Difficult Times: New Challenges and New Prospects", co-hosted by SMU School of Law and the Asian WTO Research Network.

Synopsis of Conference

The subprime meltdown, inflation, global food shortage, and rising oil prices……the world has become a very difference place as we entered 2008. How will the new economic environment affect the World Trade Organization (WTO), and how shall the WTO deal with these new challenges in such difficult time? Bringing together leading WTO scholars from Asia and beyond, this international conference will provide a good opportunity to reflect upon some of the most pressing issues facing the multilateral trading system today.


Free Admission. Click here for registration.
Further details can be found at our conference website.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

A Different Type of Trade/Exchange

If you ever wonder how the Chinese government uses the gigantic foreign reserve it built up through foreign trade, the following article by Andrew Batson from the WSJ might interests you. This is a very different type of foreign trade or foreign exchange than the ones we used to know, and it seems China is also getting better and better at this (like at everything else). 

If you want to see for yourself, the goods are at:
China Used Foreign-Exchange Reserves In Diplomatic Deal with Costa Rica
September 12, 2008 7:54 a.m.

BEIJING – China secretly agreed to use its foreign-exchange reserves to buy $300 million in bonds from Costa Rica as part of a deal that enticed the Latin American nation to switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing away from Taiwan, newly-published government documents show.

The documents provide rare evidence that China has used its $1.81 trillion in official reserves, the world's largest such store, for explicitly political purposes as well as financial ones. The documents describing the deal were released by the Costa Rican government on an official Web site this past week after a court challenge by local newspaper La Nación, which published accounts of their contents. According to the documents, China's State Administration of Foreign Exchange in January purchased $150 million of the U.S. dollar bonds, which pay 2% annual interest, and will purchase another $150 million in January 2009.

The politically-driven investment by SAFE, as the foreign-exchange agency is known, could lead to a backlash just as it becomes an increasingly active player in international stock markets. It could also undercut efforts by the China Investment Corp., a sovereign investment fund that is run separately from SAFE, to be welcomed as a global investor that pursues only financial returns.

The negotiations that led to the Costa Rica purchase are part of a long tradition of "checkbook diplomacy" practiced by diplomatic rivals China and Taiwan. China considers self-governed Taiwan part of its territory and demands that its diplomatic partners sever official ties with the island.

Most of the handful of countries that keep diplomatic ties with Taiwan are poor developing nations to which it gives aid. But China's growing economic might has in recent years allowed it to outmaneuver Taiwan and convince many countries to change their ties. Costa Rica switched its diplomatic recognition to Beijing in June 2007. The impoverished African nation of Malawi followed in December.

Costa Rican Vice President Laura Chinchilla has defended the deal with China, saying "We believe the country received only positive news with the establishment of this relationship," according to a statement by her foreign ministry on Wednesday. She noted China's commercial promise and its support for Costa Rica in international forums like the United Nations.

On its Web site, Costa Rica's foreign ministry published copies of an agreement between the two governments that was signed in Beijing on June 1, 2007, as well as several subsequent letters. China is to give Costa Rica another $130 million in direct economic aid that will not be repaid, in addition to the two-stage bond purchase.

In a statement Friday, China's foreign ministry did not contest the validity of the Costa Rican documents. "China provides assistance to the Costa Rican government within its means. The goal is to help Costa Rica's economic and social development," the statement said.

SAFE doesn't publicly discuss its investments and took steps to ensure this deal would also be secret. In an English-language letter dated Jan. 2, 2008, a SAFE official named Fang Shangpu wrote to the Costa Rican finance ministry setting out terms of the bond deal, including a request that Costa Rica "shall take necessary measures to prevent the disclosure of the financial terms of this operation and of SAFE as a purchaser of the bonds." On Jan. 7, finance minister Guillermo Zuniga replied in a letter saying "It is a pleasure for me to confirm that these suggestions are acceptable to us."

Costa Rica also published a letter by foreign ministry official Edgar Ugalde, confirming that SAFE's first investment of $150 million took place on Jan. 23, 2008. Asked to comment, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange said "the investment in Costa Rica government bonds is a normal investment activity for foreign exchange reserves," noting that it owns bonds issued by many other governments.

