Non Tariff Measures and Chinese Foreign Trade by Dr.Elliot J. Feldman,Senior Partner Baker & Hostetler LLP
Prosumerzen is proud to share with you this Doctor Elliot J. Feldman ´s ,(I),contribute to the ” Applied International Trade Workshop ,(sponsored by the University of International Business and Economics of Beijing and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (“UNCTAD”),Beijing March 21-22-2011. ), inside Nanbeidongxi © . This is a new word originated by four Chinese words and it means “Southnortheastwest”.
Prosumerzen wants to dedicate this section to the most innovative and amazing minds of geo-politics and geo-finance.
Doctor Feldman offers an high valuable view about one of the most sensitive topic inside the international commerce :”Non Tariff Measures and Chinese Foreign Trade “
Non Tariff Measures and Chinese Foreign Trade by Doctor Elliot J. Feldman ,Senior Partner Baker & Hostetler LLP
The traditional way to restrict trade – essentially, to limit imports – is to impose tariffs. The history of world trade negotiations is a history of reducing tariffs. However, every company and every industry, no matter how much it may protest publicly and rhetorically that it craves a level playing field, and nothing more, seeks out every advantage it can find, which means inevitably restricting competition. What we call “antitrust” in the United States is known in most other countries as “competition law,” a legal regime designed to restrict private interests from restricting competition.
Competition law typically focuses on monopolies, collusion when more than one company is involved in the industry, and price-fixing, all domestic mechanisms that enable companies to increase profits by limiting choices for consumers. The economic principle motivating governments to enforce competition or antitrust laws is simple: competition leads to lower prices and more consumer choice.
The international version of anticompetitive practices, beyond tariffs, takes many different forms, but most often they involve governmental action, whereas in competition law the behavior being controlled or curtailed is of private parties. Government action restricting competition is called in international trade “protectionism” because it is designed to favor domestic producers over foreign producers.
There are many ways to protect a domestic industry against foreign competition. Some are legal by international agreement. Most are not. At least since the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff there has been a global consensus that protectionism, whether through tariffs or other means, is bad: restrictions on trade reduce prosperity for the great majority of people. However, one man’s protectionism can be another’s fair trade. The challenge of trade agreements, at least since the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1947, has been to achieve consensus as to what is free trade, what is fair trade, and what rules can be agreed upon to enhance free and fair trade for all.
Trade remedy laws – antidumping, countervailing duties, and safeguards – the business I am in primarily — are the products of global agreement that every country is entitled to combat unfair trade practices. Signatories of the WTO agree that it is unfair to sell a product for less than it costs to manufacture and market it; to sell it for less abroad than the price at home; to sell it with government assistance reducing costs; or to overwhelm a foreign industry with surges of products that can put the competition suddenly out of business. However, the domestic versions of these practices are condoned: end of season sales routinely offer products for less than they cost, a means of selling off surplus; overwhelming the competition with volume, often at lower prices, is objectionable only when predatory, and even then, antitrust laws in the United States are not very effective against such predatory behavior.
Trade remedy laws are easily abused. Petitioners – the domestic companies that complain of unfair foreign competition – often file petitions to disrupt the market even when they know, or should know, that they do not have a sufficient legal case, based on evidence they have gathered, to win a legally enforceable remedy. Petitions have chilling effects on markets. Foreign competitors, suddenly uncertain of prices or government programs that will escape penalty, may raise prices or reduce exports in order to limit their exposure. As soon as such defensive actions are taken, the petitioner has won, however temporarily, a significant market advantage. There are no penalties for filing weak or even hopeless petitions. For several years, there was in the United States even a cash incentive, in the form of the Byrd Amendment, eventually struck down by U.S. courts in reference to NAFTA, and by the WTO in reference to everything else. While the Byrd Amendment applied, however, successful U.S. petitioners disrupted the market for foreign goods, reduced competition, and won hundreds of millions of dollars.
Trade remedy laws are sometimes, by some definitions, called non-tariff barriers, or NTBs. However, because they are legally sanctioned, they constitute a distinguishable category and are never included, it seems, in the definitions of non-tariff measures, or NTMs. These two terms, NTBs and NTMs, often but not always are distinguished from one another.
There are other sanctioned NTMs, with less clarity than dumping, subsidies, and safeguards. Every country, WTO members agree, is entitled to protect its citizens from unhealthy food, dangerous materials or goods. Phytosanitary, health and food safety laws are recognized by the WTO, and every country, as permissible, even necessary, in world trade. However, different countries may have different standards, and there is much room for disagreement as to what is necessary. The United States has argued for years that genetically modified agricultural products, or “GMOs,” present no risk to consumers and indeed have contributed mightily to world food supplies. Europeans have responded that what may be genetically modified to Americans is genetically manipulated to them, and that too little is known about the implications of such modification or manipulation to conclude with confidence that GMOs are entirely safe. It has been for the WTO to sort who is right. Both have claimed science to be on their side, but Americans have argued that Europeans, and others, have invoked faux science to protect themselves against American competition. As free trade for one can be unfair for another, so science for one can be witchcraft for another.
