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Free Trade

LIBRE-ÉCHANGE : L’APPROCHE DE MACRON EST UN FARDEAU POUR L’UNION EUROPÉENNE

A la tête du Conseil de l’UE depuis le 1er janvier, le président français a entamé son mandat en défendant son opposition aux accords commerciaux de libre-échange. Mais cette vision pose problème…

« Nous avons été les premiers à nous prononcer contre les accords commerciaux », a déclaré Emmanuel Macron au Parlement européen, au début de la présidence semestrielle de la France au Conseil de l’UE.

Il répondait à une question de l’eurodéputée Manon Aubry (France Insoumise, GUE/NGL), qui lui reprochait d’être en faveur des accords commerciaux de l’UE. Macron a même précisé que « la France est le pays qui s’est le plus opposé à la signature de nouveaux accords », avant de mentionner l’accord UE-Mercosur, qui n’a pas encore été ratifié en raison de préoccupations environnementales.

« Nous allons continuer à soutenir ce dossier en faisant deux choses. La première, c’est de considérer que l’Europe ne doit pas signer de textes avec des puissances qui ne respectent pas les accords de Paris… la seconde, c’est de demander à chaque fois des clauses miroirs », a-t-il ajouté, faisant référence à la demande française de réciprocité en matière de normes commerciales.

Clauses cauchemar

Les clauses miroir sont au cœur du cauchemar commercial de l’Union européenne. Le lobbying de pays comme la France a conduit l’UE à une réglementation à sens unique.

Par essence, le concept du marché unique de l’UE va dans le sens du libre-échange des biens et des services, et vers la simplification des relations commerciales européennes. Cependant, en pratique, l’approche de l’UE en matière de commerce est unique dans tous les sens du terme.

Lorsque la Nouvelle-Zélande et l’Australie signent un accord commercial, elles partent du principe qu’un bien ou un service approuvé dans un pays est acceptable pour l’autre. La France – et donc l’UE – adopte un point de vue différent : des normes moins strictes dans le cadre réglementaire des partenaires commerciaux mettent en péril l’avantage commercial de l’Europe, raison pour laquelle des accords de libre-échange ne peuvent être conclus que si les règles sont équitables.

Le problème avec cette approche est que l’UE a les normes réglementaires les plus strictes que l’on puisse imaginer pour les biens et les services et, à bien des égards, trop strictes pour son propre marché.

Pire que cela, la logique est circulaire. Si, en essayant de commercer avec l’Europe, ces partenaires commerciaux acceptent les normes commerciales, les bureaucrates de Bruxelles s’en serviront pour faire valoir que les normes européennes sont enviées dans le monde entier.

Les conséquences du protectionnisme de l’UE peuvent être dévastatrices pour les nations en développement, comme l’a montré l’incident des droits de douane sur le riz en 2019.

Le prix du riz

En 2019, les droits de douane sur le riz en provenance du Cambodge et du Myanmar ont été réintroduits, afin de respecter les clauses de sauvegarde. La terminologie utilisée est révélatrice. Les agriculteurs européens sont censés être « protégés » de la concurrence étrangère.

C’est à la demande de l’Italie que la Commission a déjà suggéré des tarifs structurels en novembre, ceux qui commencent à 175 €/tonne la première année, puis baissent progressivement à 150 € la deuxième année et à 125 € la troisième année.

Jusqu’alors, le Cambodge et le Myanmar bénéficiaient du régime commercial « Tout sauf les armes » (TSA) de l’UE, qui accorde unilatéralement aux pays les moins développés du monde un accès en franchise de droits et de quotas (sauf pour les armes et les munitions, donc).

Imaginez ce que cela signifie en pratique : après la levée des restrictions commerciales sur leur riz, les agriculteurs du Myanmar et du Cambodge ont saisi l’occasion et ont contracté des prêts afin d’augmenter leur production pour le marché européen. Mais, dès que les producteurs européens ont senti la concurrence, les « clauses de sauvegarde » sont entrées en jeu, et les droits de douane sont revenus.

