Russia and Kazakhstan have been discussing the formation of a trade agreement for some time and an agreement is now in place. From July 1 2010 a customs union between these two countries will be launched. Belarus has also been in talks with the Russian government, but as yet, it will not become a member, due to disputes with Russia. Belarus was hoping that the customs union would free it from export duties on oil, but this has not been the case. The gas dispute between Russia and Belarus has continued, although a meeting is taking place to try to resolve the issue.
President Alexander Lukashenko has said that Belarus will sign the Customs Unions documents if Russia cancels petroleum products duties now and oil duties from January 2011. He said:
“As a goodwill step, we propose removing customs barriers and customs duties on petroleum products now, and we will wait until the beginning of next year regarding oil duties; but the duties must be removed from January 1.”
Although the customs union between Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus formally began on January 1 2010, it will not work fully until these disputes have been resolved. The following articles consider this agreement and the likely impact on the countries’ negotiations to join the WTO.
Russia, Kazakhstan agree customs union minus Belarus Reuters (28/5/10)
Russia hopeful of settling Belarus gas dispute Reuters (19/6/10)
Belarus to sign customs union documents, if Russia cancel oil duties RIA Novosti, (18/6/10)
Creation of customs union should not hinder Russia’s entering WTO RIA Novosti (17/6/10)
Kazakhstan ‘moving to re-instate Soviet Union’ with customs unions with Russia Telegraph, Richard Orange (11/6/10)
Russia, Kazakhstan launch customs union without Belarus AFP (28/5/10)
- What is a customs union? How does it differ from a common market and a monetary union, as we have in Europe?
- Russia wants to maintain its tariff on gas and oil supplies. Illustrate the effects of the imposition of a tariff. Does society gain?
- What are the arguments for and against retaining protectionist measures on trade with other nations?
- Assess the likely effects of the customs union on (a) the individual members and (b) other nations. Who do you think will benefit and lose the most?
- What will be the impact of the customs union and its disputes on the accession of these countries to the WTO.
- Is it a good idea for Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus to join the WTO? What conditions have to be met?
Back in 1993, the EU imposed tariffs on bananas imported from countries which were not former colonies of EU countries. These former colonies are in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (the ACP countries). This meant that the main countries bearing the tariffs were banana producing countries in Central and South America.
“In 1996, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, together with the US, formally complained to the World Trade Organization (WTO) about the tariffs. Since then the WTO has repeatedly ruled that the EU tariffs are unfair, but little has changed thanks to continued discussions and arguments between the major players.”
Over the years the disputes between the EU and the APC countries on one side and the Latin American countries and the USA on the other have become known as the ‘banana wars’ (see Web cases 24.5 and 24.6 in Economics 7e MyEconLab). The WTO has ruled against the EU on several occasions, but to little effect as appeals have been lodged and talks have continued. At last, however, agreement has been reached – and without the WTO. This should see EU tariffs on Latin American bananas cut from 176 euros per tonne now to 114 euros per tonne over a seven-year period.
So are the banana wars over? Will EU consumers gain? And what will be the effect on Latin American and ACP banana producers? The following articles examine these questions.
Ending the longest trade dispute in history: EU initials deal on bananas with Latin American countries EU Press Release (15/12/09)
The EU-Latin America Bananas Agreement – Questions and Answers EU Press Release (15/12/09)
Lamy hails accord ending long running banana dispute WTO Press Release (15/12/09)
EU ends ‘banana wars’ with Latin America EU Observer (15/12/09)
Bananas dispute at the World Trade Organisation Reuters Factbox (15/12/09)
Banana prices to fall after longest trade dispute in EU history settled Telegraph (16/12/09)
End of banana wars brings hope for Doha Financial Times, Joshua Chaffin (16/12/09)
EU cuts import tariffs in a bid to end ‘banana wars’ (video) BBC News (16/12/09)
EU cuts import tariffs in a bid to end ‘banana wars’ BBC News (15/12/09)
Banana wars: the fruits of world trade BBC News, Nigel Cassidy (15/12/09)
EU, Latin America Proclaim End to “Banana War” Latin American Herald Tribune, Marta Hurtado (15/12/09)
Settlement should help Chiquita Business Courier of Cincinnati, Dan Monk (15/12/09)
Banana deal offers hope for global trade talks Sydney Morning Herald, Alexandra Troubnikoff (16/12/09)
Pact Ends Long Trade Fight Over Bananas New York Times, Stephen Castle (15/12/09)
Banana deal offers hope for global trade talks Sydney Morning Herald, Stephen Castle (15/12/09)
EU banana dispute ends in favor of Latin American exporters Deutsche Welle (15/12/09)
- Who has gained and who has lost from the tariffs imposed on non-ACP producers over the past 16 years?
