Free trade in rhetoric, not in practice by Western countries


WESTERN countries commonly proclaim the great benefits of free trade and the evils of protectionism.

In reality, many developed countries practise double standards, insisting on free trade in areas where they are strong, whilst using protectionist measures in sectors where they are weak.

In the worst case, within the same sector they have designed rules that impose liberalisation on developing countries but allow themselves to maintain high protectionism.

An outstanding example is in agriculture, in which the rich counties are not competitive.

If “free trade” were to be practised, a large part of global agricultural trade would be dominated by the more efficient developing countries.

But until today, agricultural trade is dominated instead by the major developed countries.

For many decades they got an exemption for agriculture from trade liberalisation rules.

This exemption ended when the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was crea­ted in 1995 and the rich countries were expected to open their agriculture to global competition.

But in reality, WTO’s agriculture agreement allowed them to have both high tariffs and high subsidies.

The subsidies have enabled far­mers to sell their products at low prices, often below production cost, yet allowed them to get adequate revenues (which include the subsidies) that keep them in business.

This has four negative effects on developing countries.

Firstly, those countries that are agri­­culturally competitive cannot pe­­netrate the rich countries’ markets.

Secondly, the developing countries are deprived of other markets because the United States and Europe can export the same farm products at artificially cheap prices. This is a complaint of African cotton-producing countries.

Thirdly, by exporting a product cheaply, the developed country reduces the demand for a competitor substitute product. If the US did not subsidise its soybean, enabling soybean oil to be cheaper, Malaysian or Indonesian palm oil would have a bigger market.

Fourthly, these cheap products (such as chicken from US and Europe) have entered many deve­loping countries, damaging the livelihoods of their local farmers.

In 2001, the WTO launched a Doha development agenda whose chief goal was to liberalise the agriculture of developed countries.

Much energy was spent over many years to devise methods and formulae to liberalise agricultural trade, and a high degree of consensus was reached.

However, the US, backed by Europe, has now made it clear they do not intend to conclude the Doha Round.

Future WTO negotiations have to be on a new basis, and not based on existing texts.

An article by Chris Horseman in the bulletin Agra Europe (May 12) analysed why the US now cannot accept the existing text.

A reduction in the maximum limit of one type of allowed subsidies (called de minimis) would have pushed the US to increase by 58% another type of disallowed subsidies (known as AMS).

This partly explains “why the US is keen to move away from the formulae on the table and to negotiate a fresh approach,” said the article.

Due to its powerful farm lobbies, the US will not change its domestic policies (embodied in its 2014 Farm Bill) to meet the Doha agenda’s new limits on the allowed amounts of domestic subsidies.

The same article also shows how the European Union has meanwhile changed the types of subsidies it provides, in order to better comply with WTO rules. This also allowed the EU countries to maintain their total domestic subsidies at around €80bil (RM356bil) annually from 2004 to 2013.

Two decades after the WTO was set up, the rich countries have continued the high level of their agricultural protection.

There is little prospect that they will agree to changes in the trading system that will effectively eliminate or reduce the massive subsidies that keep their farming systems afloat.

The poorer countries simply do not have the money to match the subsidies of the rich.

If they want to defend their far­mers and their food security, they can only put up tariffs to levels that keep out the cheap subsidised pro­ducts.

But those developing countries that sign free trade agreements with the US and the EU have to cut their agriculture tariffs to zero or very low levels.

At the same time, at the insistence of developed countries, agricultural subsidies are kept off the FTA agenda. Thus, the rich countries can keep their subsidies and swamp developing countries with their farm products.

The US and EU are also taking protectionist measures in other areas against developing countries.

For example, the US successfully filed a case against India at the WTO, that the latter’s National Solar Mission favours local firms through its domestic content requirements for solar cells and modules.

This kind of objection makes it extra difficult for India or other developing countries to take action against climate change.

The European Parliament recently voted to refuse giving China the status of a market economy in the WTO, although WTO members are obliged to recognise China as a market economy by December 2016, 15 years after it joined the WTO in 2001.

By denying China this status, it is easier for other countries to suc­­­­­­c­e­ed when taking anti-dumping cases against China, and thus to place extra tariffs on Chinese exports.

China and India are fighting back.

India last week announced it will file 16 cases against the US for violating WTO rules when providing subsidies under its renewable energy programmes.

China won a case against the US in the WTO for wrongly imposing countervailing duties against 15 Chinese products including solar panels, steel sinks and thermal paper.

However, the US has not complied with the panel decision to withdraw the duties, and China is now starting action at the WTO to get the US to comply.

It seems impossible to prevent or reduce the rich countries’ high protection of their agriculture. And it also seems they will continue using protectionist measures against products or policies of developing countries.

There is indeed a big gap between the rhetoric and practice of free trade.