Ne vous inquiétez pas : si l’un des agriculteurs en question fait faillite, soyez assurés que Bruxelles sera fière de l’aide au développement qu’elle transférera à son pays, et qui finira certainement sur le compte bancaire offshore d’un politicien local corrompu…

Des produits plus chers

Alors, que signifie concrètement l’opposition de Macron aux accords de libre-échange ? Cela signifie que les consommateurs de l’UE continueront à payer une fortune pour le bœuf argentin, ou que les agriculteurs continueront à payer plus cher les aliments pour animaux en provenance du Brésil. Les deux économies en souffrent, les importateurs comme les exportateurs.

Nous devons comprendre que le succès du marché unique – l’adhésion au libre-échange, même avec des nations dont les revenus sont inférieurs – est aussi sa perte lorsqu’il l’empêche d’atteindre des partenaires non européens.

Voyez les choses ainsi : Paris a un déficit commercial en matière de nourriture, un déficit important même. La ville de Paris importe plus de nourriture qu’elle ne pourra jamais en produire, de toute la France. Et, pourtant, la ville de Paris est beaucoup plus riche que la plupart des régions rurales de France, parce qu’elle parvient à exceller dans l’exportation de biens et de services de plus grande valeur.

Le choix est également essentiel : les consommateurs qui veulent des aliments produits à Paris (oui, cela existe) sont libres de payer beaucoup plus cher. Ceux qui veulent choisir des aliments de différentes origines devraient également être libres de le faire.

Seuls le choix et la concurrence permettent de créer un marché véritablement intéressé et efficace pour tous.

Originally published here

Canadian Justice | A Dispute in the New NAFTA Agreement

Christine welcomes a panel of legal and policy experts for a discussion on the new NAFTA agreement, whether or not Canada breached its dairy obligations, and what it could mean for future trade.

Protect consumers from potential black market surge

GREATER enforcement efforts from the authorities and a robust consumer education campaign are critical to stemming the expected increase of black market goods resulting from the increasing cost of essential goods and income crunch faced by Malaysians.

This follows recent news reports that coffee shop operators were forced to increase their prices in tandem with the price increase of essential products like condensed and evaporated milk, sugar and plastic bags which eventually led to the rise in their operation cost.

“The spike in prices of essential items may be indicative of broad-base inflation setting in as a result of the low-interest rate regime,” commented Consumer Choice Centre (CCC) managing director Fred Roeder.

This can be problematic as household incomes have not recovered from the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and income stretched consumers will naturally turn to cheaper alternatives for their everyday goods and services.

“We believe that criminal syndicates will seize this opportunity to bolster the supply of black market products into the Malaysian market, and they would be enabled by the opening of borders between states and very soon, countries,” opined Roeder.

Read the full article here

To tackle illicit trade, the Malaysian Government needs to smash taxes

The Malaysian Marine Police seized more than RM220.44 mil of smuggled items between January and June this year. It is almost three-fold compared to RM55.75 mil for the same period last year. More than 70% of the seizures were illegal cigarettes and liquor followed by drugs.  

Back in January, the Malaysian Government has implemented a series of Budget 2021 measures that are aimed to tackle the tobacco black market. 

However, criminals continue to improve their concealment methods. The scope of undetected activities expands further, including using smaller and private jetties instead of large ports or renting out private premises to store their illicit products. 

We should all be concerned about this. Not only do black markets bypass all regulatory oversight, meaning there are no controls for safety or quality. 

In addition, they create an incentive and funding model for other criminal behaviour such as arms or human trafficking while also depriving the government of tax revenue and putting legitimate businesses at a disadvantage. 

There is no silver bullet for solving this enormous challenge, and more innovative anti-illicit trade policies should be implemented. 

But the Government should be beware that many of these black markets evolve as a reaction to over-regulation and over-taxation which is something that the government could – with the right political will – address relatively easily. 

Illicit trade

We know that illicit trade is in many ways a consequence of restrictive policies such as sin taxes which drive criminals to provide consumers with a cheaper alternative. 

