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September 19, 2009

U.S. and China in trade dispute

U.S. and China in trade dispute – Wikinews, the free news source

U.S. and China in trade dispute

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

The United States (U.S.) and China this week initiated a trade dispute over tires, auto-parts, and poultry products just a week ahead of the 2009 G-20 trade summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The most recent trade policies enacted by the U.S. government includes a September 12 decision to impose a 35% trade tariff on Chinese tire imports as an anti-dumping measure. The trade policy came about as a result of a trade-complaint initiated by the United Steelworkers Union (USW) filed before the U.S. International Trade Commission. As reported by Steve Levine of BusinessWeek, “In [the USW’s] trade complaint to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the USW invoked a provision in China’s 2001 accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) that allows protection from surging imports from the country [China]. The union documented a tripling of Chinese tire imports from 2004 to 2008 […]” The Trade Commission initially recommended a 55% tariff however, President Obama agreed to only 35%. The trade tariff will be diminished by 5% per year for the next three years to 25%. The deadline for President Obama’s decision was September 17. The trade tariff will take effect on September 26, pegging rates at the new level from the current 4%. The dispute will now move to the WTO where it can take up to 18 months for adjudication.

To quantify the impact of the tariff, in 2008 China supplied US$1.8 billion in tires to the U.S. or about one-third of the U.S. market, with two-thirds of U.S. companies producing their tires in China. It’s likely that the effects of the suit will exceed $1 billion in trade costs, as reported by several other news agencies.

On the 14th of September, the Chinese government via its Ministry of Commerce website, announced that they would institute an investigation into the dumping of U.S. auto parts and chicken products; they are also filing a complaint at the WTO regarding this matter. A formal announcement of trade tariffs against U.S. goods has not occurred.

The two countries’ executive and economic teams will meet in Pittsburgh for the G-20 meeting on September 24 and 25 to discuss these and other economic issues.



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October 10, 2008

WTO calls meeting to ensure trade finance for developing countries

Friday, October 10, 2008

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The head of the World Trade Organization, Pascal Lamy, has called for a meeting to assess the trade finance situation, including the impact on developing countries. The meeting, which is schedule for November 12, will allow credit institutes and government officials to review the current trade credit situation.

Pascal Lamy in 2003 Image: Agência Brasil.

Pascal Lamy in 2003
Image: Agência Brasil.

“A number of WTO members, in particular developing countries, have flagged the problems they are facing in arranging trade financing,” wrote WTO Director-General Lamy.

“The purpose of our next meeting will be to review how the international market for trade-financing is faring in view of the current very difficult conditions on international financial markets,” he continued.

Credit is vital to trade with around 90 percent of the US$14 trillion in world trade is financed by credit. While this market has done well compared to other credit markets, bankers are suggesting that problems might occur shortly. Rates on these trade loans have increased by 3 percent.

Developing countries have seen several recent years of positive growth but the effects of the global financial crisis on these countries have pushed growth levels down.

Lamy has asked that the heads of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and other regional development events to attend. He also invited the five leading banks in trade finance: Citigroup, Commerzbank, Royal Bank of Scotland, JPMorgan Chase, and HSBC.

Lamy also said that work on the Doha Development Round of trade is continuing but did not say if it would be finished this year.


Sources

  • “WTO chief calls meeting to discuss crisis impact on trade finance”. Agence France-Presse, October 10, 2008
  • Jonathan Lynn “WTO calls meeting on trade finance”. Reuters, October 10, 2008
  • Press Release: “Lamy convenes meeting to ensure developing-country access to trade finance”. World Trade Organization, October 10, 2008
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WTO calls meeting on trade finance and economic crisis

WTO calls meeting on trade finance and economic crisis

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Friday, October 10, 2008

The head of the World Trade Organization, Pascal Lamy, has called for a meeting to assess the trade finance situation, including the impact on developing countries. The meeting, which is schedule for November 12, will allow credit institutes and government officials to review the current trade credit situation.

Pascal Lamy in 2003
Image: Agência Brasil.

“A number of WTO members, in particular developing countries, have flagged the problems they are facing in arranging trade financing,” wrote WTO Director-General Lamy.

“The purpose of our next meeting will be to review how the international market for trade-financing is faring in view of the current very difficult conditions on international financial markets,” he continued.

Credit is vital to trade with around 90 percent of the US$14 trillion in world trade financed by credit. While this market has done well compared to other credit markets, bankers are suggesting that problems might occur shortly. Rates on these trade loans have increased by 3 percent.

Developing countries have seen several recent years of positive growth but the effects of the global financial crisis on these countries have pushed growth levels down.

Lamy has asked that the heads of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and other regional development banks to attend. He also invited the five leading commercial banks in trade finance: Citigroup, Commerzbank, Royal Bank of Scotland, JPMorgan Chase, and HSBC.

