August 14, 2009
U.S.-China trade relations continue to be difficult
Rocky may be the best word to describe trade between the U.S. and China in 2009. In the past week or so, I have blogged about a new World Trade Organization (WTO) complaint filed by China against the U.S. alleging an improper ban on the import of Chinese poultry products to the U.S. and about a decision of a WTO dispute resolution panel finding that China has violated WTO rules by favoring certain domestic entities over foreign persons in the importation and distribution of certain publications and audiovisual products. In addition to these WTO actions, the U.S. Commerce Department and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) have been responding to a number of complaints by U.S. industries that Chinese products are being "dumped" (sold at less than fair market value) in the U.S. market. Anti-dumping investigations and orders are ongoing with respect to several Chinese products, including wooden bedroom furniture, textiles, steel pipes and tubes, paper, magnets, and industrial chemicals, among others. In July, Commerce decided to impose antidumping and countervailing (anti-subsidy) duties on kitchen shelving from China. The ITC is expected to issue its corresponding final decision with respect to domestic injury on August 18. In response to a complaint brought by the United Steelworkers union, the ITC ruled in June that increased tires from China were causing injury to the domestic market. The U.S. government is weighing what action to take. In response, the Chinese trade officials claim that the United States' actions are protectionist and that U.S. automakers are trying to blame China for the financial problems suffered by the industry. The tension between the U.S. and China is probably inevitable in these difficult economic times. However, given that these two countries represent two of the largest markets and trading partners in the world, it is hoped that they will be able to negotiate mutally satisfactory resolutions to these disputes and not engage in escalating trade wars.
August 13, 2009
Happy Anniversary to the Geneva Conventions!
August 12, 2009 marks the 60th anniversary of the signing of the four Geneva Conventions on the laws of war. The four conventions set forth rules for the treatment and protection of sick or wounded armed soldiers on land and at sea, prisoners of war, and civilians. All 194 States are parties to the Geneva Conventions, making them universally applicable. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is using the anniversary to call for better compliance with the Conventions. While violations of international humanitarian law are still committed too frequently, ICRC’s president, Jakob Kellenberger, notes that "many of these violations are no longer going unnoticed. Increasingly, those responsible are being held accountable for their actions and that is a sign of progress.” The ICRC press release may be found here.
August 12, 2009
WTO Panel Issues Report in US-China Dispute over Publications and Audiovisual Products
In a dispute brought in 2007 by the United States against China, a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute resolution panel issued its report today finding China in violation of its commitments under the Chinese Accession Protocol, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994 and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) with respect to the importation and distribution of certain publications and audiovisual materials. The U.S. alleged that various Chinese measures that reserve, to certain Chinese state-designated and wholly or partially state-owned enterprises, the right to import films for theatrical release, audiovisual home entertainment products, sound recordings and publications violated WTO rules because the measures imporperly restricted who is eligible to import such materials into China. The U.S. also alleged that various Chinese measures that impose market access restrictions or discriminatory limitations on foreign service providers seeking to engage in the distribution of publications and certain audiovisual home entertainment products violate WTO rules because they treat foreign parties less favorably than Chinese distributors. Pursuant to Article 3.8 of the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU), violation of obligations under one or more WTO Agreements constitutes a prima facie case of nullification or impairment of benefits under the Agreements. In accordance with normal WTO practice, the panel recommended that the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) request that China bring the relevant measures into conformity with its WTO obligations. The panel's report will now go to the DSB for adoption, unless one or both parties appeal to the WTO Appellate Body. For more information on China-Measures Affecting Trading Rights and Distribution Services for Certain Publications and Audiovisual Entertainment Products, click here.
Job Opportunity -- International Law Students Association (ILSA)
The International Law Students Association (ILSA) is the organization that organizes and runs the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition. The office is currently based in Chicago, Illinois. ILSA is conducting a global search for a new Executive Director, who will start work in the summer of 2010. For more information about the executive director search, including application instructions, please visit http://www.ilsa.org/about/opportunities/EDsearch.php
August 10, 2009
International Law Page on the U.N. Website
The International Law Page on the U.N. Website has links to UN Bodies working in international law issues (the Sixth Committee of the U.N. General Assembly, the International Law Commission, and the U.N. Commission on International Trade Law) as well as links to "Thematic Issues" (such as Codification and Progressive Development of International Law, Oceans and Law of the Sea, Treaties, and Other Legal Areas). There are also links to international courts and tribunals. Click here to have a quick look.
August 9, 2009
The Rising Cost of International Law Text Books ---- More than $174 for a Casebook?
When law professors assign textbooks, we seldom know the exact price that our students will end up paying for the books we assign.
I will be teaching Public International Law this fall at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. I've assigned only one book for the course -- it's a new edition of one of the standard international law texts that is probably sitting on your shelves right now (if you are another international law professor, that is!). I stopped into the bookstore to see if the book had arrived. It had. And then I saw the price tag! It was more than US$174.00! And that's WITHOUT the document supplement!
I remember (or at least I think I remember!) when these books were priced at about $60 or thereabouts. That's probably the price from when I went to law school (back in the last millennium). At this rate it will not be long until we see a $200 textbook. Perhaps this book is already $200 with the document supplement.
I do not know if publishers are making more money now by having raised book prices to these extraordinary levels. I think they succeeded in creating a resale market for textbooks. (Previously, many students hung on to their textbooks because they might need them later in practice.)
When books are so expensive, I wonder whether some professors will instead start creating their own course materials and posting them on-line for students to access at no charge.
I do not think that publishers think that their books are too expensive. Medical textbooks, I understand, are often even more expensive. Is there any hope here? And what does this mean for the future of legal education?
May we have your thoughts and comments here about the prices you pay (and are willing to pay) for textbooks, and international law textbooks in particular? (Thank you to those who have commented already, including blog readers in Israel and Cambodia.)