By Martin Khor Global trends

Martin Khor (director@ southcentre.org) is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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The arbitration decision on South China Sea could ‘change the world’


Chinese J-11 fighter jets intercepted the U.S. EP-3 spy aircraft

THE ruling on an international arbitration case, brought by the Philippines against China on rival claims to the South China Sea, is expected soon.

With the decision widely predicted to favour the Philippines, China – which has refused to participate in the proceedings – has revved up its efforts to influence public opinion at home and abroad.

State-owned media outlets, such as China Radio International’s WeChat account “Watch Asean”, began posting materials provided by the Chinese Foreign Ministry in late April to prove that China lays historical claim to the territory.

Turning to age-old manuscripts like the Book of Han and Record of Foreign Matters written during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 AD – 220 AD), China said its people were the first to discover, name and administer va­­rious South China Sea islands and therefore enjoy priority rights to own and use the features.

“History has irrefutably proved that China is the sole owner of the South China Sea islands,” it said.

China also cited foreign publications, such as The China Sea Directory by United Kingdom’s Hydrographic Office in 1868 and a 1933 French magazine Le Monde Colonial Illustré, as evidence that Chinese fishermen did live on the islands.

As for other South-East Asian nations that border the South China Sea, China claimed they did not challenge its sovereignty until rich deposits of oil and natural gas were discovered there in the 20th century.

“Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, etc, then ‘occupied’ parts of Nansha (Spratly Islands) and hence the territorial spat ensued,” said Li Guoqing, research fellow of the Institute of Chinese Borderland Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told local and international journalists in Beijing.

The conflicts brewed for decades and heightened over the past two years with China’s massive expansion and construction activities in the area, adding airfields, ports and lighthouses to seven islands and reefs.

Its explanation that these facilities were intended for civilian use was not too convin­cing, especially for the United States, which criticised China for “militarising” the disputed waters.

On the international front, China appeared as an aggressive claimant who insists that historical evidence can substantiate its assertion over the territory.

It uses the “nine-dash line” to demarcate its boundary on maps, covering most of the South China Sea and overlapping the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of Malaysia, Bru­nei, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indo­nesia.

If China is so confident of its sovereignty over the South China Sea, why is it reluctant to appear before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague?

China said territorial sovereignty is beyond the purview of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

It added that both countries have agreed in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) to settle disputes through bilateral channels, which means the Philippines’ arbitration has thus breached its obligation under international law.

But the Philippines has emphasised to the five-person tribunal that it is not asking for a ruling on territorial sovereignty, but to clarify its maritime entitlements in the South China Sea.

The tribunal decided in October last year that it has the authority to consider the Philippines’ submissions, adding that the DOC was only a political agreement, which is not legally binding.

The tribunal will rule on whether China’s “nine-dash line” violates UNCLOS, whether the maritime features claimed by both parties should be characterised as “islands, rocks, low-tide elevations or submerged banks” (to determine the maritime zones they are entitled to), and whether “certain Chinese activities” in the South China Sea have violated UNCLOS.

China is adamant that it would not entertain the decision.

“No matter what verdict the arbitration case will be, it is unlawful and invalid. China will neither accept nor recognise it,” Ouyang Yujing, director-general of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said in a press conference in early May.

Li said it is foreseeable that the disputes over the South China Sea would continue to exist for a long time after the verdict is delivered.

He downplayed the significance of the arbitration, saying that it has been hyped up to appear as if it could “change the world”.

“While China is the most experienced country in the world in solving boundary disputes (through bilateral negotiations), it is also the least experienced when it comes to dealing with territorial claims through international arbitration, so I think China has made the right decision to stay away from the arbitration,” he said.

As China slammed countries outside of the region, such as the US and Japan, for meddling in the maritime row, it is actively lobbying for international support on its stance.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, during his three-nation visit to South-East Asia in April, said that Brunei, Cambodia and Laos reached a consensus with China to, among others, agree that countries can choose their own ways to solve disputes and oppose unilateral attempts to impose an agenda on others.

National news agency Xinhua reported that Fiji supported China’s position in a meeting between their foreign ministers in Beijing last month (although the Fijian government quickly clarified that it did not, according to the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation).

Last week, a Doha Declaration was signed by China and 21 countries of the Arab League to support peaceful settlement of disputes through negotiation.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said that Gabon, Mauritania and Venezuela have also voiced their support for China.

“We highly commend these countries and regional organisations for their calling for justice,” he said in a daily press briefing.

Judging from China’s behaviour, it is very likely that it will follow up with another publicity blitz to denounce the tribunal’s verdict, if the latter does indeed rule in favour of the Philippines.

The disputes, meanwhile, will be far from over.

By Tho Xin Yi

Check-in China

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What the market is trying to tell investors?


IN stock market language, when the charts point to a “dead cross” formation, it means that there is confirmation of a long-term bear market. This is as opposed to a “golden cross” that points to a bull market.