Lamy also said that work on the Doha Development Round of trade is continuing but did not say if it would be finished this year.



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September 17, 2008

Doha round negotiations might restart in a matter of weeks

Doha round negotiations might restart in a matter of weeks

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Logo of the World Trade Organisation

The head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has called for trade negotiations to restart on the Doha Development Round, citing the need for the round to be concluded to help the global economy. Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the WTO, speaking at a United Nations conference, said “In the weeks to come, and depending on progress made by the negotiators, I am ready to call Ministers to Geneva to try and close the issues which remain open so that the scheduling process in both areas can commence.”

The Doha round of talks, named after Doha, the capital city of Qatar, where it was inaugurated in November 2001, focuses heavily on creating a fair system of trade for the benefit of developing countries, in particular for trade in agricultural products.

The last major negotiations collapsed in July, after nine days of talks, over issues of agricultural trade between the United States, India, and China. Since then, a series of small negotiations have been held. Lamy called for a ministerial level conference, which would involve ministers from member states.

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The WTO believes that a completed deal will restore confidence in the global economy and improve the global outlook. Lamy said, “A failure of the Doha Agenda would have serious implications on the ongoing efforts by all developing countries to address their challenges and in particular to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals. The reasons why we must conclude the Round are visible to all of us and are becoming more critical by the day as the economic and financial outlook continues to deteriorate.”

Since the collapse in July, there has been a willingness by member states to hold negotiations again. The United States has been willing to hold negotiations even though the U.S. presidential election will be held in November and a shift in policy on the Doha round might occur as a result of the election.

Huang Rengang, a senior diplomat at China’s WTO mission, told Reuters, “The problem now is that often in the negotiating rooms you find that some members are obsessed with market access rather than development, are obsessed with inventing new terms like ‘key emerging countries'”.



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February 27, 2008

Sudan boycotts Danish goods

Sudan boycotts Danish goods – Wikinews, the free news source

Sudan boycotts Danish goods

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Scan of the cartoons as printed on page 3 of the “KulturWeekend” section of Jyllands-Posten’s September 30, 2005, edition.

The country of Sudan has initiated an official boycott of Danish products, after the controversial Muhammad cartoons have been reprinted by a series of newspapers in Denmark and other European countries. Yesterday, President Omar al-Bashir expressed his concerns at a government-backed rally in the nation’s capital, requesting that all Muslims in the world take a stand against Denmark by boycotting “businesses, institutions and individuals,” adding that “no Danes shall ever again be able to set foot in Sudan,” however, no Danish emergency workers in the country have yet been asked to leave.

The crisis, which appeared to have been averted two years ago after a near-omnipresent boycott of Danish goods in the Middle East and other Muslim countries, has re-surfaced after three men were apprehended earlier this month, charged with plotting to murder the cartoonist of what is considered the most offensive caricature, portraying the prophet Muhammad with a turban in the shape of a bomb on his head. Two of the men, both Tunisian citizens, have since been expelled from the country.

Considering dropping financial backing

Several Danish politicians have openly suggested dropping the development aid offered to Sudan. The Danish Minister of Development understands the concerns expressed by party associates and states that she cannot promise not to take action. The strongly-nationalist party, the Danish People’s Party, has stated that any financial support to the country should cease immediately. Other politicians, especially members of the opposition social democratic party believe that removing the financial support to Sudan will only hurt the refugees in the Darfur and other poor regions of the country, rather than the government and people of the capital, Khartoum.

In addition, the Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Per Stig Møller, has also stated, that Sudanese government might want to reconsider their methods, if they wish to become members of the World Trade Organization, which the nation has previously stated its interests in. The organisation does not permit consumer boycotts of other countries by its members.

Since the cartoons were published by 17 Danish newspapers earlier this month—along with a number of foreign ones—there have been demonstrations and attacks on Danish embassies and consulates in Pakistan, Jordan and Indonesia.

The Sudanese boycotts and demonstrations throughout the Muslim world have already claimed the first jobs at Arla, the main Danish provider of dairy products, who has seen itself forced to fire 8–10 employees due to lowered demand.


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February 16, 2008

Bush starts off Africa trip in Benin

Bush starts off Africa trip in Benin – Wikinews, the free news source

Bush starts off Africa trip in Benin

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Laura Bush, First Lady of the United States, upon arrival in Benin, with Chantal de Souza Yayi, First Lady of Benin.

Yayi and Bush previously met at the White House in December 2006.

U.S. President George W. Bush, accompanied by his wife Laura, began his five-nation trip to Africa today in Benin, where he met with President Yayi Boni and participated in a joint press conference. This is Bush’s second visit to Africa and the first time any US president has visited Benin. Topics that were discussed included malaria, cotton, and the crises in Kenya and Darfur.