--Bai Lin in Shanghai and Miguel Gonzalez in Hong Kong contributed to this article.


Wednesday, 10 September 2008

The "Evil" Organization in Geneva

No I'm not talking about the WTO. This time around the winner is the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) , where the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will be switched on this Wednesday. According to some sources, the LHC could, at least in theory, creates black hole that will destroy the entire planet. This again proved that the charm of Geneva is universal: it's a favorite place not only for secretive spies or diplomats (or spies disguised as diplomats), but also for crazy scientists.

Now if you link this with the collapse of the DDA in July, everything seems to make perfect sense: if the world is gonna be destroyed in a few weeks, who cares about trade negotiation any more? Thus, instead of the made doctors at the WHO (which is, btw, another Geneva-based organization), it seems that the wild scientists at the CERN are the ones who really sabotaged the trade talks.

For those of us WTO imperialists who want to save the WTO at all cost, is it now time to consider moving the WTO to Hong Kong or Singapore again?

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

WHO is the culprit of the DDA negotiation breakdown?

In the latest round of the finger-pointing game since the breakdown of the trade talks in Geneva, the WHO emerged as the winner. According to a recent report in BNA's International Trade Daily, the WHO's Commission on Social Determinants of Health blamed trade liberalization for reducing the "capacity of national governments to support public expenditures in health, education and other sectors" in many low-income countries because of their greater reliance on import tariffs for public revenue.

After checking the actual report, I found the argument in the report is not as radical as it sounds:

"Low-income countries often have relatively weak direct tax institutions and mechanisms and a majority of the workforce operating in the informal sector. They have relied in many cases on indirect taxes such as trade tariffs for government income. Economic agreements between rich and poor countries that require tariff reduction can reduce available domestic revenue in low-income countries before alternative streams of finance have been established. Strengthened progressive tax capacity is an important source of public finance and a necessary prerequisite of any further tariff-cutting agreements."

We all know that you can temporarily suspend your TRIPS obligations for public health reasons, but the really interesting question for our fellow trade lawyers is: can a country invoke its public health obligation under the WHO to defend its chaotic tariff regime?

Conference Notice: 3rd Meeting of the Port-city University League (PUL) - "The port as a complex reality: legal and environmental issues"

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Reitoria da Universidade de Lisboa <>
Date: 2008/9/3
Subject: 3rd Meeting of the Port-city University League (PUL) - "The port as a complex reality: legal and environmental issues"

Dear Sir or Madam,

The University of Lisbon (Portugal) will organise on the 27-30 October 2008 the 3rd Meeting of the Port-city University League (PUL) with the theme "The port as a complex reality: legal and environmental issues".

The PUL intends to foster collaboration, excellence and innovation between port cities and higher education institutions toward creating a global base of research and education. At a time that the network of global ports is expected to develop further developments, the PUL is very keen to enhance further international cooperation and holds a meeting at Lisbon to share different experiences and to define new strategies.

The 3rd Meeting of the PUL aims at providing up-to-date information and further discussions on the complex integration of ports on a city context, focusing on a range of topics related to legal, urban and environmental issues. The meeting will include both lectures and port visits and is aimed not only at research scientists, but also for those involved in the assessment of environmental quality, management systems, insurances, trades, etc. The speakers' panel is composed of some of the most renowned international experts on port and city communication, trade, border control, industrial development, ocean and coastal management and environmental protection.

Considering the relevance and broadening of the theme we kindly request your collaboration in publicizing this Meeting so that many higher education institutions can participate and give way to a fruitful debate.

The program, registration and other information details are available at The deadline for registration is 3rd October 2008. In case you need further information, please do not hesitate to contact the organisation through the following e-mail address

We really expect you to join us.

The Organization Team
Rectorate of the University of Lisbon
Alameda da Universidade
1649-004 Lisbon

Exmos. Senhores,

A Universidade de Lisboa vai organizar de 27 a 30 de Outubro de 2008 o 3.º Encontro Liga Universitária de Cidades Portuárias, subordinada ao tema "O porto como uma realidade complexa: questões legais e ambientais".