Based on weekly indicators emitting from Bursa Malaysia, a dead cross is coming to formation. The last time this pattern emerged was in the first quarter of 1997 and a year later, the “dead cross” chart was fully formed. By that time, the entire capital market was in flames.

The ringgit fell against the US dollar, banks were in trouble and the stock market hit a nadir of 261 points on Sept 4, 1998.

Technical indicators are no sure sign of market failure. It could change with sentiments. However, time and again it has been proven that the stock market runs six months ahead of what is to be expected in the real economy.

As for the nation’s economy, there is no denying that growth is slowing down. There are governance issues with regards to the handling of public funds.

However, the fact remains that for all the noise the foreign investors make, the Government did not have to pay a premium when it raised US$1.5bil debts a few weeks ago. This indicates that foreign investors have largely discounted local issues.

Nevertheless, the external headwinds are overwhelming and weigh heavy on the Malaysian economy.

It is already showing with the slew of corporate results streaming in. Companies are not doing well, as indicated by Tan Chong Motor Holdings Bhd chalking up its first loss in 18 years. Property developers that have made a pile from a great run in the last eight years are seeing miserable sales.

Malaysia is expected to see a growth of 4% this year, which is low for a small nation. Nonetheless, we are better off than some of our neighbours.

Everybody is cautious, but nobody is able to point a finger to the catalyst that could cause a severe correction to the stock market. Inevitably, it will stem from the economy – whether domestic or global.

There are several signs that have emerged which need some monitoring.

At the top of the list would be the price of oil that has a close correlation to the ringgit and the economy.

Ironically, when crude oil plunged below US$30 per barrel, the ringgit weakened significantly on the view that Malaysia was an exporter of energy and it impacted the country’s revenue.

However, in recent months, oil prices have recovered to about US$45 per barrel levels but the ringgit is continuing to see volatility. One reason is that the market is not convinced that crude oil will stabilise at current levels.

Conventional economic theory reasons that when oil prices fall, it should strengthen economic activity because the cost of doing business comes down. The International Monetary Fund estimates that for every US$20 drop in price per barrel of crude, the global economy should grow by 0.5%.

However, this is not happening because the major economic superpowers of the world are going through their own problems.

This points to China’s economic health, the second major concern that could spark off a crisis for Bursa and the world.

Nobody can authoritatively put a finger on the state of the debt levels of China, especially those held outside the financial sector. The latest figure being bandied about is that the non-financial sector debt is 279% of gross domestic product, according to data from the Bank of International Settlement.

However, the optimists contend that China’s strong growth supports borrowing. Also, the country is seeing high inflation, which in the longer term will cause debt to erode. In the process of growing the economy, China has adopted an approach to weakening the yuan to export its way out. Every time the yuan weakens, the ringgit falls.

The third indicator is the highly likely scenario of the US raising interest rates in the second half of the year from the current band of between 0.25% and 0.5%. It is a measure which, if materialises, will exert pressure on the ringgit.

The headline numbers show that the US economy is still in the stage of recovery. The unemployment rate in the world’s biggest economy has ticked up slightly to 5% from 4.9% previously based on April numbers, but wage rates are still steady, meaning people are still getting paid well.

People’s earnings are growing at an estimated 2.5% based on latest numbers, which means that inflation will kick in.

At the moment the possibility of the US Federal Reserve raising interest rates will not likely happen in the next month or so but there is a strong possibility may happen by the year-end as inflation starts to tick up. This would cause an outflow of funds from emerging economies such as Malaysia and the ringgit would come under pressure.

The fourth catalyst is also tied to the US. This time, it is the fear of Donald Trump becoming the next president. Trump prefers a strong dollar and has hinted of a haircut for those holding US dollar debt papers.

Although Trump has come out to state that he was misquoted on the US dollar debt paper issue, it has spooked investors holding US$14 trillion of US debt papers.

The markets will also watch with anxiety on how Trump deals with policies of other countries such as China, Japan and the European Union (EU) in weakening their currencies to boost the economy.

As the run-up to the presidential elections takes place in November this year, if it becomes increasingly apparent that Trump will triumph over Hillary Clinton, then emerging markets will be spooked.

And finally, the last possible catalyst to cause a global shock is the possibility of Britain leaving the EU or better known as Brexit. Increasingly, the chances of it happening are remote. Nevertheless, nobody can tell for sure until the referendum on June 23.

All the five economic events will have a bearing on the ringgit. Everything points to the US dollar appreciating in the future, leaving the ringgit in defensive mode.

This is already being reflected in the negative mood of the stock market. If there is less noise in the domestic economy on such matters relating to the handling of public funds to governance, it would help the case for the ringgit.

The market is generally correct in predicting the future. But sometimes, the unexpected can happen – such as China handling its debt problems better than expected or Trump not being a candidate for the Republicans.

