2013: sex, trade, and elections

is my Trade Tripper column for the first Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld for the year:

By any measure, 2012 was not the best of years for rationality or sanity. It was the year of emotion trumping information, hysteria over analysis, and the “ah basta!” mania beating back every kind of logic or reasoning possible. The upside of all that is, with such rock bottom crappiness there’s really no way to go but up.

But one never knows. As with any form of addiction, our present adoration for insanity would probably have to hit rock bottom before any form of progress is made. In any event, taking for instance the passage of the RH Law, it doesn’t take a genius to know that divorce, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia will definitely follow.

Unfortunately, the pro-life movement continues to fight yesterday’s wars. The country has changed: Filipinos 30 years old and below comprise 70% of the population (with those below 14 years at 35%, with the median age at 22.9 years). Those at 65 years old comprise only about 4.1%. And yet pro-life advocates insist in crafting a message designed for that 4.1%. Which is irrational. Be honest: nobody wants to hear an old guy (or woman) give a lecture as to why younger people should control their sex lives.

Of course, lawyers will be falling all over themselves in filing petitions in the Supreme Court against the RH Law. But you know what’s worse than lawyers not resorting to natural law against RA 10354? It’s those lawyers who argue on natural law without actually knowing anything about it.

In any event, Mark Judge (writing for the Daily Caller, “America has changed, but God hasn’t,” Nov. 7, 2012) says it best with a description of a country whose decline mirrors ours: “The truth is that America is now a leftist country. It’s Rachel Maddow and Jeremiah Wright’s country. You know that divorced fortysomething female neighbor of yours? The one who’s not half as bright as she thinks she is, and doesn’t know much about Libya or the national debt, but watches Katie Couric’s new show and just kind of didn’t like Romney because she, well, just kind of didn’t like him? America is now her country. It’s Dingbatville.”

Unfortunately, the world goes on and won’t wait for us to wake from our mental stupor. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is on the table. And while the Philippines, correctly, has expressed no hurry in signing on to it, as the TPP imposes certain conditions, a lot requiring constitutional amendments, as well as measures that for a still developing country like the Philippines, would simply not make sense, a coherent trade policy to meet the changed landscape is still not existing.

People have most certainly given up on Doha. But a “Global Recovery Round” is a dodgy proposition at best. It merely shifts emphasis on developing country needs to assisting the world’s leading economies get back on their feet. It seems to be working on the quite convenient theory that the rich countries continued economic dominance is necessary for developing countries to prosper, which is fallacious.

Doha’s death thus presents two hits against developing countries. It comes at a time of, as reported by the WTO last September, “slowing global output growth [that] has led WTO economists to downgrade their 2012 forecast for world trade expansion to 2.5% from 3.7% and to scale back their 2013 estimate to 4.5% from 5.6%.” Furthermore, it must be remembered that the entire point of Doha was to ensure equality of opportunity for them after the lopsided Uruguay Round of agreements. Doha -- which is actually the Doha Development Round -- was launched with hopes of putting more poor country friendly provisions, particularly in relation to tariffs for industrial goods and the lowering of subsidies for agricultural products.

Interestingly, as BusinessWorld recently reported (“Weaker trade expected to continue this year; Jan. 2, 2013): “The Philippines was noted [in the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2012] as having five ‘almost certainly discriminatory’ measures against ‘trade freedom’ but was said to be affected more by 92 measures from partner-countries.”

This reminds me of our unilateral trade retaliation measure provided for under Section 304 of the Tariff and Customs Code. In salient part, it provides that the President can declare additional duties in an amount not exceeding 100% ad valorem upon article of any foreign country whenever he shall find that such country discriminates against the commerce of the Philippines, directly or indirectly, in such manner as to place the commerce of the Philippines at a disadvantage compared with the commerce of any foreign country.

Other countries, particularly the US, have expressed concern regarding the continued existence of our Section 304. Which is a bit disingenuous considering the US still has the Super 301 in their statute books.

And if you disagree with anything I wrote here, then you sir are worse than Hitler.

Anyway, again: Happy New Year.