Killing Regs, Not Just Applying them Equally
I wanted to share a bit more about the Citigroup Global Services Summit soiree, which I posted on last week.
On a substantive level, what was the tenor of the conference? First, a reluctant concession to the political-economic reality that more financial services regulation might be necessary and/ or likely to be imposed; and second, some positioning against over-regulation, with veiled references to WTO disciplines against domestic regulations.
At the same time, because this was a meeting of WTO boosters, many folks claimed that trade deals would not prevent reregulation - no matter how lacking these arguments were on the merits. (On a parallel track, Goldman Sachs has recently been showing how to do this two step, first here, and then here.)
Here was WTO Secretary-General Pascal Lamy:
It's rare to see the titular head of an organization so blatantly misrepresent its purpose. Do the international nuclear agencies claim they're really food groups? Does the UN claim to do stand up?
As a report we put out last month shows, Lamy disregards a coterie of hairy provisions in WTO texts that would limit countries' ability to reregulate: this includes the Annex provision cited by Lamy.
Also, the WTO's own Appellate Body ruled that non-discriminatory bans on the supply of services, in sectors where full market access commitments have been undertaken, are quantitative limitations covered by GATS Article XVI(2) - and thus must be removed.
GATS Article VI also creates a mandate to discipline "non-discriminatory" regulations. And, as I noted in a recent post, the WTO secretariat explicitly says that many consumer protections - let alone requirements that banks reinvest in their communities - would be disciplined by either Article VI, XVI or XVII of the GATS.
How can anyone say with a straight face that this is just liberalization, not deregulation?
(HT to Ellen Gould for many of these points.)