Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Trade Facilitation Agreement - A guide already?

For those interested in Trade facilitation issues, the new Trade Facilitation Agreement and developing countries interests, there seems to be a guide already out - it is here and is titled "Trade Facilitation Agreement - Business Guide for Developing Countries".

The press release says:
"The guide, which is available free of charge via ITC's web site, explains the provisions of the agreement in clear and jargon free language, with a focus on what businesses need to know from an operational perspective if they are to use the new rules as a platform to increase trade and decrease the cost and time of exporting."
Many more of such treatises to follow, I guess.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

On Law Schools and leaders

Came across this interesting piece by Susan Sturm in the Harvard Law Review pertaining to the role of Law Schools in creating and shaping public leaders:
"Law schools’ rhetoric celebrates lawyers’ leadership role. In law schools around the country, entering and departing students are told that they are the nation’s leaders, reminded of the serious and intractable problems facing the nation and the world, and exhorted to roll up their sleeves and put public good before private gain. Law schools define cultivating public leadership as core to their mission and admissions practices...
Law schools have the potential to ignite and energize people’s aspirations, imaginations, and passions to work on matters of public concern, including problems of growing inequality, as an integral part of their work. I want to suggest that it is imperative to connect the redesign of law schools to a broader vision of law and a deeper set of questions about lawyers’ roles in addressing the pressing problems that require public attention and that our current public and private institutions lack the capacity to solve. Law schools should take more seriously and focus considerable attention on how lawyers participate in and exercise leadership in a wide variety of settings, and do so in ways that are deeply collaborative with other professions and with those most directly affected by the challenges that are the subject of attention."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

More research on exchange rate mainpulation

For those following the currency exchange manipulation debate, a recent Congressional Research Study (CRS) analyses some of the important issues involved. Pointing out the debate on possible intervention in the WTO, the author states:
"Given the relationship between exchange rates and trade, some have argued that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has a role to play in responding to currency disputes. Some analysts and lawyers have examined whether WTO provisions allow for recourse against countries that are unfairly undervaluing its currency. 
One aspect of the debate is whether WTO agreement on export subsidies applies to countries with undervalued currencies. The WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures specifies that countries may not provide subsidies to help promote their national exports, and countries are entitled to levy countervailing duties on imported products that receive subsidies from their national government. Some economists maintain that an undervalued currency lowers a firm’s cost of production relative to world prices and therefore helps encourage exports. Some argue, then, that an undervalued currency should count as an export subsidy. It is not clear, however, whether intentional undervaluation of a country's currency is an export subsidy under the WTO's specific definition of the term, and thus is eligible for recourse through countervailing duties under WTO agreements. For example, the subsidy must be, among other things, specific to an industry and not provided generally to all producers. There is debate over whether intentional undervaluation of a currency is “industry specific” because it applies to everyone.  
Another aspect of the debate relates to a provision in the GATT (the WTO agreement on international trade in goods), which states that member countries “shall not, by exchange action, frustrate intent of the provisions” of the agreement.Some analysts argue that policies to undervalue a currency are protectionist policies, and thus should count as an exchange rate action that frustrates the intent of the GATT. Others argue that the language is too vague to apply to undervalued currencies. Specifically, they argue that the language was written to apply to an international system of exchange rates that no longer exists (the system of fixed exchange rates, combined with capital controls, that prevailed from the end of World War II to the early 1970s).  

No dispute over exchange rates has been brought before the WTO, and whether currency disputes fall under the WTO's jurisdiction remains a contested issue."
I have blogged on this quite a bit. For the moment, there seems to be no immediate appetite for a WTO intervention, either at the negotiating table or at dispute settlement. However, one can never rule out possibilities in international law and politics.