Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
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.
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.
Just as the World Trade Organisation is organizing an intensive push to complete the Doha round trade talks, the atmosphere among negotiators is as pessimistic as it ever has been.
Former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo has an original view on protectionism.
Instead of promising not to raise barriers to trade (and quietly ignoring their pledges), leaders should hit back hard with all the legal means available at any country trying to use protectionism to shield itself from the crisis at the expense of others.
Zedillo, who steered Mexico through the 1994/95 “Tequila crisis” and the 1997/98 Asian crisis, compares this to the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction that kept the nuclear peace during the Cold War.
The people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia were celebrating on Tuesday after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree recognising the independence of the two regions.
Western leaders responded with harsh words. U.S. President George W. Bush said it increased world tensions and Britain called for “the widest possible coalition against Russian aggression in Georgia,” where the two regions lie.
Imagine driving a car with 27 people on the back seat trying to steer. That’s the image Peter Mandelson painted of his role negotiating at the World Trade Organisation on behalf of all European Union countries – some of which are not entirely supportive of the way he is taking things.
Although the EU gave the trade commissioner a negotiating mandate for the crunch talks under way in Geneva, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, hardly Mandelson’s greatest fan, said he would not sign up to the deal on the table.
Where is green beige, 54 the same as 60, and the potato a tropical vegetable? Welcome to the Through the Looking Glass world of the World Trade Organisation.
Although the issues being discussed in Geneva this week could ultimately affect everyone on the planet in terms of their effect on the economy, prices and employment, understanding the jargon of the ‘Doha round’ is reserved for a privileged few who can decipher its twisted language and countless acronyms.