Such unexpected incidences can quickly reverse the sentiments of the market and the ringgit.

By M. Shanmugam The alternative view The Star

Go to Market Watch

http://www.thestar.com.my/business/marketwatch/

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The alchemy of money


Former Bank of England governor claims that for over two centuries, economists have struggled to provide rigorous theoretical basis for the role of money and have largely failed.

 

MONEY makes the world go round, so you would have thought that economists understand what money is all about.

The former governor of the Bank of England, Lord Mervyn King, has just published a book called The End of Alchemy, which made a startling claim that “for over two centuries, economists have struggled to provide rigorous theoretical basis for the role of money, and have largely failed.” This is a serious accusation from a distinguished academic turned central banker.

Alchemy is defined as the ability to create gold out of base metals or the ability to brew the elixir of life. King identifies that the main purpose of financial markets is to help real economy players to cope with “radical uncertainty”. But as we discovered after the global financial crisis, financial risk models widely used by banks narrowly defined risks as statistical probabilities that could be measured. By definition, radical uncertainty is an “unknown unknown” that cannot be measured. It was no wonder that the banks were blind to the blindness of financial models, which conveniently assumed that what cannot be measured does not exist. Ergo, no one but dead economists is to blame for bank failure.

When money was fully backed by gold, money was tied to real goods. But when paper currency was invented, money became a promisory note, first of the state – fiat money, supported by the power to impose taxes to repay that debt, and today, bank-created money, which is backed only by the assets and equity of the bank. The power to create “paper” money is truly alchemy – since promises by either the state or the banks can go on almost forever, until the trust runs out.

Today national money supply comprises roughly one-fifth state money (backed by sovereign debt) and four-fifths bank deposits (backed by bank loans and bank equity). Banks can create money as long as they are willing to lend, and the more they lend to finance bad assets, the more alchemy there is in the system.

A good description of financial alchemy is provided by FT columnist Prof John Kay, whose new book, Other People’s Money, is a masterpiece in the diagnosis of financialisation – how the finance industry traded with itself and (almost) ignored the real world. For example, Kay claimed that British banks’ “lending to firms and individuals in the production of goods and services – which most people would imagine was the principal business of a bank – amounts to about 3% of that total”. How is it possible that “the value of the assets underlying derivative contracts is three times the value of all the physical assets in the world”?

The answer is of course leverage. Finance is a derivative of the real economy, which can be leveraged or multiplied as long as there is someone (sucker?) willing to believe that the derivative has a “sound” relationship with the underlying asset. There are two pitfalls in that alchemy – a sharp decline in leverage and a fall in the value of the underlying asset – which were triggers of the global crash of 2007, as fears of Fed interest rate hikes tightened credit and questions asked about risks in subprime mortgage assets that were the underlying assets of many toxic derivatives.

Unfortunately, as we found to everyone’s costs, the banking system itself became too highly leveraged relative to its obligations, without sufficient equity nor liquidity to absorb market shocks.

The real trouble with financialisation is that central bankers, having not taken away the punch bowl when the party got really heady, cannot attempt anything like even trying to move in that direction without spoiling the whole party. Any attempt to raise interest rates by the Fed would be considered Armageddon by those who have huge vested interests in bubbly asset markets. Instead, central bankers like Mario Draghi has to continue to talk “whatever it takes” to continue the game of financialisation.

King’s recommendation that central banks reverse alchemy by behaving like pawnbrokers for all seasons (having collateral against all lending) can only be implemented after the next and coming crisis. Central bank discipline, like virginity, cannot be replaced once lost. The market will always think that in the end, it will be bailed out by central banks. In the end the market was right – it was bailed out and will be bailed out. In the game of playing chicken with finance, the politicians will always blink.

If we accept that radical uncertainty lies at the heart of finance, then money makes the world go around because it provides the lubricant of trade and investment. Without that lubricant, trade and investment would slow down significantly, but with too much lubricant, the system can rock itself to pieces.

The dilemma of central banks today is also globalisation. In addition to the Fed controlling dollar money supply within the US borders, there are US$9 trillion of dollars created outside the US borders over which the Fed has no control. Money today can be created in the form of Bitcoins, computerised digital units that tech people use to trade value. But Bitcoins ultimately need to be changed into dollars. So as long as someone will accept Bitcoins, digital currency become convertible money.

We got into a monetary crisis in which bad money drove out good. The reason was because the financial sector, in collusion with politics, refused to accept that there were losses in the system, so it printed more money to hide or roll over the losses. Surprise, surprise, there was no inflation, because the real economy, having become bloated with excess capacity financed by excess leverage, had in the short run no effective demand. So inflation at the global level is postponed.

But if climate change disrupts the weather and create food supply shortages, inflation will return, initially in the emerging economies, which cannot print money because they are not reserve currencies. In time, inflation will come back to haunt the reserve currency countries. But not before the emerging markets go into crises of inflation or banking first.