Such phytosanitary disputes have many forms, all seen as technical barriers to trade. They may involve inspections, claimed by the importing country to be necessary for safety and by the exporting country as excessive, designed to discourage trade. There may be licensing requirements, one side believing that licenses provide the government with a means of policing the distribution and sale of products that may impact the food chain, or children, or road safety, or any number of other public concerns. The other side may interpret all such impediments to the free sale of goods as protectionism. Even when everyone involved, domestic and foreign producers, may require licenses, there are many ways to make the licensing more onerous for foreigners, whether by requiring forms and transactions in the local language, or requiring notarization by local authorities. The only limit to the ways in which licensing or customs procedures, packaging and labeling requirements, testing requirements or other regulatory enforcement are onerous is imagination itself. The line between what is legitimate for public safety and what is protectionist on behalf of domestic interests is almost always contestable, even when there are international agreements and definitions.
I would like to share with you an example of a case I litigated some years ago, concerning the safety of disposable pocket lighters. A multinational corporation developed a scheme to gain control of the U.S. market through a combination of safety standards and an antidumping petition. The action was aimed at China, whose exports had become the leading source of the product in the United States.
The multinational corporation, with operations in the United States, persuaded the Consumer Product Safety Commission, or “CPSC,” that disposable pocket lighters presented a hazard to children because children could ignite them, burning themselves and, in some instances, even burning down houses. The company argued that safety standards should be introduced, not to make the lighters child-proof, which arguably would make them too difficult even for adults to use, but child-resistant.
Before making the case to the CPSC, the company began developing and acquiring patents on various kinds of child-resistant mechanisms. Only when it was confident that it could produce more than one kind of child-resistant lighter that would meet the standards it would persuade the CPSC do adopt, did it seek child-resistant regulations for the lighters. The law would say that no lighters could be imported into the United States that had not installed child-resistant mechanisms that would meet the CPSC standards. The company acquired patents and timed the adoption of the regulations so that, when the safety standard became effective, it would be the only company able to sell qualifying lighters in the United States.
At the same time, the company launched an antidumping case against lighters from China and Thailand, conspicuously leaving out Mexico, which was the second largest foreign supplier in the U.S. market. Not coincidentally, the company was ramping up its own production in Mexico with the prospect of selling lighters from there into the United States, free of any antidumping duties. The combination of an antidumping order against lighters from China and Thailand and new safety standards that Chinese and Thai lighters could not meet without new inventions that could not infringe the multinational corporation’s patents, was intended to clear out the U.S. market.
Of course, the story was not told this way. For public consumption, the CPSC was adopting needed safety standards because there had been gruesome incidents involving children. No one could reasonably quarrel with that concern for public safety, especially where children were concerned. Nothing was said publicly about patents, and certainly not that the timing had given a significant advantage to the effective author of the safety standard. No link was made publicly to the antidumping action, until appearances before the U.S. International Trade Commission exposed, but only in small international trade circles, the clever plot.
The most visible barriers to trade often are in developing countries, but they are not always the most burdensome. The United States, for example, complains a great deal about subsidies in other countries, but anyone who has ever tried to understand the internal revenue code understands that American tax provisions are the product of byzantine negotiations and the influence of many interest groups to gain special advantages. These advantages are, effectively, subsidies, because some interests are taxed less than others, and tax codes are only one of many ways – albeit perhaps the most important – in which government rules contribute to less than free and fair competition. A key difference is that developing countries often have less efficient bureaucratic means to implement and enforce regulations of one kind or another, making their rules more obviously protectionist, if not in intent, at least in consequence.
Companies encounter NTMs in many ways, sometimes by surprise. Developing countries do not always announce or publish their rules, or do so obscurely. Exporters can find their products blocked at the port because they are not labeled correctly, or not packaged as prescribed. They may not have completed paperwork to suit the local authorities. Their goods may pass, but only with heavy penalties for violating local rules. Even knowing the rules in advance may not help because the cost of compliance may be prohibitive. All such NTMs discourage trade.
For conscientious promoters of free trade, there are, it seems to me, four tasks: first, to inventory all the barriers, however technical or obscure, reasonable or unfair they may be; second, to determine, to the extent possible their origin and purpose, especially to determine whether they are political products of special interests disguised as scientific or technical; third, to assess which ones make a real difference in trade, the ones that deter exporters from participating in foreign markets; and fourth, to examine what might be done about those barriers that appear not to be scientifically based or serving otherwise a public purpose.
