Asia and International Law

International Economic Law – Vivian reiterates S'pore's firm belief in ASEAN integration (Business Times, 30 November 2016)

Speaking to some 350 guests at the Straits Times Global Outlook Forum event at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia hotel, Dr Balakrishnan urged ASEAN to stay united in the face of global challenges. He stressed that Singapore is a "staunch believer" in the need for ASEAN integration. "If we can maintain ASEAN as a neutral, open and inclusive platform, to engage and cooperate with the other big players, then we are in the game. We will have bright prospects," he said. He added that the benefits of achieving the vision of a united ASEAN will go beyond just economics.

International Economic Law – ASEAN a 'more open market' than EU, US: World Economic Forum (Channel News Asia, 1 December 2016)

ASEAN, the 10-state Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is a more open market for international trade than either the European Union or the United States, according to a World Economic Forum report released on Wednesday (Nov 30).

The WEF hailed the "increased integration into the global economy" of ASEAN members, which comprise Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. "ASEAN's progress as an economic power comes at a time when the United States and European Union are becoming less open," it said in a key finding of the 2016 Global Enabling Trade Report. The scorecard, which comes out every two years, measures the overall capacity of 136 economies to enable the flow of goods across borders.

International Economic Law – EU blames China for WTO environmental trade talks collapse (Channel News Asia, 5 December 2016)

Europe's trade negotiator Cecilia Malmstrom has blamed China on Sunday for scuppering a global environmental trade deal by submitting impossible late demands at World Trade Organization talks aimed at scrapping import tariffs on exports worth more than US$1 trillion. "China came in with their list, bringing in totally new elements of perspective, which was very late in the process," Malmstrom told Reuters. The change of U.S. president also puts a big question mark over the future prospects for a deal. European resistance to Chinese bicycle imports has also been a stumbling block, although Malmstrom said bicycles had become totemic for China and nobody else, and the agreement went far wider, adding that the EU had "quite cheap bicycles already".

International Economic Law – China urges US to abide by WTO anti-dumping agreement (Channel News Asia, 2 December 2016)

When China joined the WTO in 2001, it agreed to let WTO members treat it as a non-market economy when assessing dumping duties for 15 years. That gave trade partners the advantage of using a third country's prices to gauge whether China was selling its goods below market value. But that clause is due to expire on Dec. 11, and China has demanded that countries abide by the agreement. U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in November the time was "not ripe" for the United States to change the way it evaluates whether China has achieved market economy status, and there was no international trade rules requiring changes in the way U.S. anti-dumping duties are calculated. Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said the United States should stop using its own market economy evaluations to deny China's "rights".

International Criminal Law – Cambodian court upholds life sentences for Khmer Rouge leaders (Guardian, 23 November 2016)

Cambodia’s UN-backed court upheld life sentences for two top former Khmer Rouge leaders on Wednesday for crimes against humanity, delivering a blow to their hopes of release as they face a second trial for genocide. “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, 90, and ex-head of state Khieu Samphan, 85, were in 2014 the first top leaders to be jailed from a regime responsible for the deaths of up to two million Cambodians from 1975 to 1979. They appealed against their convictions, accusing the court of a string of errors and the judges of failing to remain impartial due to their personal experiences under the regime. In a lengthy ruling on Wednesday after months of hearings, the bench upheld the bulk of the convictions and the jail terms, but accepted some legal errors had been made in the initial trial.

Human Rights – Malaysia: Myanmar pursues ethnic cleansing of Rohingya (Al Jazeera, 4 December 2016)

Malaysia has accused Myanmar of engaging in "ethnic cleansing" of its Rohingya Muslim minority, as former UN chief Kofi Annan visits a burned-out village in violence-hit Rakhine state. Tens of thousands of Muslim Rohingya have fled their homes since a bloody crackdown by the Myanmar army in Rakhine, sparked by a string of deadly attacks on police border posts in early October. "The fact that only one particular ethnicity is being driven out is by definition ethnic cleansing," Malaysia's foreign ministry said in an unusually strongly-worded statement on Saturday. Myanmar has balked at such criticism, saying the Rakhine crisis is an internal issue. However, international pressure on the country is mounting. Malaysia's statement noted that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled to neighbouring countries in recent years, including approximately 56,000 to Muslim-majority Malaysia. That, the statement said, "makes this matter no longer an internal matter, but an international matter".