Money is inherently unfair – the rich will always suffer less than the poor.

In medieval times, only those with real money could afford alchemy. If it was true then, it remains true today.

Tan Sri Andrew Sheng writes on global affairs from an Asian perspective.

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Philippine president-elect Duterte may shift Manila’s foreign policy, have limited room for change on maritime disputes


The polls opened on Monday for general elections, including the race for the president, in the Philippines. As of press time, Rodrigo Duterte, also known as “the Donald Trump of the Philippines” has assumed a big lead with 39 percent of votes, and is believed to have secured his position as the country’s next president.

The 71-year-old Duterte has been mayor of Davao City for over 20 years. But his remarks are far more aggressive than those of US presidential candidate Trump. He has claimed that if he is elected, he will eliminate corruption and crime in this nation within several months and execute 100,000 criminals and dump them into Manila Bay. Not long ago, Duterte even vowed to “forget human rights.”

Duterte has also left a strong impression that his concept of foreign policy differs greatly to that of President Benigno Aquino III. He opposes the idea of going to war with China, wants direct negotiation with Beijing about the South China Sea, and doesn’t believe in solving the conflict through an international tribunal.

The overwhelming support Duterte received over and above the other contenders suggests there is strong dissatisfaction in the country with Aquino’s six-year rule. Though the country enjoyed 6 percent annual growth for the past six years, the public failed to benefit from it. The electorate is also fed up with Aquino’s lopsided South China Sea strategy – siding completely with Washington which brought no advantage to Manila.

The public cares most about livelihoods and nationalistic slogans cannot feed them. It is reported that the 40 richest families in the Philippines own 76 percent of the country’s total assets. The country is afflicted with corruption and hereditary politics, and as punishment, the Aquino-backed candidate is languishing far behind.

It won’t be possible for Duterte to turn the domestic Philippine political arena upside down. Being only a mayor of Davao in the past years, he has no power to move the entire nation. He was obviously bragging when asserting he would eliminate corruption in six months. In an era of rising populism, it seems that a “big mouth” can always be popular wherever they are.

But if there is anything that can be changed by Duterte, it will be diplomacy. Many believe that whoever assumes office will adjust the nations’ unscrupulous policy toward China. If the new leader wants to manifest his or her difference from the previous president, as well as to make achievements, improving ties with Beijing is the shortest way.

China will not be too naïve to believe that a new president will bring a promising solution to the South China Sea disputes between Beijing and Manila. However, it sounds accurate that Philippine ties with China have already been through an all-time low during Aquino’s presidency. Only time will tell how far the new leader, be it Duterte or not, will go toward restoring the bilateral relationship.

Exclusive interview with Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang

 

Lu Kang: China hopes new gov’t in Philippines will work to solve disputes

CCTV Foreign Affairs Reporter Su Yuting spoke with Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, for more on China’s stance towards the
Philippine election and the South China Sea Issue.

https://player.cntv.cn/standard/cntvOutSidePlayer.swf

Duterte may have limited room for change on maritime disputes

Rodrigo Duterte, the hard-liner mayor of Davao City, seemed to be the sure winner of the presidential election in the Philippines Monday. Duterte shares different political views from the outgoing president Benigno Aquino, and how the China-Philippines relationship will develop after the election is worth exploring.

The South China Sea dispute is at the core of the relationship between Beijing and Manila, yet Duterte’s comments on the issue are self-contradictory. Although he suggested settling the disputes via direct negotiations with China, and proposed the principle of shelving differences and conducting joint development in the South China Sea, Duterte also vowed to ride a jet ski to Huangyan Island and plant the national flag there.

Despite the above statements, Duterte is a more practical politician compared with his predecessor. The new government is expected to see adjustments in its South China Sea policy.

However, the room for adjustments is squeezed by the US and the Aquino administration. To begin with, Washington and Manila have reached a series of cooperative agreements including a 10-year long Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and a five-year long Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative. By signing these deals, the White House, on the one hand, wants to draw the Philippines over to its side, and attempts to impose restrictions on the new government’s foreign policies on the other.

Recently, the Pentagon, by sending warplanes in the international airspace in the vicinity of Huangyan Island, has actively intervened in the South China Sea disputes. The US is always hyping up the Huangyan Island disputes and stirring up troubles against China. The US military intervention is attempting to influence the foreign policies of the new government.

Duterte’s political performances will be limited by the Aquino administration as well. The Aquino government unilaterally initiated the international arbitration in 2013 and has been obstinately pushing forward arbitral proceedings regarding the South China Sea disputes ever since.

“If the tribunal rules that the Reed Bank [Liyue Tan] belongs to the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, then of course we have the right to proceed,” Antonio Carpio, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice, urged the new government to proceed with the arbitration. The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea was also created by Aquino to unify national actions on the South China Sea issues.

