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.

Post card from Ukraine

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This is one in a series of post cards from Reuters reporters across Europe, Middle East and Africa

Ukraine’s famous instability, verbose politicians and haphazard legislation present the investor – and the journalist – many red herrings. While talk of impeachment of President Viktor Yushchenko ring alarm bells, constitutionally it is nonsense. As CDSs go off the rails, Ukraine’s sovereign debt repayments are small and manageable. As Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko calls for the central bank governor’s blood, he is still at the helm. And while Yushchenko and Tymoshenko fight like Itchy and Scratchy, the country – to the amazement of some – has yet to collapse. 

A fresh start with Russia: what’s the trade-off?

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Russia has reversed its decision to station missiles in the Western outpost of Kaliningrad, next door to the European Union, according to Interfax.

The move would be the clearest signal so far of the start of a thaw in U.S.-Russia relations, which could be one of the major changes in U.S. President Barack Obama’s first year in office. We don’t know what commitment, if any, Obama may have given to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on the missile shield (the two spoke by telephone earlier this week).

Three little words that kept Europe in the cold

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The difference between Europe having Russian gas as normal and not having it came down, in the end, to three words. They were hand-written next to what looks like the signature of Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Hryhory Nemyrya and they were: “With declaration attached”.

That was enough to undercut a deal hammered out by Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country holds the rotating EU Presidency, to deploy monitors along the gas pipeline route — Russia’s condition for turning the taps back on.

Always a marriage of convenience in Ukraine?

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Ukraine’s President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Tymoshenko smile during their meeting with local businessmen in KievHe was a suave central banker and she a “gas princess”, a young politician desperate to make her mark. In 1998 Yulia  Tymoshenko, now Ukraine’s prime minister, said she knew her destiny lay with Viktor Yushchenko, who went on to become president.

“We understood that we are a team,” she said at that time.

It’s an assertion Yushchenko disputes — a clash of views that has defined this partnership since they overturned a Soviet-style leadership in the 2004 “Orange Revolution” and vowed a modern, Western future for Ukraine’s 47 million people.

Georgia: How close did Europe come to a wider war?

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ferdinand.jpgA poster at the entrance to the World War One exhibition at London’s Imperial War Museum depicts the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, minutes before they were shot dead as they toured the streets of Sarajevo in an open topped car. The two bullets triggered World War One. Alliances quickly came into play and an argument between Austria and Serbia drew in Russia, Germany, France, Belgium and Britain.

Europe was at war.

On August 8 this year Russia sent its forces into Georgia to repel Tbilisi’s attempt to wrest control of the pro-Russian, breakaway region South Ossetia. Georgia, like Ukraine, has been pressing to join NATO but has only been promised membership of the alliance at an unspecified future date. What would have happened if Georgia had already secured NATO membership, as it wished, at the alliance’s meeting in Bucharest back in April?

Enter the new farmers

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Wheat field in RomaniaWhat’s with farming these days? The humble, even if slightly romantic vocation, is attracting a new breed of participants as investing in farmland and agriculture becomes the latest fad in the world of investments.
 
With financial markets in tumoil and commodity prices at record highs, traditional financial players such as investment banks and hedge funds, and even sovereign wealth funds of cash-rich emerging economies are increasingly looking at farm land as the next major investment avenue.

The motivations are varied — from pure financial punting to concerns about food security. Underlying all this is the belief that the rapid economic expansion of China and India could add more than a billion people between them to the ranks of consumers of meat and wheat-based products. And then there is the growing demand for land to grow crops for biofuels.

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