As Confucius stated, law can go nowhere merely by itself. We definitely need infrastructure to support the implementation of laws and regulations. You can write up beautiful laws, but without basic support, those laws are going nowhere. Especially in the arena of trading, you have to be able to trade to start with. For international trade, all the goods need to go through great distance to reach destinations and all the transactions can only be completed through the international banking system. But all the infrastructure can only operate smoothly by the rule of laws. In reality, they are mutually dependent. But if we still feel free trade is not taking place, is it because we do not have enough rules or enough infrastructure? It might be a chicken and egg question. Let’s narrow down a bit and focus on just one facet of the question. Do we have enough laws in promoting free trade?
President Obama said, if the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP) failed, the position of U.S. as a global trade referee would be weakened. Have you heard of RCEP, TTIP in addition to TPP? Even if you have heard about them, do you have any idea what they are?
Don’t we already have WTO, APEC? So why isn’t free trade happening anyway? All these alliances aim at facilitating free trade. In ascension to WTO, each economy needs to comply with GATTS and TRIPS, etc. All these international conventions are designed to reduce trade barriers. But we still see a lot of bilateral agreements between states and the efforts like TPP to create new multilateral agreements. If we really need more agreements, the existing agreements must not function as expected. Why don’t they work? I believe it is all about execution.
We do need infrastructue to sustain the implementation of rules. But if the rules are not executed at all, what good will they do in a well constructed infrastructure? How come the rules aren’t executed to the letter for the existing mechanisms? We definitely need to pay more attention to the problem of execution in creating new alliances if we hope these new mechanisms can function better than the old ones.