A Liga Universitária de Cidades Portuárias (PUL – Port-city University League) pretende fortalecer a colaboração, excelência e inovação entre as cidades portuárias e as instituições de ensino superior com o intuito de criar um think tank sobre o tema, uma base global de investigação e ensino. No momento em que a rede global de portos está em franca expansão e em que é cada vez mais relevante o estreitamento de laços de cooperação internacional a PUL reúne-se em Lisboa para partilhar diferentes experiências e definir novas estratégias de acção.

O 3.º Meeting da PUL visa essencialmente debater a perspectiva actual sobre a complexa integração de portos em contexto citadino, focando-se num conjunto de temas relacionados com questões legais, urbanas e ambientais. A reunião inclui conferências e visitas ao porto de Lisboa, dirigindo-se não só a investigadores, mas também a todos os que estão envolvidos na avaliação da qualidade ambiental, sistemas de gestão e administração, seguros, comércios, etc. O painel de oradores integra conceituados especialistas nacionais e internacionais na área do desenvolvimento dos portos e respectiva tecnologia, envolvência urbana, sustentabilidade social, económica e ambiental.

Solicitamos a vossa colaboração na divulgação desta Reunião para que seja possível uma participação ampla das instituições de ensino superior cujo contributo, dada a relevância e abrangência do tema, deverá proporcionar um debate frutuoso.

O programa, inscrição e outras informações sobre o Meeting podem ser consultados em Salientamos que a data limite de inscrição é 3 de Outubro de 2008. Qualquer esclarecimento pode ser solicitado à organização, através do e-mail

Agradecemos, desde já, a vossa colaboração.

Com os melhores cumprimentos,

A Organização da Reunião

Divisão de Relações Externas da DSRE

Reitoria da Universidade de Lisboa

Alameda da Universidade

1649-004 Lisboa

Telefone: + 351 217 939 193

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

New G-2?

Fred Bergsten recently wrote in the Foreign Affairs to argue that the US should forge a "partnership of equals" with China. While I have reservations on some of the points raised in the article, such as whether China should bear the blame for breaking the latest Doha talks, or whether the US (or for that matter, other major powers) is really willing to treat China as an "equal partner", I found most of the other arguments very intriguing. The full article is available here. Below are some of the parts I enjoyed most.

"Even the strongest defenders of the current world trading system would concede that at least some of China's criticisms are valid. At best, the Doha Round will achieve only marginal liberalization of world trade after almost a decade of effort. The IMF has failed to enforce its own rules and is being forced to downsize. The World Bank has lost any clear direction. The G-7 (the group of highly industrialized states) has adopted a mutual nonaggression pact among its members, making its criticisms of outsiders such as China seem hypocritical. And by failing to adapt their governance structures to the dramatic changes in the relative economic power among nations, the international economic institutions have lost much of their legitimacy. The fact that some Chinese attitudes are understandable and some Chinese concerns legitimate does not lessen the significance of the challenge but rather suggests some of the logical components of an intelligent response.

To deal with the situation, Washington should make a subtle but basic change to its economic policy strategy toward Beijing. Instead of focusing on narrow bilateral problems, it should seek to develop a true partnership with Beijing so as to provide joint leadership of the global economic system. Only such a "G-2" approach will do justice, and be seen to do justice, to China's new role as a global economic superpower and hence as a legitimate architect and steward of the international economic order.

The present U.S. approach seeks to entice China to join the existing global economic order. Washington's fondness for the status quo is understandable given its basic success and the prominent role it accords Washington. But China is uncomfortable with the very notion of simply integrating into a system it had no role in developing. Both Chinese officials and Chinese scholars are actively discussing alternative structures for which China can be present at the creation. At one particularly contentious point in its negotiations to enter the WTO, the Chinese ambassador reportedly thundered, "We know we have to play the game your way now, but in ten years we will set the rules!" The existing system, moreover, has become increasingly sclerotic, and it might well be that the only way to overcome the enormous resistance to change (manifested in positions such as Europe's refusal to wind down its excessive quotas and give up some of its IMF executive-board seats) is to undertake a fundamental overhaul."