Government policy adherence to WTO principles

Stevan attended the 2012 WTO Public Forum in Geneva where he represented The University of Western Sydney. He is currently studying a Bachelor of Business and Commerce and is working extensively with Australians from migrant backgrounds.

Abstract 

The paper will examine the role of government policy in synthesising adherence to WTO principles while supporting deteriorating industries. Are these agendas reconcilable under an amalgamated trade policy or are the two an incompatible polarity? This essay provides some insight to the subject through a case study of Passenger Motor Vehicle (PMV) industry. The particular appeal of this sector lies in its far-reaching political implications, extensive media power and powerful labour union presence. Has the PMV industry suffered as the result of multilateral and unilateral trade policies and the removal of government assistance? 

The essay contends not only that many problems PMV manufacturers face are economically inevitable but self-inflicted; it maintains that all claims for culpability of trade liberalisation are versions of the same falsity. The research reaffirms the decline is caused by fluctuation of macroeconomic variables: currency appreciation; increase in price of major inputs: iron and steel; competitiveness of foreign imports; diminishing domestic and global demand; and most importantly, insensibility to shifting consumer and market trends. Further it reasserts the significance of PMV industry in technological innovation. The essay proposes that there is a logical solution: Australian government can simultaneously provide appropriate support to the PMV sector and adhere to WTO agreements. The industry should be assisted through WTO-friendly, non-trade restricting polices, in particular research and development subsidies.  

Read More

Intellectual property rights and Australia

Natalie attended the 2012 WTO Public Forum in Geneva where she represented The University of Melbourne: Faculty of Business & Economics. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Commerce and is a recipient of the Commerce Opportunity Bursary.

Abstract 

The Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement is an integral component of the outcomes of the Uruguay Round in 1995. It resulted from a series of negotiations by the World Trade Organization (WTO) members that aimed to address the increasing need in protecting human’s innovation. At the most basic level, TRIPS was essentially created to establish the minimum standards by which WTO expects its members to enforce the protection of intellectual property rights. Furthermore, TRIPS reiterates the importance of transparency in the governance of national economies. WTO members, upon signing TRIPS, are subjected to the WTO periodic reviews about their intellectual property rights protection system. This paper attempts to give an overview of Australia’s obligations under TRIPS and what attempts have been made by the Australian government to fulfil these obligations.  

Read More

Plain, but far from simple: Australia's plain packaging legislation and the WTO dispute settlement process

Molly attended the 2012 WTO Public Forum in Geneva where she represented James Cook University: School of Arts and Social Sciences. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Law and Arts and is also the Vice President of the JCU Law Students Society and a mentor in the Young Diplomats Program.

Abstract 

In 2010, the Rudd Government announced a raft of comprehensive anti-smoking reforms, controversially including the world’s first laws demanding the plain packaging of tobacco products.  Years later, as the Gillard Government prepares to bring that same legislation into force, the issue of plain packaging remains contentious, being brought under extensive scrutiny on a domestic, regional and international scale.  This paper predominantly focuses on the issue at an international level, seeking to consider the plain packaging provisions in light of the challenge mounted against them by Ukraine within the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) dispute settlement mechanism.  In this respect, the case provides the perfect backdrop against which the operation of the WTO’s dispute settlement process can be assessed. 

The paper is set out in several parts: firstly, relevant background information to the issue is briefly provided; secondly, the key legal issues involved in the dispute are detailed and the prospects of success for Australia’s plain packaging legislation is analysed; thirdly, the tension between commercial trade and public health interests is highlighted; and, finally, given the likelihood of Australia successfully defending the legislation, the nation’s potential to invoke new public health rules and norms of global significance is also discussed by reference to regime theory.  Subsequently, recommendations for future action are laid out, stipulating that the Australian Government stay firm on its ambitious stance towards tobacco packaging.  Such a position may ultimately see the nation reinvigorate its status as a middle power capable of harnessing its modest diplomatic sway in order to implement positive change on a global level. 

Read More

Romanticism in the WTO: The voice of the farmer

Lewis attended the 2012 WTO Public Forum in Geneva where he represented The Australian National University. He is studying a Bachelor of Asia-Pacific Studies and also works for The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Abstract 

The World Trade Organization’s current Doha Development Agenda round of multilateral trade-liberalising negotiations has, after eleven years of slow-paced negotiations, reached an impasse. This is in spite of predictions that concluding the round would lead to global economic growth, benefitting both the developed and developing worlds. There are a multiplicity of reasons behind the impasse; however, this paper argues that the major reason for the deadlocked negotiations is the continued agricultural protectionism in much of the developing world which is fueled by overpowered domestic agricultural lobbies. These lobbies, apart from having significant economic influence, are equipped with a natural power over the public: they have access to emotive rhetoric charged with irrational arguments born out of humanity’s emotional responses to agriculture. This is a power which is largely unrecognised in the economic and political discussion surrounding multilateral trade. This paper ultimately supports wider recognition of the power of agricultural rhetoric in order to better rationally address the issues of agriculture in trade.

Read More

The Pacer-Plus Agreement between Australia and the Pacific Island Nations

Eloise attended the 2012 WTO Public Forum in Geneva where she represented Macquarie University. She is currently studying a Masters of International Relations and is a member of the Macquarie Global Leadership Program. She has completed an internship with the Australian Institute of International Affairs.

Abstract 

In 2001 Australia and New Zealand began negotiating a trade deal with thirteen Pacific Island nations (the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu). The trade deal, the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER), was to cover trade in goods, services and investment.1 It provided the framework for a further trade agreement that was planned to develop into a free trade agreement (FTA) between Australia and New Zealand and the Pacific Island countries (PICs) and by 2011, known as the PACER-Plus.2 PACER-Plus was to be a regional FTA but one that held the development of the PICs at its heart.3 However from the launch of PACER-Plus negotiations in August 2009 by Pacific Islands Forum leaders, critics questioned whether such an FTA was in reality compatible and even desirable. Critics contested the congruence of this agreement that asserted its primary focuses to include the PICs’ development and enhancing the PICs’ capacity to engage in international trade, yet simultaneously required the PICs to liberalise their markets. This paper provides an examination of the arguments for and against the establishment of PACER-Plus, concluding that an FTA should not be the vehicle for any pursuit that has development as its principal objective.4 

Read More