Before leaving the office, Aquino will still strive to manipulate public opinion and provoke nationalist sentiments against China in every possible means. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has even introduced a Philippines Diplomatic Handbook for the new government’s reference. The Aquino administration is trying every means to exert influence on the new government and force it to accept the final verdict of the arbitration.

As mayor of Davao City, Duterte had limited political influence on the whole nation. Earlier, Aquino called on all presidential candidates to form a united front against Duterte. The hard-line new president is likely to face challenges from traditional elites and Manila. “The moment he [Duterte] tries to declare a revolutionary government, that is also going to be the day he will be removed from office,” Senator Antonio Trillanes, a former navy officer known for the failed military uprisings in 2007 and 2003, said earlier.

With his “big mouth,” Duterte is seen by many as the “Donald Trump of the Philippines.” His victory reflects Philippine citizens’ strong dissatisfaction with Aquino’s rule. The overall situation in the Philippines has not seen significant improvements in recent years. Politically, corruption is severe. Economically, the interests of the lower-class citizens have been neglected. The nation’s infrastructure is in urgent need to improve as well. The Philippines is lagging far behind its Southeast Asian neighbors. It is understandable that the Philippine citizens want a hard-line leader to change the status quo.

China has to be prepared for the negotiations with Duterte after the election. Despite the South China Sea disputes, Beijing and Manila have seen frequent people-to-people exchanges and strong economic ties in recent years. The two states should be prepared for direct communications to settle the disputes, and lead the bilateral relationship to a new level.

By Chen Qinghong Source:Global Times

The author is a research fellow at the Institute of South and Southeast Asian and Oceania Studies under the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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Philippine presidential election a chance to settle South China Sea issues

A formation of the Nanhai Fleet of China’s Navy on Saturday finished a three-day patrol of the Nansha islands in the South China Sea. …
Manila urgently needs to tackle problems in its own backyard to stop the kidnapping of foreign citizens .PRIME Minister Datuk Ser…

 

Philippine presidential election a chance to settle South China Sea issues


The Philippine presidential election on May 9, arguably the most contentious in decades, will see a new leader assume power because incumbent President Benigno Aquino III is barred from seeking re-election. Since Aquino is responsible for the souring of Beijing-Manila relations by endorsing Washington’s “rebalancing to Asia-Pacific” policy over the past six years, the world is waiting to see what the new Philippine government’s China policy will be.

Backed by the United States, the Aquino government has constantly sought to challenge China over the South China Sea issue, which, however, has proved to be a fool’s errand.

To begin with, Manila’s attempt to confront Beijing over its Huangyan Island has failed.

To maintain relations with the Philippines, however, China has exercised exemplary restraint in the island dispute. And the Philippines was expected to reciprocate the gesture for the sake of bilateral ties, which Aquino has long refused.

Encouraged by Washington, Manila sent military vessels to harass Chinese fishing boats and fishermen operating in waters off Huangyan Island in 2012, triggering a two-month confrontation with China’s surveillance ships. This prompted Beijing to strengthen its presence on the island, leaving no scope for Manila to encroach upon the Chinese territory.

Thanks to the Aquino administration’s accommodative policy, US troops, which the Philippine people fought strenuously to get rid of, are back in the country and will be stationed at five military bases.

Seeking Washington’s protection might not be a good move for Manila-it could even be counter-productive-because Philippine soldiers, despite being equipped and trained according to US standards, have not been able to defeat the poorly-equipped anti-government forces.

By selling its Hamilton-class cutters and other advanced weapons to the Philippines, Washington is strengthening its military alliance with Manila.

But the Philippines should realize that it is just a piece on the US chessboard. The US may make use of the Philippines to meddle in the waters of the South China Sea, but it will never get involved if it leads to open confrontation between China and the Philippines. Should a serious conflict break out between Beijing and Manila over the South China Sea issue, which is about China’s maritime sovereignty, Washington might prefer to watch from the sidelines because it does not concern the US’ core interests.

Manila’s provocations such as those around the Huangyan Island and the filing of an arbitration case in its dispute with China in the South China Sea, have a lot to do with the deteriorating bilateral relations, which have dealt a heavy blow to their trade and commercial cooperation.

As such, the incoming Philippine government should recalibrate its China policy.

But the prospects for that do not look encouraging, because the US is likely to take steps to ensure the new Philippine administration keeps serving its “rebalancing to Asia-Pacific” policy.

On the one hand, Washington is expected to ramp up its military aid to Manila in the next five years. On the other, in an attempt to hype up China’s legal construction on its South China Sea islands, the US flew six of its military planes through the international airspace near Huangyan Island last month, injecting more uncertainties into China-Philippines ties.

