Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Lots to Blog

I'll get to Eurodif today.

Reminder that I'll be speaking at the Georgetown CLE International Trade Update March 5-6.

Substantively, the USTR is asking for comments on U.S. participation in a Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement.  Are we suffering free-trade agreement fatigue yet?  Is American industry clamoring for a new compliance regime to access trade with our neighbors around the pacific?  This proposed agreement would include:
  • Singapore
  • Chile
  • New Zealand
  • Burei Darussalam
  • Australia
  • Vietnam
  • Peru
Note that we currently have agreements with Singapore, Chile, Australia, and Peru.  So basically, this seems to me to say: "Doha is dead.  We are going it alone."  That is not really news.  

I do wonder whether the WTO can survive being continually undercut by the rapidly growing number of bilateral and regional trade agreements.  As of January 2005, there were 310 regional trade agreements notified to the WTO pursuant to GATT 1947 Article XXIV.  There have been a number since that time.  According to my colleague Prof. Ralph Folsom of the University of San Diego, the lone country on the planet without a regional or bilateral trade agreement is Mongolia.  See the handy WTO list here.

What is the value of WTO membership and most favored nation status, if Article XXIV lets regional agreements provide better market access and enhanced benefits to members?  Is a country better off with a bilateral agreement with its actual trading partners than a global agreement?  Tough question that I cannot start to answer.  It is something for the new administration and the USTR to think about.

For companies, a new agreement might provide valuable market access, protections for intellectual property rights, assurances to investors, and cheaper access for production materials.  For my part, it means another set of rules of origin, another certification process, and more enforcement by Customs and Border Protection.  At the detail level, this might be a great thing.  It's the big picture where things are troubling me.

1 comment:

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