Monday, April 15, 2013

Some trade-related news

. Monday, April 15, 2013

And then there were five:  Following up on an earlier post, there are now 5 candidates left in the running for WTO Director General.  Last time we posted about this, there was some discussion in the comments about the factors that might make certain candidates more or less likely.  One that is often emphasized is geography – i.e., there might be a preference for regional diversity among the leaders of key international organizations (OECD; UNCTAD; etc.).   If it’s true that regional representation matters, we at least now know that the next head of the WTO will be from Latin America or Asia-Pacific (more here and here).
One of those five:  A lot has been written about the relationship between the financial crisis, food prices and political unrest (e.g. Arab Spring).  One of the still-remaining candidates for the WTO’s DG position, Indonesia's Mari Pangestu, envisions a key role for the Doha Round in preventing food shortages in the future.  She warns that the status quo, wherein developed state “farm subsidies have artificially depressed world food prices, triggering a decline in production and a fall in global food stocks,” contributes to the potential for future food shortages.   And, the problem is exacerbated by many countries’ export restrictions.  Of course, it’s hard to be optimistic re: agriculture when talking about the WTO . . . even if there is recognition of the important second order effects of agri-protection.  See here.

Raisin regs:  There is a case before the U.S. Supreme Court concerning the constitutionality of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act, a rationing-type program from the 1930s (here).  Under the program, raisins are expropriated from growers and then are given away or sold.  This is interesting for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s a trade case that made it to the Supreme Court.  Second, the ruling might have implications for other producers that are also subject to similar federal regulations.  Third, it's a nice reminder of how -- notwithstanding 75 years of changing economic circumstances for the industry in question -- policies can be very sticky (if that’s in any way a pun, it was unintentional).  
Serbia’s ban on GMOs:  As part of its progress toward WTO membership, Serbia has discussed dropping its import ban on genetically modified food (here).  In accord with WTO case law, countries cannot impose absolute bans on GMOs.  Serbia can still satisfy consumer preferences through less trade-restrictive means, such as through labeling and other requirements.  Plus, such modifications would be consistent with existing EU regulations anyhow (and that's another int'l organization Serbia wouldn't mind satisfying).  Here.  


Some trade-related news

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