There is a common challenge in all these four tasks, to recognize that all rules, everywhere, are the products of politics, competing views and beliefs about what is good and necessary for society. It is also useful to remember that people like me, lawyers, will strive to understand the motivations and interests of the parties who hire us, and that we will make the best arguments we can to defend their actions. In my practice, that typically will mean acting on behalf of those who want to reduce the barriers and penalties often associated with them, to liberalize trade. There will always be someone like me on the other side, defending the measure. Lawyers on both sides – and governments and private parties — must always remember that those who have erected the barriers have not necessarily acted out of malice or greed, and those who want them taken down are not trying to hurt anyone. Every business knows that poisoning a customer or getting a customer injured in an accident is not good for business. Those who erect trade barriers may not always be pursuing instincts of protectionism. Instead, they may be acting in a sincere belief of what is good and necessary for the protection of their societies at large. Certainly when the CPSC enacted the child-resistant safety standards for disposable pocket lighters in the United States, it was not consciously acting to provide an advantage to one company, or to harm the exports from other countries. Consequently, once the barriers are identified, examined for their legitimacy and measured for their effects on trade, it becomes time to make deals, to modify the barriers so that they accomplish their public purpose with as little adverse impact on trade as possible.
Those who want to reduce or eliminate barriers ought to assume a second burden, not only to pursue what is good for them (or their clients), but to help determine what may be best for the society that is responsible for the barrier. All WTO members, at least, agree on the principle of free trade. All should strive, therefore, to make adjustments in favor of free trade without abandoning legitimate interests of public safety or purpose. That is the underlying principle of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade.
The 2010 survey of the U.S. China Business Council concerning the business climate in China for foreign enterprises highlighted, as related in the Executive Summary, “rising protectionism in China and policies that could curtail market access.” Companies referenced administrative licensing, competition with state-owned enterprises, a lack of transparency, barriers to government procurement, the introduction of local standards. They complained that China was raising significantly the cost of doing business.
The Chinese response would not be difficult to predict. After years of complaints about the safety of Chinese toys and fish and milk and dog food, who reasonably could fault China for imposing new standards for health and safety? There may be, of course, different paths to resolve these kinds of concerns, and some are being pursued already. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has established safety standards for fish and seafood and asks foreign suppliers to get their facilities certified according to the American standards before shipping. American inspectors can visit the foreign enterprises and provide such certification. The CPSC has inspected plants in China to assure itself of appropriate safety standards in the manufacture of toys. Such approaches could be made systematically reciprocal, on a broad basis. Americans could welcome Chinese inspectors where questions might arise about the import of American goods, just as the Chinese have welcomed American inspectors. Such effective pre-clearance would make the markets more predictable and reduce risks in exporting, while reducing excuses for impeding imports.
These modest suggestions assume good will. They are possible, and they do happen, but they are not meant to be naïve. Where there are powerful protectionist interests, politics will always impact adversely free trade. Nonetheless, inventorying all the ways in which trade is impacted, and assessing why, is undoubtedly the place to start. Cooperative solutions would then be good for everyone
(I) About the Author:
Doctor Elliot J. Feldman is Senior Partner Baker & Hostetler LLP ,( http://www.bakerlaw.com/)
Doctor Elliot J. Feldman（Link to bio: http://www.bakerlaw.com/elliotjfeldman/）is the Leader of Baker Hostetler’s international trade practice. He concentrates on all forms of trade remedies affecting the movement of goods and services across international borders. He advises foreign governments, international organizations, American and foreign corporations, and individuals on matters of trade policy and litigates international trade disputes in all relevant forums in the United States and, occasionally, in foreign countries. He has been a frequent legal adviser to the Government of Canada in WTO cases.
Although he has particularly extensive experience in the North American Free Trade Agreement (and founded and is the former Director of the University Consortium for Research on North America at Harvard University), he also represents clients in Europe, Latin America, Australia and Asia, including acting as counsel to the People’s Republic of China.
Dr. Feldman is a former Director of the Canadian-American Business Council and a former Special Project Officer and Consultant in the United States Department of Defense. He has been a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson and Danforth Foundations, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for European Studies and the Center for International Affairs of Harvard University and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. He has lectured in the United States, Canada, China and Europe. Dr. Feldman has been listed in Marquis Who’s Who in American Law, Madison’s Who’s Who and Chambers Global 2009 The Client’s Guide.
For Dr. Feldman’s bio in Chinese, click here : (http://www.bakerlaw.com/files/Attorney/a5173f38-6868-475b-bc3c-be6517b392f4/Presentation/ceAttorneyPDFBioDoc/PDFBio_c8368b77-88f4-4e5e-affc-4749db007c08_Chinese.pdf).