Friday, 16 October 2009

The Monkey Business on Trade and Climate Change

A very colorful statement by Dr. Zhang Xiangchen, current DPR of China
to the WTO. If only every statement in the WTO meetings were so
interesting, then my days at the Secretariat would have been much less


2009-07-14 16:04 文章来源:商务部世贸司
文章类型:原创 内容分类:新闻

Statement on Trade and Climate Change at the CTE Regular Meeting
Dr. ZHANG Xiangchen, DPR of China
10 July 2009

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. On 26 June, the WTO Secretariat and the UNEP
jointly released a Trade and Climate Change Report. I would like to
take this opportunity to make some comments on that report. Since it
is almost impossible not to mention the Bali Action Plan these days
when climate change is at question, please allow me to start by
sharing with you my personal experience with the beautiful Island of

Last month, I went to Bali to attend the Cairns Group Trade Ministers
Meeting as an observer. One evening, I took a walk at the top of a
mountain with my colleague. The view was fantastic, with the sunset,
the wind, the sea tide, and the monkeys jumping around. All of a
sudden, I heard my colleague screaming "MY GLASSES"! There were traces
of claws on his shoulder, glasses on nose gone. Mr. Chairman, you
could imagine how frenzy and yet hopeless we were. But surprisingly,
some local kids managed to exchange the glasses back with some
peanuts. And my colleague hastened to give some dollars to the kids
out of thankfulness.

On the way back to the hotel, we found something odd about the whole
thing. The monkeys took belongings from the visitors; the kids gave
peanuts to the monkeys; the monkeys gave the belongings to the kids;
and the kids returned the belongings to the visitors and got some
rewards. This is an interest chain! Our suspect was confirmed by our
local driver. This interest chain does exist. The monkeys only realize
the correlation between visitors' belongings and peanuts after
repeated hinting and training. As a result, they fill the first and
most critical link in this chain with their agility.

Coming back to the Report of the WTO Secretariat and UNEP, though the
scientific part has been deemed reasonably good, the legal analysis
part has been unfortunately interpreted by the media as "WTO signals
backing for border taxes". A tossed stone raises a thousand ripples.
Drafters of this Report might feel innocent as they seem to have only
tried to explain relevant provisions in the WTO Agreement, such as the
conditions of applying the general exceptions, and there is no
mentioning of backing for border taxes. That being so, they should be
aware that it is beyond the public and media's ability to fully
understand the legal relationship between the general provisions and
the exceptions. One thing is clear to all, though, that any attempt to
levy border taxes comes out for the purposes of restricting the
competitiveness of others instead of fighting climate change. On this
premise, it is impossible for the conditions of applying the
exceptions to be satisfied, such as "no discrimination between
countries where the same conditions prevail". Even President Obama has
said, "At a time when the economy worldwide is still deep in recession
and we've seen a significant drop in global trade, we have to be very
careful about sending any protectionist signals out there". "I am very
mindful of wanting to make sure that there's a level playing field
internationally", "but there may be other ways of doing it than with a
tariff". With this in mind, the international society should express
condemnations with one voice so as to deter others from following
suit. It is only to be expected that the public and media have
suspicions when the focus is placed on exceptions. There are two ways
of interpreting exceptions. One is to say you CAN'T do something
except under very special circumstances. The other is to say you CAN
do something as long as certain conditions are met. The two ways can
make huge differences. I am ignorant of the functions of the
Secretariat, but I do know that trade and climate change is a very
controversial issue. The WTO needs to be very cautious about making
any opinions on it.

Mr. Chairman, current WTO rules is a small cage which is unable to
hold big monkeys such as climate change. The only way out for climate
change and trade measures is first to reach a multilateral agreement
on climate change. This is what DG Lamy has termed as "Copenhagen
first". Then the relationship between climate change and trade
measures could be further clarified under the WTO framework. These
clarifications should still be based on multilateral discussions and
negotiations, and not make way for unilateral measures.

Finally, let me come back to Bali. Our driver was very responsible. He
swayed a bamboo pole in order to prevent the monkeys from approaching
us, in spite that the "Glasses Gate" still took place. But he did his
duty. He didn't act in collusion with the kids. He even reminded us
not to give too much money to the kids since this would encourage the
malconduct. Monkeys are monkeys, wild and difficult to tame, while
people should be clear about their identities and duties.

I thank you for your kind attention.

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