Policies such as the 2015 increase of 42.8% in the tobacco excise duty has played to the benefit of smugglers while doing very little to help people quit smoking. 

Suppose the Government aims to reduce smoking. In that case, it could endorse reduced-risk nicotine products like e-cigarettes and vaping through reduced taxation and more accurate public information campaigns on the relative health benefits. 

Not only would this achieve the broader goals put forward by public health regulators as research by the European Policy Information Centre but it could also help discourage the illicit trade of tobacco. 

Of course, the black market exists not only because there are groups willing to risk smuggling products across borders but also because there is demand for overregulated products. In a survey commissioned by Malaysia think tank, DARE, and carried out by its market research partner, The Green Zebras, 53% smokers in Malaysia have said that they will switch to cheaper but illicit alternatives because they cannot afford legal products at current prices. 

High tobacco cost and low wages country like Malaysia is vulnerable to criminal activities. Therefore, while enforcement efforts like the Budget 2021 measures should be extended, the Government should also consider taking decisive steps in the form of tax cuts, or at the very least, abstaining from further tax increases. 

The evidence to support this is compelling. A 2010 study published by CIRANO in Montreal found that each additional dollar in taxes raises the propensity to resort to consuming contraband cigarettes by 5.1% while each additional dollar in tax cuts decreased it by 5%. 

It is clear, therefore, that higher taxes increase the attractiveness of the black market –and the deeper the tax cuts – the higher the likelihood of stopping smuggling. 

The overarching goal behind excise tax increases in Malaysia, regulators claim, is to reduce smoking rates, particularly among adolescents. 

However, while it is true that the cigarette prevalence in Malaysia has improved for the past half-year since the Budget 2021 measures were implemented, this doesn’t mean that if the Government were to cut taxes, the rates would shoot back up. 

The Malaysian Government need only look to Canada. In 1994, the Canadian Government slashed taxes on cigarettes to tackle the booming illicit trade despite alarmist expectations at the time. The prevalence of smoking dropped and continues to fall. Illicit trade has since also significantly decreased. 

In order to piece together a more coherent strategy, the Malaysian Government should continue to target the supply side of the illicit market through enhanced enforcements, but it would be a mistake not to consider significant tax cuts and smarter regulation in the upcoming Budget 2022. 

A multi-pronged approach will be the only way to reduce illicit trade and avoid the problems associated with it. – Oct 29, 2021

Originally published here

To Tackle China, the U.S. Should Invest More in Africa

The Biden administration has requested that Congress approve an $80 million package to finance the newly launched Prosper Africa Build Together initiative. The project will focus on fostering trade and investment between the world’s poorest continent and the United States. Given Africa’s ambitious free trade aspirations and China’s ever-growing obsession with the continent, such a move couldn’t come at a better time.

The past few years can hardly be seen as the golden age of free trade in the West. Trade wars combined with persistent attempts to make trade woke—through the integration of environmental or gender causes—have undermined economic exchange globally. However, while European Union governments and the U.S. have imposed sanctions, blocked exports as part of COVID measures, and failed to negotiate new agreements, Africa has been silently making strides toward its own free trading future—with China’s help.

Founded in 2018, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is the largest free trade area in the world in terms of participating countries. By removing 90% of tariffs on goods traded among 54 African countries-signees within five to 10 years, the AfCFTA looks likely to become the biggest free trade entity since the 1995 launch of the World Trade Organization. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the agreement will boost intra-African trade by 52% within five years.

As of 2019, intra-African exports accounted for 16.6% of total exports. For comparison, in Europe, the share was 68.1%. If fully implemented, the AfCFTA has the potential to put the continent, long crippled by poverty and corruption, on the path of lasting prosperity.

For international trade, the AfCFTA will mean clearer customs checks and unified market access rules, which could hugely benefit the United States. Africa could become the largest market for the automotive industry. In 2018, Volkswagen and Peugeot Société Anonyme opened their first car plants in Rwanda and Namibia, respectively. Car imports from Africa could become a great alternative to the European imports.