International Organisations – ASEAN legal website set to launch (Bangkok Post, 23 October 2016)

An online legal site offering information about the laws and regulations of the ASEAN member countries will be launched with free access early next year, buy Office of the Judiciary deputy secretary-general Sarawut Benjakul said. The site, malady which will be launched in all 10 countries, will perform as a legal information hub for the ASEAN region.

International Organisations – The Philippines, China, the U.S., and ASEAN in 2017 (Asia Foundation, 19 October 2016)

The Philippines will serve as ASEAN Chair in 2017, sales at which time ASEAN will mark its 50th anniversary. Having successfully served as host of APEC in 2015, medicine the country has demonstrated that facilitating massive, buy significant international events is well within its capability—thus observers’ attention can focus on substance instead of administrative details. And there is considerable attention directed to the Philippines at the moment, not least because of the outspoken new president, Rodrigo Duterte. The Philippines is expected to have the fastest growth for the second year in a row among the five major economies in ASEAN. The president’s economic managers, and their foreign interlocutors, continue to focus on continuity of macro-policies and they are expected to intensify efforts to ensure that growth becomes more inclusive in order to reduce stubbornly high levels of poverty.

International Economic Law – What the China Trade Warriors Get Wrong (WSJ, 26 October 2016)

After three intense presidential debates, order  Hillary Clinton and Donald Trumpmanaged to agree on at least one thing: The Trans-Pacific Partnership is bad for America, in part because many trade deals have supposedly caused trade deficits. Unfortunately, they’re both wrong. The country would be better served by candidates who speak frankly about the complexity of international commerce—rather than offer murky platitudes about supposedly harmful trade agreements. The U.S. had a $334.1 billion trade deficit with China in 2015, including services, according to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. It also had a $77.3 billion deficit with Germany and $55.4 billion with Japan. What do all these countries have in common? None have trade agreements with the U.S. Mr. Trump can’t “renegotiate” trade deals that were never negotiated. The U.S. also maintains trade surpluses with many countries. It ran a $31.7 billion trade surplus with Hong Kong last year, $12 billion with the United Kingdom and $17.5 billion with Singapore. Although a few trade surplus partners have free-trade agreements with the U.S., it would be incongruous to attribute both surpluses and deficits to such accords. This bipartisan hullabaloo about some alleged link between trade deals and trade deficits is simply false—politically convenient fiction.

International Economic Law – Vietnam's reluctance to ratify the TPP is bad news for Washington (Nikkei Asia, 27 October 2016)

Vietnam's decision to hold off ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a further blow to the beleaguered trade pact and a setback for American economic ambitions in Asia. The 12-nation TPP is aimed at liberalizing trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region, and Vietnam has been hoping that its participation in the deal will lead to an increase in exports. But even in the U.S., which led negotiations for the pact, approval of the TPP is nowhere in sight. This apparently convinced Vietnam to proceed slowly as well. An official in the secretariat of the Vietnamese parliament told reporters on Oct. 18 that approval of the TPP is not on the agenda for the current legislative session, which runs through late November, making it certain that the country will not ratify the pact this year. Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, chairwoman of the parliament, said in September that Vietnam's ratification would depend on factors such as moves by other negotiating members of the TPP and the outcome of the Nov. 8 presidential election in the U.S.

At the same time, the Philippines, which was considering joining the TPP after Vietnam, has apparently changed its stance in recent weeks, moving away from Washington and closer to Beijing. With ratification of the TPP looking more likely to stall in a number of countries, the influence of the U.S. in Asia appears to be rapidly weakening.

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