The Aquino government has been trying to justify its hawkish stance on the South China Sea issue and urging the incoming leadership to follow the same policy. Worse, its anti-China propaganda has seriously affected domestic opinion, as more Philippine citizens now seem to distrust China.

Given these facts, the new Philippine administration should take appropriate measures to improve Beijing-Manila ties and seek peaceful solution to bilateral disputes without becoming an expendable part of Washington’s Asia-Pacific maneuver.

By CHEN QINGHONG (China Daily)

The author is a researcher in Southeast Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.


China has sound reasons to reject South China Sea arbitration

An aerial photo taken on Sept. 25, 2015 from a seaplane of Hainan Maritime Safety Administration shows the Yacheng 13-1 drilling rig during a patrol in South China Sea.(Xinhua file photo/Zhao Yingquan)

 

Interview: No ‘ruling’ can destroy China’s sovereignty over S. China Sea

CCTV have talked to Victor Gao, the Director of the China National Association of International Studies. He says whatever the ruling is, the end result may be the opposite of what the Philippine government wants …

Videos:

http://t.cn/RqEfUgE

https://player.cntv.cn/standard/cntvOutSidePlayer.swf http://english.cctv.com/2016/05/06/VIDEiXOWX2qORs4PH2OlXKHk160506.shtml

The Philippines’ unilateral attempt at arbitration over South China Sea disputes is not a real attempt to find a solution, but pursuit of selfish gains in the name of “rule of law.”

The core of the Beijing-Manila South China Sea dispute is territorial issue, caused by the illegal occupation of some of China’s islands and reefs since the 1970s by the Philippines, and the issue of maritime delimitation.

The arbitration violates the basic principles of international law and undermines the integrity and authority of the UN Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS).

The court has no right to adjudicate on the case as in 2006, China exercised its right under Article 298 of the UNCLOS and made a declaration excluding compulsory arbitration on disputes concerning maritime delimitation.

The UN Charter and international law advocate peaceful settlement of disputes through dialogue and negotiation. The UNCLOS respects the dispute settlement procedure chosen by the parties themselves.

Meanwhile, the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), signed by China and ASEAN countries, stipulates that disputes be resolved through consultation and negotiation by those directly concerned.

Therefore, China has sound reasons to reject compulsory arbitration. Whatever the result of the arbitration, it will not be binding on China.

The Philippines has distorted and abused the international arbitration mechanism, and reneged on its promise to solve disputes through negotiation.

It is also an outright lie to say that “all bilateral tools have been exhausted.”

China and the Philippines have conducted several rounds of consultations on building trust, managing disputes and promoting maritime cooperation and, during these occasions, the Philippines has never talked with China about any of the appeals it mentioned in the arbitration case.

As Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pointed out, attempts to pressure China over an arbitration of maritime disputes is “either political arrogance or legal prejudice.”

It doesn’t hold water to say that filing for an arbitration is upholding international law, while not accepting arbitration violates international law. This is not viable in international practice .- Xinhua

Related:

China rebukes U.S. official’s criticism on South China Sea arbitration

BEIJING, April 29 (Xinhua) — A Chinese spokesperson on Friday rebuked U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remarks on the impending “arbitration” of the South China Sea issue, saying the United States is in no position to criticize China.

On Thursday, Blinken told a House of Representatives hearing in Washington that China “can’t have it both ways,” by being a party to the convention but rejecting its provisions, including “the binding nature of any arbitration decision.” Full story

Backgrounder: “Geng Lu Book,” encyclopedia on South China Sea

BEIJING, May 1 (Xinhua) — The “Geng Lu Book,” a historic book written between China’s Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (AD 1644-1911), begins with a few sentences outlining an accurate maritime navigation route of ancient Chinese fishermen sailing from the Tan Men port of China’s Hainan Province to the South China Sea.

The origin of the “Geng Lu Book” could date back to the early Ming Dynasty. The book records names of more than 100 locations in and important maritime information about the South China Sea, including sailing directions, time, distance, islands and submerged reefs, as well as sea current speeds and weather changes. Full story

Backgrounder: China has indisputable sovereignty over South China Sea islands

BEIJING, April 29 (Xinhua) — The Philippines, distorting and partially applying the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), attempts to challenge China’s sovereignty over the Nansha Islands.

In its unilaterally-initiated arbitration, the Philippines argues that low-tide elevations and submerged reefs are part of the exclusive
economic zone and continental shelf, a claim that totally runs contrary to historical fact, reality and international law. Full story

Historical documents record China’s sovereignty in South China Sea

 

Taiwan Republic of China (ROC) President Ma visits Taiping Island

President Ma convenes international press conference after visits

http://english.president.gov.tw/Default.aspx?tabid=491&itemid=36718&rmid=2355

Office of the President, ROC (Taiwan) … See us on. youtube. flickr … After arriving at Taiping Island, President Ma first heard a briefing at the Nansha Command and … a speech explaining the purpose of his visit and his hope for peace in the South China Sea. … Office of the President, Republic of China (Taiwan)

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Liberty, Equality and Fraternity in the 21st century of China’s One Belt One Road strategy


Mass migration: The mega-trend of global migration, which is already happening legally in the form of migrant workers and illegally in the form of economic and political refugees, especially into Europe, is going to disrupt the current order. – AFP

A VERY wise Latin American statesman remarked at the Emerging Markets Forum in Paris this month, quoting the Nobel Laureate writer Octavio La Paz that after the French Revolution, the 19th century was all about the search for liberty, the 20th century about equality and the 21st century should be about fraternity.

