Trade, Doha, and governance

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

"However, considering the looming election year for the Philippines, it would be a pity if those seeking office would resort to populist rhetoric in favor of sounder and more beneficial trading policies. Because aside from the expected trade benefits that a developing country like the Philippines could expect from a successful conclusion of the Round, one little known expected after effect of a successful Doha Round is something that most people here are clamoring after and for which a lot of perceived candidates are spouting motherhood statements about: 'governance.'

Governance could be looked at in two ways, global and country governance. Andrew D. Mitchell (Melbourne Law School) and Elizabeth Sheargold (University of Melbourne) look at trade and governance from the latter perspective. They examined WTO’s contribution to governance from both administrative and democratic viewpoints. Interestingly, they look at how the WTO’s dispute settlement process contributes to better governance. The other is the WTO’s insistence that laws be applied 'in a uniform, impartial and reasonable manner.'

More directly, Daniel Sokol (University of Florida) looked at how government regulations 'intentionally or unintentionally generate restraints that reduce competition.' Keeping in mind that the Philippines have recently been found to have a high degree of red tape, Sokol’s 'public restraints' findings have considerable relevance. Public restraints seemingly allow 'a business to cloak its action in government authority' and allow private businesses to 'misuse the government’s grant of antitrust immunity to facilitate behavior that benefits businesses at consumers’ expense.' To local proponents of competition policy laws (such as myself), Sokol depressingly notes that 'domestic institutions seem ill-equipped to adequately limit these restraints.'"