Tuesday, 24 November 2009

More Chinese and fewer Indians in the Secretariat?

It has been reported that India and China jointly sponsored a proposal in the WTO advocating more representation of staff members from developing countries in the WTO Secretariat. While it is understandable that China would want more of its citizens on the Secretariat, it is puzzling that India would support the move.

According to the WTO, out of the total of 629 members of the Secretariat, only 5 are from China, while 12 are from India. In other words, it's less than 1% for China, while about 2% for India. In 2009, China contributed to 5.898% of the WTO's budget, while India's share is only 1.243%. This seems to indicated that India is already over-represented while China is under-represented. If we look at the world trade shares, again the picture is largely the same.

Thus, if India were really serious about its support for China, the first thing it should have done would be asking half of its citizen's on the Secretariat's payroll to resign and give the seats to those from China. 

The only logical explanation seems to be that the claim is based on neither the real trade share or the contribution to the budget. Instead, there are three possibilities:
1. population: but this is rather unlikely. Otherwise, one third of the Secretariat staff members should be either Indian or Chinese;
2. real-world trade share multiplied by different co-efficients for developed and developing countries: but whatever co-efficient we are using, I think it is reasonable to assume that China and India will have the same co-efficient. Thus the net result would still be a very large share for China (assuming, for the purpose of argument, that we multiply developing countries' trade share by 2, this would mean China getting 12% of the seats in the Secretariat, or about 75 people, which would mean that there are at least 3 Chinese in each of the functional divisions excluding the Language Services & Documentation Division - as Chinese is yet an official language in the WTO, it is unlikely that they will work in this devision)
3. Some non-trade-related criterion: however, given that the WTO is a trade body, what is the legitimacy of using non-trade criterion to determine the composition of the Secretariat?

Having excluded all three possibilities, I'm lost. Can anyone enlighten me on this issue?

Monday, 23 November 2009

Zaobao interview on the APEC

I was interviewed in the Lianhe Zaobao, the leading Chinese newspaper in Singapore on the implications of the 2009 APEC Leaders' Declaration in Singapore. The story is reproduced below. You may scroll down for the whole story and an English translation of the article.

My Interview on APEC 2009 in Lianhe Zaobao (Singapore)


Monday, 9 November 2009

Formal ECFA negotiations taking-off?

Eight months ago, I blogged about the proposed ECFA between China and Taiwan. Now it seems that the formal negotiations will finally take off as the researchers from both sides have finished and exchanged the results of their feasibility studies. My take is that the agreement probably will be reached the latest by early 2013, as Hu, who will step down as China's president, will probably want the historical agreement as one of his main legacies (Ma will also probably try to get it done by mid-2012 but he probably will get a second term in the office). 


2009-11-07 09:43 文章来源:商务部新闻办公室
文章类型:原创 内容分类:新闻




The road to free trade: 400th accident missed (or settled?)

The WTO recently issued a press release o celebrate the 400th dispute passing through the gate of centre william rappard. DG Lamy noted that "this is surely a vote of confidence in a system which many consider to be a role model for the peaceful resolution of disputes in other areas of international political or economic relations".  While that may well be the case, one may also argue that had Members really had such confidence in the system, they wouldn't have brought so many disputes in the first place. Another thing worth noting is that the number of disputes have greatly decreased after the first decade, which saw an average of 30 cases brought every year. Does this mean that the system has worked so well in deterring trade disputes from arising in the first place, or that people are losing confidence in the system so that they resort to other means and don't bother to bring cases anymore?

Friday, 6 November 2009

déjà vu: The case on coke and other raw materials

The US, EU and Mexico have requested for the establishment of panel against China's restrictions on certain minerals and other raw materials. One of the items at issue is coke, on which I wrote a paper analyzing another similar complaint against China by the EU a few years ago. The paper could be downloaded free of charge here (of particular relevance are pages 334-348). 

Some key points I made in the paper:
1. Contrary to popular belief, the WTO does not just regulates imports. It also regulates exports;
2. In general, quantitative restrictions (on both imports and exports) are per se illegal in the WTO;
3. However, there are exceptions that the country imposing the restriction could invoke to justify its restrictions;
4. But the country would have to meet stringent requirements in justifying that the measure is necessary, and doesn't constitute unjustifiable or arbitrary discriminations, or is otherwise just protectionism in disguise.