The concept of liberty and individual freedom was sparked by the French Revolution but it became embodied in the American constitution that individual freedom was almost absolute in its right. Before then, rights were communal and determined by the state, or at least by an elite. With the rise of American might, the primacy of individual rights became widespread, because it appealed to the individual ego and the right for self determination. But man does not exist alone – he lives in a community in which rights come with responsibility – self-respect must also be tempered with respect for others.

The 20th century was a flowering of the capitalist spirit, that individual greed can lead to public good. This drove unprecedented prosperity, unfortunately unequally shared. The saving grace was the narrowing of income and wealth differences between the rich nations and the developing economies, but in almost every country, income and wealth gaps widened. This has reached the stage where views are increasingly polarised, with huge gaps in understanding between genders, generations and geo-political powers. Gandhi was the one who rightly pointed out that the world has enough for all our needs, but not our greed.

The global financial crisis of the 21st century exposed all the flaws of the dominant thinking, that the American Dream is sustainable. It was already doubtful that it could be sustainable for a few, but if the population of the world reaches 10 billion by 2050, we will be so crowded and in each other’s face and space that how to achieve fraternity without war will be the question of the century.


The World in 2050

The Emerging Markets Forum in Paris was the occasion for a book launch on “The World in 2050”, a study by various leaders, such as former German Chancellor Horst Kohler, former IMF managing director Michel Camdessus and former presidents and ministers of several emerging markets. The book, edited by former World Bank director Harinder Kohli, tried to think through the major issues of the 21st century. The major theme was essentially demographic and geographic – by 2050, the largest populated nation will be India, but the third largest could be Nigeria, with Africa emerging as the third largest continent by population and growth.

The study is timely because there are already signs that the borders that were delineated by the former colonial powers in Africa and the Middle East are already breaking down as failed states, arising from bad governance, exploding population and climate change stresses leading to civil strife, outright war and now mass migration.

This mega-trend of global migration, which is already happening legally in the form of migrant workers and illegally in the form of economic and political refugees, especially into Europe, is going to disrupt the current order. Can Europe absorb over a million migrants a year without major changes in culture, living standards and law and order?

How would these new migrants, including families that will follow, be accommodated, given already high levels of unemployment and shortage of housing in many European cities? Without proper accommodation and social acceptance, will there be more terrorist outbreaks and civil strife that disturbs the comfortable lives of Europeans today?

Even as Grexit (the possibility of Greece exiting the eurozone) has quietened down, Brexit (the possibility of Britain exiting the European Union) is becoming a looming nightmare. Whether Britain leaves or not is going to be an expression of how the British people feel about fraternity with Europe. All economic logic seems to suggest that Britain should stay. Germany needs Britain to maintain the balance of power within Europe, because British level-headed diplomacy is a useful counterweight to the more romantic (and less fiscally disciplined) southern members, such as France, Italy and Spain. There is genuine worry that the refugee crisis will make the stoic British more isolationist, preferring fraternity within the British isles.

From an Asian perspective, the stability and prosperity of Europe is an important anchor to global peace and stability. Europe is not only a major trading partner but her moderation and common sense is often a useful counterweight to American exceptionalism, whose mistaken invasion into Iraq triggered the breakdown in the Middle East order. Perhaps the status quo in the Middle East was always fragile, made more fragile by growing population, low oil prices and climate stress.

The borders of the Middle East and Africa were the legacies of the Great Game in the 19th century, when former colonial powers carved up these areas into territories that ignored tribal or geographic realities.

Today, these borders are being ignored by non-state players, and peace and order will not return till we find a solution to creating jobs in situ for the growing youth that are increasingly armed and willing to fight for their rights. Throughout history, it has always been the unemployed and disaffected youth that has led to revolution or war.

China’s One Belt One Road strategy can best be understood as a building of roads, rails and ports to link Eurasia together, creating new trade routes over old historical paths. For the first time, this will be a linking of roads and rail between China and India, and through central Asia, almost into the heart of eurozone, north to Russia and south to Africa. The investment in the infrastructure and in jobs for the young is the best hope to avoid massive social upheaval. This is the 21st Century Great Game – whether to live in fraternity or fratricide.

By Andrew Sheng writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.

 

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