Globalization: ways to make it work - and (always) new ways to work against it

 •  Filed under China, Politics

Several stories in the today's Wall Street Journal are related to international trade. Two of them talk about legislators who (prepare to be surprised!) found ways to make trade a bit more difficult.

The third story is about an app that leverages the differences in consumers' willingness to wait and allows them to buy various goods more cheaply if they are prepared to be patient.

The fourth (and least interesting/substantive) story was on the front page, and it speculated about whether Mrs. Clinton' will be pressured to take a position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Relevant information, or marketing? The case of meat labels

Here is background on the story:

U.S. meat labels, introduced in 2009 and mandated by Congress, require meatpackers to identify where animals are born, raised and slaughtered—and whether those steps occur in different countries, as they often do. The information is then printed on packages of beef, pork and other meat products sold in grocery stores.

And why are labels appropriate? One opinion: it's about "deserving to know":

While there is no evidence to suggest imported livestock poses a health risk, supporters say consumers deserve to know where their food is coming from.

But it's not really clear that meat is inferior just because it crosses a border...

“This is a political solution to a problem that never existed,” Canada’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said.

So, now it looks like the existing mandates will backfire, and American industries are starting to worry that they will be targeted as well:

... Given its earlier judgments against the U.S., the WTO is widely expected by both supporters and opponents of the labels to do so again. Unless the U.S. gets rid of its labeling requirement, a WTO win for Canada and Mexico paves the way for those countries to seek retaliatory action.

What happens abroad will be litigated... somewhere

From the Law Journal page:

New York lawmakers are weighing a bill to make foreign companies submit to the jurisdiction of New York courts as a condition of doing business in the state, a position some lawyers say is at odds with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

... Foreign or out-of-state companies don’t have to register to do business in New York, but doing so confers a major advantage: access to New York courts for their own purposes. Mr. Carpinello and other supporters of the bill argue that if a company wants to use New York courts to sue others, it should also have to subject itself to their jurisdiction.

But Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor at Northwestern University, likened that way of thinking to a law that says anyone who uses New York highways “agrees to be sued there for anything.”

“Access to courts is a fundamental right,” Mr. Kontorovich said. “It is not clear that the state can sell it, especially on discriminatory terms to foreign companies.”

Who will be blamed for supporting trade agreements?

I don't agree with the suggestions in the following article that labor movements are "indifferent" because their composition has changed:

The indifference stems in part from the changing nature of the labor movement, which over many years has filled its membership rolls with workers in government, hospitality and service jobs—fields less vulnerable to outsourcing than manufacturing jobs that once accounted for a large share of union membership. The United Auto Workers represented about 1.5 million workers in the late 1970s; today, its membership is about one-third of that. At the same time, membership in unions filled with public-sector workers has remained relatively stable.

It seems more likely that a candidate is able to stay neutral on an issue when external circumstances (like an uncompetitive field of competitors) allow it.

Ordering goods directly from China

Competition works. There are consumers who are happy to wait for delivery if the price is low enough. So an "anti-Amazon" lets customers order items directly from China:

“Where else can I find a new shirt for $4?” said 31-year-old Wish user Kristina Lampasi, of Gibsonia, Pa., who downloaded the app after seeing ads for it on Facebook, one of Wish’s primary marketing vehicles. “It’s not great quality, but for the money it’s pretty amazing.”

She said she had spent about $100 in the past couple of months buying blouses, T-shirts and hoodies on the mobile app, all of which took a few weeks to arrive.





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