- How might the agreement over bananas impact on the stalled Doha round talks?
- What is likely to happen to banana prices in the EU over the coming months? Use a diagram to illustrate your answer.
- Are the banana wars likely to be over now?
In October 2004, the USA brought a complaint to the WTO that Airbus had received illegal subsidies from the UK, French, German and Spanish governments. One of these subsidies was the so-called ‘launch aid’, which the US government argued was a form of export subsidy. In a counter-complaint to the WTO made on the same day, the EU maintained that the US government had provided illegal support to Boeing in the form of subsidies, legislation, regulations and other administrative measures.
On 4 September 2009, the EU and the USA were handed the confidential preliminary findings by the WTO panel in the first of the two disputes. This found that some of the support measures by the EU countries violated WTO rules. However, some two thirds of the complaints by the USA were dismissed.
Despite some progress in its deliberations, the WTO is unlikely to give a final judgment in the first case for several months and not even a preliminary report has been issued on the second case (the EU’s complaint against the USA). But can any conclusions be drawn at this interim stage? The following videos and articles look at the findings and their implications.
Airbus violated trade laws msnbc news (4/9/09)
WTO issues report on Airbus-Boeing dispute AlJazeera (4/9/09)
Update – Boeing vs. Airbus Bloomberg (4/9/09)
Airbus Loans Toward A380 Jumbo Faulted in WTO Ruling Bloomberg (4/9/09)
World trade body ruling reflects pre-crisis time Boston Globe (Associated Press report) (5/9/09)
WTO rules that Airbus benefited from E.U. subsidies MarketWatch (4/9/09)
Boeing wins first round in trade battle with Airbus Independent (5/9/09)
WTO rules on huge plane dispute BBC News (4/9/09)
Boeing and Airbus: Round one to Boeing The Economist (4/9/09)
Partial US victory on Airbus funds Financial Times (5/9/09)
- What sanctions does the WTO have to enforce its rulings? (see the WTO site.)
- What sanctions do individual governments have for ensuring that countries abide by the WTO rulings?
- How could strategic trade theory be used to justify support to aircraft manufacturers? Do such arguments apply to Airbus and Boeing?
- Do airlines and airline passengers gain or lose from the behaviour of Airbus and Boeing? Should the WTO take this into account?
Even in the current gloomy economic climate, there is something else that has grabbed media attention – the outbreak of swine flu. This is of particular concern, given the WHO’s announcement that we are in an H1N1 flu pandemic. The symptoms and health risks have been widely broadcast, but it is not just this that governments are concerned about. The economies of some countries, in particular Mexico, have been suffering. ‘Swine flu has dealt a major blow to Mexico’s already battered economy’. Many countries have issued advice to businesses on dealing with a potential pandemic and some countries are facing trade restrictions. It’s important to consider the economic consequences of this outbreak in a time of global recession. How will some of the worst hit industries cope and what are the costs that firms could face if the situation gets worse? The following articles explore the issues.
Economic impact of swine flu BBC News: World News America (4/5/09)
Advice to businesses on swine flu BBC News (4/5/09)
Swine flu nations make trade pleaBBC News (3/5/09)
WTO protectionism report to feature swine flue bans The Economist (12/6/09)
Mexico economy squeezed by swine flu BBC News (30/4/09)
Swine flu fears hit travel shares BBC News (27/4/09)
Swine flu: Four ETFs to watch Seeking Alpha (12/6/09)
Employers have to pay for swine flu quarantines Scoop Business: Independent News (12/6/09)
- Which industries are the most affected by the outbreak of swine flu?
- What are some of the costs that businesses will face following the WHO’s announcement that we are in a flu pandemic?
- Some of the articles talk about possible trade restrictions. What are the arguments (a) for (b) against protectionist measures in these circumstances?
- How will this flu pandemic add to the global crisis we are currently facing? What will happen to share prices, to tourism, to people’s expectations?
- Do you think that firms have a social responsibility to deal with this pandemic?
- Will there be additional health costs and who should bear them? What do you think will be the impact on the NHS, given its method of provision and finance?
- Do you think that this pandemic will affect the global economy’s ability to recover from this recession?
In the article below, Irwin Stelzer argues that Congress has adopted a more protectionist stance towards trade policy. Not all would, however, agree. Why not have a look at the comments after the article to see some of the discussion that has taken place about the article?
The end of free trade as we know it Times Online (20/5/07)
||Assess the extent to which the new trade agreements under discussion are likely to improve the position of workers globally.
||Analyse two policies that the US administration could put in place to reduce the level or protectionism.
|| Discuss the extent to which the new trade agreements referred to in the article will represent a more protectionist approach to trade.