. . . is the topic of my latest Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld. Excerpts:

"Comment was also made that to include the Kalayaan Islands within the baselines would violate the UNCLOS. But that’s according to whom? And again, why are our officials lawyering for the other countries? Our territory is that declared by our Constitution and not by various interpretative readings of the UNCLOS. We can even choose to pull out of UNCLOS just to protect our territory. That’s doable. The US, for example, refrains from ratifying the UNCLOS for sovereignty and economic reasons. Besides, why admit that the inclusion of Kalayaan violates the UNCLOS? That’s for the other countries to prove. Let them sue us before international tribunals, which perhaps could be the best thing that could happen to us in regard to our claim.

Incidentally, whenever our officials speak of referring this matter to the UN, the ICJ, or any international tribunal, they reveal a lack of familiarity with how international law works. The matter will not be taken up by the UN because China is a permanent member of the Security Council with veto powers. We cannot bring the other country claimants to the ICJ because none of them has an existing optional jurisdiction clause filed with the Court. We can’t sue them before the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea or to arbitration because none of them will likely consent to being brought before such proceedings. The best way to get this resolved quickly is to actually invite these countries to sue us, which they won’t because that’s how international law and politics is played."


PIL/IEL updates

(these updates were taken from various sources)

> Last 20 February 2009, Belgium instituted proceedings against Senegal at the International Court of Justice. In its application, Belgium requests a declaration that Senegal has a customary international law obligation to prosecute the former President of Chad, Hissène Habré, or, failing that, to extradite him to Belgium to face criminal proceedings for acts of torture and crimes against humanity. Belgium founds the Court's jurisdiction on the unilateral declarations of both countries (here and here) pursuant to Article 36(2) of the Court's Statute, as well as under Article 30 of the Convention Against Torture. Belgium also requests that the Court indicate provisional measures that would require Senegal to take "all the steps within its power to keep Mr. H. Habré under the control and surveillance of the judicial authorities of Senegal so that the rules of international law with which Belgium requests compliance may be correctly applied."

> ASEAN is seemingly ready, “in principle,” to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with India by resolving “a last-minute procedural matter” through “consultations.” The ASEAN-India summit, at which the pact was to have been signed, got postponed from last December because of a political crisis in the host country. This was a factor behind the new “procedural issue.” Another factor, according to the ASEAN, was its own modality of “sequencing” the tariff reductions, something that was already applied to the 10-nation bloc’s earlier FTAs with its other trading partners. In that context, India expressed its disinclination to extend two packages of tariff cuts to the ASEAN in the same fiscal year, one in June this year and the other in January next year.

> In the WTO's most recent Trade Policy Review on Japan, the latter was found to continue to promote structural reforms, including regulatory reforms and strengthening competition policy , as well as further liberalization of trade and investment despite the ongoing financial crisis. For a copy of the Report, click here. Trade Policy Reviews are an exercise, mandated in the WTO agreements, in which member countries’ trade and related policies are examined and evaluated at regular intervals. Interestingly, the release of the said TPR Report triggered a complaint made by India against Japan at the WTO regarding restrictions by the latter on Indian generic drugs, fruits and vegetables, marine products,and short-term movement of professional services’ providers. India is now asking that the same be removed.

> The EU seems intent to file a complaint with the WTO next month over the US' enforcement of the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006), specifically as it involves the U.S. allegedly targeting European companies while protecting US companies. The European Commission, acting on behalf of EU industry officials, has been investigating for nearly a year whether or not the U.S. has unfairly sought to enforce restrictions against non-U.S. based online gambling companies. The UIGEA has certainly already had a significantly negative effect on European online gambling companies, particularly those publicly-traded companies like PartyGaming and 888.com who left the U.S. following the UIGEA being signed into law in October 2006.


Buying Filipino

. . . is the topic of my latest Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld. Excerpts:

"The message here obviously is to dissuade any movement for a Buy Filipino law. Buy American or any protectionist measure hasn’t helped the US and certainly didn’t during the 1930s. Past Buy Filipino measures and even President Garcia’s Filipino First policy hasn’t been helpful to the Philippines either. It was ineffectual at best and at worst encouraged corruption. It definitely did not help the poor and apparently only made the local 'elite' families richer.

Nothing is stopping Filipinos, on their own, voluntarily, from buying only Philippine-made products. Nothing is stopping Philippine companies from making more attractive and sellable products. This column highly encourages both real forms of economic nationalism. Obviously these are difficult times, but to simply copy the laws of another country when a) it’s unmistakably not a good measure and b) their circumstances are clearly different from ours is not the smartest thing to do."


Paul the Apostle

. . . is the topic of my latest Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld. Excerpts:

"What’s so interesting and enjoyable about St. Paul’s writings is his incredible mental quickness — you could literally feel off the page not only his excitement while he composed the letters but his anticipation of probable questions to the points he raised. He wrote his letters as a chess player would, with solid foundations, logic, and calculation. But he also had marvelous spontaneity and wit (2 Corinthians 11:22-28 — 'I must be out of my mind to talk like this'). He was an intriguing combination of humility and utter self-assurance. He was so confident of his skills and his intellect (see 2 Cor. 11:6) that he even refused to back down when confronted by the other apostles, not even to Peter. Thus, in Galatians 2: 11-14, 'when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.'"

"So why write about St. Paul? Because I see in him, in this year, this Pauline year which weirdly became also the year of global economic uncertainty, the embodiment of Jesus’ instruction to us to 'be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.' (Matt 5:48). Because we see in him this brilliant intellectual, a multilingual lawyer, urbane and cosmopolitan, who, instead of being self-satisfied, unrestrained, vulgar, corrupt, needy for others’ approval, and greedy for power like so many we see in our country today, admitted his weaknesses and followed Christ."


Tariff calibrategidook

. . . is the topic of my latest Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld. Excerpts:

"Indeed, such copycat behavior is already being manifested here with the sudden clamor for increasing tariffs on imported products. To do so would be a blunder. Aside from the harm it will do to the substantial number of our citizens under poverty level, it also forgets the fact that it will subject our exports to even less competitiveness and invite retaliatory measures from our trading partners.

What’s interesting is the sophisticated language being employed to disguise what is essentially a protectionist campaign that could only serve the interests of a select few. So it was mentioned that any tariff increase be within international trade rules. Obviously. That goes without saying. And completely beside the point as the focus should be whether there are actually any national welfare benefits to be derived from tariff protection. Another point raised is that the tariff increases are a corrective to the liberal or unregulated trade policies of the past. Assuming such is correct, this ignores the fact that the last substantial tariff reductions happened years ago, for which businesses should now have had enough time to adjust and gather competitiveness.

Also interesting is the repeated use of the word 'calibrate' in relation to the tariff increases, implying an increase that is calculated or strategic. However, what could 'calibrate' under this context really mean? Is there any scientific, methodical formula that actually distinguishes 'calibrate' from the mere arbitrary raising of tariffs for favored industries? How are industries to be systematically selected for tariff protection as opposed to a small exclusive group of rich people deciding that by themselves? Have the effects on the non-selected industries and consumers been determined? How can tariff protection result in better competitiveness of such industries? Considering the fact that Philippine imports recently fell by 31.5%, what need is there for tariff increases?

Make no mistake, this column is not advocating for 'unbridled liberalization' (like 'calibrate,' another slogan without any real meaning). What we’re advocating for is a sensible plan that’s not reactive by nature, with due deliberation, and with an eye for the greater populace and not merely for the interests of a select vocal few. Indeed, what this column would suggest, rather than protectionism, is for increased government spending on education and training of our workers."