At the press conference, held at Cadjehoun International Airport in Cotonou, Yayi thanked Bush for coming to visit and praised him for his “great concern for Africa, its well being, and of the development of its people.” Bush then commended the government of Benin for their “fight against corruption” and “firm commitment to the investment in its people”.

“Your fight against corruption is visible and easy for the people to see,” Bush said. “This is such a good lesson … because leaders around the world have got to understand that the United States wants to partner with leaders and the people, but we’re not going to do so with people that steal money, pure and simple.” Benin is one of the recipients of the Millennium Challenge Account, which aims to foster economic growth in countries that are deemed to have effective governments and economic freedom.

On the topic of malaria, Bush mentioned the Malaria Initiative, which intends to provide a mosquito net for every child to prevent the spread of the disease. He also mentioned initiatives to facilitate the spread of HIV and AIDS. “We can save lives with an aggressive, comprehensive strategy,” Bush said. “And that’s exactly what you’re putting in place here in Benin.”

Cquote1.svg The United States wants to partner with leaders and the people, but we’re not going to do so with people that steal money, pure and simple. Cquote2.svg

—George W. Bush

The economy was also an important issue. President Yayi said he and President Bush discussed diversifying Benin’s economy away from its dependence on cotton. “He shared his vision with us, and he is encouraging us to diversify the sources of solutions to the problem that we have today, namely the cotton industry.” Yayi says it is hard competing with cotton markets in Asia and the United States. Bush said the World Trade Organization is willing to help Benin’s economy, but he also suggested exporting more cotton-based products in addition to raw cotton.

Bush said the United States will help facilitate a peacekeeping force in Darfur, but will not send troops to the region. “I made the decision not to [send troops], upon the recommendation of a lot of the groups involved in Darfur, as well as other folks … once you make that decision, then there’s not many other avenues except for the United Nations and the peacekeeping forces.”

When asked about the situation in Kenya, Bush said he has sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to visit the country on Monday to support former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in mediating the conflict. “Kenya is an issue … and that’s why I’m sending Secretary Rice there to help the Kofi Annan initiative – all aimed at having a clear message that there be no violence and that there ought to be a power-sharing agreement,” said Bush.

White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley said Rice’s visit will only last a few hours. “It’s basically to go in, give some impetus, but then step out and let Kofi Annan continue his diplomacy,” he said. At a press briefing aboard Air Force One, one reporter questioned what could be accomplished in a few hours and asked why the President didn’t go to Kenya instead. Ambassador Jendayi Frazer answered with, “Secretary Rice’s engagement on Kenya has been much longer than a few hours. She has been talking to President Kibaki and Raila Odinga before the election, right on the eve of the announcement, immediately after that. And so she’s been very much engaged over the last three or four months on dealing with electoral crisis.”

“The purpose of her going is to back Kofi’s mediation, it’s not to take over that mediation,” Frazer continued. “President Bush does not need to go to Kenya at this point. At the right moment in time, the President will engage, but right now it’s occurring in a very systematic way to back Annan’s mediation, not to try to supplant Annan’s mediation.”

After spending three hours in Benin, Bush flew to Tanzania, where he will stay for three nights. He will then continue his trip in Rwanda, Ghana, and Liberia.



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December 29, 2007

World Trade Organization allows Antigua to ignore US$21 million of US copyright per year

World Trade Organization allows Antigua to ignore US$21 million of US copyright per year

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

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Arbitrators at the World Trade Organization (WTO) have granted the Caribbean country of Antigua and Barbuda a special dispensation to ignore United States copyright law.

In their report, the WTO panel stated that Antigua possessed “no effective trade sanctions against the USA” and agreed to allow the country to ignore up to US$21 million worth of US copyrights a year. While this amount falls significantly short of the US$3.4 billion per year dispensation that Antigua was seeking, it is far higher than the US$500,000 per year allocation that US negotiators were pushing for.

The ruling comes at the end of a five year legal contest between Antigua and the USA regarding the USA’s blocking of offshore online gambling sites. Because many of these sites were located in Antigua, the Antiguan government filed a complaint with the WTO saying that the US prohibition constituted unlawful restriction of trade. When the WTO agreed, Antigua pressed for US$3.4 billion in punitive damages. They asked to have this penalty assessed as permission to copy US intellectual property, since there was no trade embargo that Antigua could impose on the US to collect the amount for itself. The panel agreed that Antigua had no way to collect punitive damages through trade sanctions. However, they lowered the amount of damages to US$21 million per year.



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May 6, 2007

Global WTO competition for law students won by the University of Melbourne

Global WTO competition for law students won by the University of Melbourne

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Sunday, May 6, 2007

The team of the University of Melbourne has won the fifth annual ELSA Moot Court Competition on WTO Law for law students in Geneva yesterday, after beating the team from the University of Hong Kong.

