US-China trade deal: preliminary analysis of the text from WTO perspective
By Peter Lunenborg
The long-awaited ‘Phase 1’ trade deal between the United States and China, officially termed the ‘Economic and Trade Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the People’s Republic of China’, was signed on 15 January 2020. It will enter into force on Valentine’s Day, on Friday, 14 February 2020. This deal is a result of US exercise of political power and unilateral World Trade Organization (WTO)-inconsistent tariffs in order to extract trade concessions, an expression of the most pure protectionism that the WTO is supposed to prevent. Nevertheless, the WTO was unhelpful in addressing the US economic aggression against China. This failure to protect a Member from illegitimate unilateral measures is, perhaps, one of the most significant manifestations of the often-mentioned ‘crisis’ of the WTO, and actually is one of the subjects on which the proposed ‘reform’ of the organization should focus.
Lights Go Out at the WTO’s Appellate Body Despite Concessions Offered to US
By Danish and Aileen Kwa
As of 11 December 2019, the Appellate Body (AB) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been rendered non-functional. This policy brief provides a summary of the issues discussed amongst WTO Members in the last two years, in their valiant efforts to address the US’ concerns regarding the AB. The issues include: the use of AB Members’ services to complete an appeal after their term has officially expired; timelines for issuance of AB reports; the meaning of municipal law; advisory opinions; precedence-setting; and overreach by the AB. After much effort by Members in the ‘Walker process’ of negotiations, concessions have been proposed to the US in the draft General Council Decision of 28 November 2019. Language was provided limiting the scope of appeals to questions of law, even though there are situations where the boundary between issues of law and fact are difficult to draw. The text also provides that ‘precedent’ is not created through WTO dispute settlement proceedings. In the area of anti-dumping, the language inserted by the US into the anti-dumping agreement to protect their zeroing practices is confirmed. Nevertheless, the US has rebuffed these offered concessions. It seems determined to amplify its leverage by taking the WTO’s Appellate Body hostage, to extract still more from other Members, including in terms of far-reaching ‘WTO Reforms’.
Crisis at the WTO’s Appellate Body (AB): Why the AB is Important for Developing Members
By Danish and Aileen Kwa
The World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Appellate Body (AB) will be made dysfunctional by 11 December 2019. A disabled AB means that the WTO’s dispute settlement system loses its enforcement mechanism. Even though many smaller developing countries are not major users of the dispute settlement system, nevertheless, they are beneficiaries of the rule of law, and a more predictable trading environment. Several stop-gap measures have been suggested. None are satisfactory. The right to appeal is an important right for all Members which was part of the Uruguay Round package. If this right is removed, why should other parts of that package also not be changed? The future is uncertain – between a much weakened multilateral trading system similar to the days of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); or deep reform of the WTO, in ways that primarily benefit the US and its partners, whilst foreclosing important policy choices for the developing world.
Access to Medicines: Experiences with Compulsory Licenses and Government Use – The case of Hepatitis C
By Dr. Carlos M. Correa and Dr. Germán Velásquez
This South Centre research paper discusses first, the limitations of the current research and development (R&D) model and its implications for access to medicines. Second, it considers the tension between intellectual property rights applied to medicines and States’ observance of the fundamental right to health. Third, it examines the case of access to medicines for the treatment of Hepatitis C, illustrating the barriers to access created by intellectual property and the high prices normally associated with its exercise. Fourth, it presents the background, main aspects and obstacles to the achievement of the objectives of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health (2001). To conclude, this paper examines the experiences of compulsory licensing and government use of patents in Latin America (particularly in Ecuador, Peru and Colombia).
US’ Section 301 Actions: Why They are Illegitimate and Misguided
By Aileen Kwa and Peter Lunenborg
This research paper examines the US’ Section 301 unilateral actions against China, stemming from the US’ concerns over China’s ambitious industrial policies and its rapid technological advancements. It outlines the accusations of the US regarding China’s conditions for technology transfer and what the US sees as overly intrusive Chinese government involvement in investments. It looks in detail at why the US’ actions are in fact illegitimate and misguided. (more…)
US’ Section 301 Actions are Illegitimate and Misguided
On 23rd August, the US Administration imposed yet another set of discriminatory tariffs on China under its Section 301 Trade Act covering US$16 billion of its imports from China. This is in addition to the additional tariffs imposed on 6 July 2018 on US$34 billion of its imports from China. According to the US, these actions are supposedly because of China’s unreasonable or discriminatory practices relating to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation.
How international investment agreements have made debt restructuring even more difficult and costly
International investment and trade agreements are legally binding international treaties which give investors an additional layer of legal protection on top of the host country law and contract law. However, little efforts have been made in ironing out the interface between these different laws and treaties. Inconsistencies and even contradictions have emerged in dispute settlement decisions, sometimes at the expense of public good, sovereignty and financial and economic stability. An asymmetry seems to exist in the allocation of risks and benefits between investors and recipients of investments. (more…)
Implications of a US Border Adjustment Tax, Especially on Developing Countries
A new protectionist device, the US “border adjustment” tax, is being planned that could devastate the exports of developing countries and cause American and other foreign companies to relocate. This policy brief explains the complexities and implications of this proposed measure and the major question of whether such a measure will violate the rules of the WTO is also examined.
The Need to Avoid “TRIPS-Plus” Patent Clauses in Trade Agreements
A recent article in a prestigious journal reminds us of how the intellectual property chapter of free trade agreements can prevent the sick from getting treatment. This article also critiques the TPP clauses and warns that they should not be translated to national laws or copied into other FTAs being negotiated. (more…)
Reflections on the Discussion of Investment Facilitation
‘Investment facilitation’ is a concept repeated in discussions pertaining to investment policies and treaties, including those addressing the reform of investment treaties. The discussion on investment facilitation is taking place in various fora and contexts. (more…)
The Experience of Sri Lanka with International Investment Treaties
This policy brief gives an overview of Sri Lanka’s experience with investment treaties, including highlights from a study undertaken by the authors in regard to the interface between BITs and FDI inflows. The brief also reviews international trends in relation to re-negotiating BITs and discusses the elements driving these trends, offering insights into the factors shaping this discussion in developing countries. (more…)
South Centre Presentation to the Special Event of the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly
UNCTAD organized a special event of the Second Committee of the United Nations General Assembly on 26 October 2016 in New York on “SOVEREIGN DEBT RESTRUCTURINGS: Lessons learned from legislative steps taken by certain countries and other appropriate action to reduce the vulnerability of sovereigns to holdout creditors”. Ms. Yuefen Li, Special Advisor on Economics and Development Finance of the South Centre, spoke as a panelist and alerted the UN Member States of the current legislative challenges facing the sovereigns when it comes to the need for sovereign debt restructuring including the impact of the plurilateral and bilateral trade and investment agreements.