Although ambitious, the AfCFTA is also riddled with implementation problems. Decades of socialist African governments whose main objective was their own enrichment have resulted in substantial infrastructure problems, among other things, in many countries. The construction and modernization of infrastructure combined with establishing efficient customs check procedures is key to making the AfCFTA succeed.

This is where China has stepped in to fill the gap. Last November, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (pictured) said that his government “will provide cash assistance and capacity-building training to its [AfCFTA] secretariat.”

Such support for the AfCFTA is not surprising. Over the years, China has made itself indispensable for Africa’s leaders. Between 2003 and 2019, Chinese foreign direct investment in Africa has increased from $75 million USD in 2003 to $2.7 billion USD in 2019. There is no sign of this trend losing momentum.

Although it can be seen as beneficial to Africa’s development, active Chinese participation in Africa’s development is increasingly worrisome. There is no such thing as free Chinese money. By investing in Africa, China is making the continent indebted, and it won’t hesitate to ask for something in return. Knowing China’s appetites—taking the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka is one example—it is not hard to predict what will happen. Aside from active political involvement, China will also ask for preferential access to the AfCFTA once it is fully functioning.

Africa presents many opportunities for the United States. Almost all African products can freely enter the U.S. through the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a trade preference program launched in 2000. The U.S. has also formally committed to supporting the AfCFTA, but its impact is negligible compared to that of China.

More active engagement from the U.S. in AfCFTA is crucial financially and ideologically. The foundations laid by the AfCFTA today will determine the continent’s fate. U.S. assistance in the form of investments and general support will be key in shaping a better and freer tomorrow for Africans, revitalizing trade globally, and counteracting China’s influence.

Originally published here

Kesempitan hidup sekarang, dorong rakyat pilih barangan seludup

Kehilangan kerja, potongan gaji dan berkurangnya peluang-peluang pekerjaan kini mengakibatkan kesulitan kewangan kepada ramai pengguna di seluruh Malaysia dan keadaan ini akan menyemarakkan perdagangan haram secara besar-besaran, kata kumpulan advokasi pengguna global, Consumer Choice Center (CCC).

Ulasan CCC ini adalah susulan Laporan Jabatan Perangkaan (DoSM) mengenai Gaji dan Ganjaran 2020 yang mendapat median gaji dan ganjaran bulanan mencatat penurunan dua angka sebanyak 15.6% kepada RM2,062. Selain itu, DoSM semalam melaporkan graduan yang gagal memperoleh kerja meningkat sebanyak 22.5% pada 2020.

Read the full article here

Income crunch set to fuel illicit trade

LOSS of jobs, salary cuts and reduced employment opportunities are causing financial difficulties for many consumers throughout Malaysia and this situation is set to fuel illicit trade exponentially, said global consumer advocacy group Consumer Choice Center (CCC) in a statement today.

The comment from CCC came following the recent Department of Statistics Malaysia’s (DOSM) Salaries and Wages Report 2020 that found median monthly salaries and wages recording a double-digit decline of 15.6% to RM2,062. In addition, DOSM also reported that Malaysia’s unemployed graduates rose by 22.5% in 2020.

Read the full article here

消费人陷财困 非法贸易交易剧增

疫情使然失去工作,减薪,缺乏工作机会,很多国内消费人陷入财务困境,这料导致非法贸易交易剧增。

消费人选择中心的“全球消费人权益倡导组织”强调,该组织对大马统计局发布2020年薪酬报告有关月薪中值挫跌15.6% 至2062令吉的数据发文告。

Read the full article here

Income crunch set to fuel illicit cigarette trade

LOSS of jobs, salary cuts and reduced employment opportunities are causing financial difficulties for many consumers throughout Malaysia, with such situation set to fuel illicit trade exponentially.

Global consumer advocacy group Consumer Choice Centre (CCC) derived at the above conclusion following the recent Department of Statistics Malaysia’s (DOSM) Salaries & Wages Report 2020 which found median monthly salaries and wages recording a double-digit decline of 15.6% to RM2,062.

Read the full article here.

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