Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Can export bans be challenged at the WTO?

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Russian grain harvest

Russia’s ban on grain exports as a heat wave parches crops in the world’s third biggest wheat exporter has raised questions whether such export curbs break World Trade Organization rules. Russia is not a member of the WTO, and it remains to be seen how its new grain policy will affect its 17-year-old bid to join. But other grain exporters, such as Ukraine, which is also considering export curbs, are part of the global trade referee.

WTO rules are quite clear that members cannot interfere with imports and exports in a way that disrupts trade or discriminates against other members. But in practice most WTO rules aim to stop countries blocking imports – shutting out competitor’s goods to give their own domestic producers an unfair advantage.

WTO protest

 

 

Saudi Arabia and other members of the oil cartel OPEC (not all of whom are members of the WTO) routinely control the production and hence export of oil to defend target prices, but have not faced challenges at the WTO.

What can be challenged are restrictions on exports designed to hurt competitors. The United States, European Union and Mexico are currently suing China at the WTO over Beijing’s export duties and other restraints on raw materials. They argue that these make the raw materials more expensive for foreign competitors, putting them at a disadvantage to Chinese processors.

In line of fire at Bangkok protests

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- A man is dragged to safety after being shot on Rama IV Road during clashes between army soldiers and anti-government ‘red shirt’ supporters in Bangkok on Sunday. (Reuters/Jerry Lampen)

may 16 7It was 2 a.m. on a Friday morning and we were stuck in the Reuters office on the 35th floor of the U Chu Liang Building. Thai anti-government protesters had begun rioting after their military strategist, a flamboyant major-general known as  “Commander Red” was shot in the head as he was being interviewed by the New York Times at the “red shirt” protest encampment that occupies a huge chunk of expensive real estate in the Thai capital.

The protesters had swarmed into our parking lot, troops hot on their heels. One red shirt was shot dead, taking a bullet through his eye, outside our office.  Our managers  had ordered us to evacuate, but we had to wait until the violence died down outside.  I strapped on a 10 kg flak jacket and helmet emblazoned with “press stickers”, took a ride down the cargo elevator in a building under emergency power, and stepped carefully into the parking lot, looking around to see if it was safe for the remaining people in the newsroom to leave. It was quiet, as I crept around the parking lot, dodging from car to car, feeling slightly ridiculous. A taxi was parked just outside. I was beginning to understand what gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson meant when he said in his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:  ”When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

Discord in Thai kingdom

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THAILAND/ Punchai is arranging strings of flowers under the imposing statue of King Rama VI at the entrance of Lumphini Park in Bangkok. The statue overlooks one end of the sprawling “red shirt” encampment that occupies a 3 square-km area of downtown Bangkok.

An altar has been set up at the base of the statue of a king who ruled from 1910 to 1925 and is generally credited with paving the way for democractic reforms in the kingdom. He is also the creator of Lumphini Park.

from Russell Boyce:

The promise of seven blood baths in Bangkok and no violence

    With the same ghoulish intrigue that children pull the wings off a fly, the legs off spiders or as motorists slow to look at a scene of a bad accident, I waited to see the pictures from last night's demonstration in Thailand. The "red shirt" wearing supporters of ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra promised the world the sight of a million cubic centimetres of blood being drawn from the arms of his supporters and then thrown over Government House to demand that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva call an immediate election.  A million is a bold figure that I tried to picture; a thousand cubic centimetres, one litre, so one thousand litre cartons of milk.  A more compact notion of the volume would be to visualise a cubic metre of blood; or in more practical terms in the UK the average bath size is 140 litres, so that is just over seven baths filled with blood.

blood syringe

A supporter of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra donates blood during a gathering in Bangkok March 16, 2010. Anti-government protesters will collect one million cubic centimetres of blood to pour outside the Government House in Bangkok, in a symbolic move to denounce the government as part of their demonstration to call for fresh elections. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

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