Organised by the European Law Students’ Association (ELSA), the competition brings together students from around the world each year to contest a case based on the legal system and case law of the World Trade Organization – the global treaty that governs world trade and commerce.

This year, the case for the competition was on the topic of intellectual property rights and access to essential medicines – one of the most contentious issues in world trade in the past decade. Participating teams played out a dispute between two WTO members – one setting aside a pharmaceutical patent (respondent), the other challenging this on behalf of its industry (complainant).

Under World Trade Organization rules, a country can sidestep patents by issuing a “compulsory license” – a legal mechanism that allows a country to manufacture or import generic versions of patented drugs for public health and national emergencies while paying the patent holder only a small royalty.

The global finals last week were the culmination of months of national and regional rounds, with eighteen teams from universities in Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia-Pacific winning a trip to Geneva for the final round. The first semi final was contested by the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne, while University of Hong Kong and Georgetown University fought out the second semi final.

In the grand final at the WTO Centre William Rappard, the University of Melbourne acted for complainant, the Government of Costo (imaginary developed WTO member), while the University of Hong Kong defended the position of the Government of Factoril (imaginary developing WTO member) – respondent in the matter.

After the two and a half hours of intense debates, the Grand Panel, including Gabrielle Marceau from the WTO Secretariat, Jayashree Watal from the WTO Intellectual Property Division and Werner Zdouc from the WTO Appellate Body Secretariat, decided in favour of complainant. The arguments submitted in favour of protecting the intellectual property rights of the pharmaceutical patent holder were deemed to be better structured and presented which led to the University of Melbourne winning the competition.

“The subject of the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health has raised a wide range of issues in the public debate. I think the ELSA Moot Court gave a timely opportunity to bright, young lawyers involved with WTO law to reflect upon and debate the complex legal and political issues raised by this subject,” said Jatashree Watal, Counsellor, WTO Intellectual Property Division.

The students’ debates during the final round in Geneva coincided with the decision of the Government of Brazil to put patients’ interests before patent holder’s interests and issue compulsory license on important AIDS drug. Some parties believe that the economic interests cannot be compared with saving human lives and protecting the public health while others would prefer a more balanced approach to this matter.

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  • “Worldwide student competition brings WTO debate battle to Geneva” — Wikinews, May 1, 2007

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May 1, 2007

Worldwide student competition brings WTO debate battle to Geneva

Worldwide student competition brings WTO debate battle to Geneva

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The final round of the ELSA Moot Court Competition on WTO Law is taking place in Geneva this week. Eighteen teams from Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia-Pacific have made it to the finals to contest one of the key issues underpinning WTO trade negotiations – commitment to public health.

The 2001 WTO Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health was a vital step in increasing access to medicines in health emergencies. It permits governments to temporarily set aside patents on specific medicines to protect the health of their people.

Many of the key arguments of the WTO negotiations on this matter as well as the issues surrounding free trade agreements (FTAs) between WTO members will be used by the students as they debate the issues at hand. Students will play out a dispute between two WTO members – one setting aside a pharmaceutical patent, the other challenging this on behalf of its industry – in front of a distinguished panel of judges, including many WTO luminaries.

Giorgio Sacerdoti, Chairman, WTO Appellate Body, said: “The WTO dispute settlement system fulfills at least two important systemic functions in today world society: (1) “ensure the respect of treaty based rights and obligations in a multilateral setting by providing the speedy resolution of disputes in an impartial way, based on the rule of law”, (2) “by collective monitoring ensure implementation of those decisions”. Lawyers are called to play an increasing role in this mechanism. ELSA has to be commended for preparing students to this challenge and opportunity on a worldwide basis.”

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November 8, 2006

Vietnam becomes 150th member of the World Trade Organization

Vietnam becomes 150th member of the World Trade Organization

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Wednesday, November 8, 2006

World Trade Organization (WTO) has officially invited Vietnam to become a member of their organization. Vietnam is the 150th nation to join the WTO.

Now that the country has joined the WTO, Vietnam will have more access to overseas markets, but will be forced to cut high import tariffs, thus reducing the budget by as much as 21%.

Vietnam has proclaimed its intention to leave the ranks of the world’s poorest countries by 2010, and will become a WTO member 30 days after official approval from its National Assembly.

Joining the WTO will force a reduction in import duties, within five to seven years, from their current average rate of 17.6% to 13.8%. It will also eliminate any import quotas WTO countries have against Vietnamese textiles, rice and coffee. Vietnam’s banks, insurers and telecommunications companies, however, will have to face competition from foreign interests, and restrictions on foreign ownership of Vietnamese firms will be eliminated.

“Foreign competition is bitter medicine for Vietnamese enterprises, but it will help them become stronger,” said Le Dang Doanh, an economist at the ministry of planning and investment.

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