Wednesday, 29 October 2008 10:04 AM

Trade Rule

It is interesting to note the discussions on WTO/GATT principles in this forum and I just want to put down some observations not as a matter of censure but that of personal interest.

The question I've been asking myself when reading through all contribution is how or to what extend can (if it really can) the WTO/GATT exception permit internal laws which aims to protect public health and the environment. While it is true that internal protective measures can be used to protect public health or environment, the dictates of international trade are such that even these national genuine laws may be restricted in their implementation. There are GATT cases that clearly illustrate the supremacy of the WTO/GATT rules. These rules essentially placed qualification to any subsequent domestic stipulations in such a way that restricts their implementation and operation in practice.

These qualifications provides that even measures which do qualify as environmental measures or measures to protect public health will still be non-permissible where they can be characterized as an arbitrary or unjustified restriction or as a disguised restriction on international trade. There is a fear among liberalize trade advocates that internal protective measures will be used as an excuse to the WTO canon.

The EU's requirement for Solomon Islands to meet certain standards in the production of our tuna products before eligibility for export into the EU market is technically contrary to WTO rules and can be tested on that basis.

If Solomon Islands intend to put in similar standard for example on tuna imported into the country from other countries, what are these standards going to be and how will it be measured. Are we going to require them to match our domestic standard of producing local tuna or health? Obviously this will not match theirs; we will still be required to improve.

The point to make here is this, putting standard based protective measures will not make much difference. Simple should it be, EU sets their standard, we 'can not' enter. We set our standard, they can easily enter. They know it and they play it that way. As long as trade negotiations go down this road, the rest is 'powerplay' rather than partnership. And this only reminds us of the politics of international trade.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of Ian Kiloe and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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