By Edward Phillips, Principal Lecturer, Law School, University of Greenwich

The Arctic Council was set up in 1996, following on from the Ottawa Declaration, and compromises the States who border the Arctic Circle: Canada, Denmark (Faroe Islands and Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the USA. In addition, there are also a number of so-called Permanent Participants (representing the Arctic Indigenous Peoples i.e. the communities with a vested stake), including: the Arctic Athabaskan Council, the Aleut International Association, the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the Russian Arctic Indigenous Peoples of the North and the Saami Council. There are also a number of non-member States, who enjoy observer status, including: France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.

At stake

The particular interests of these States / Participants are obvious, including environmental protection, resource exploitation and the concomitant advantages following on from the utilisation of the Arctic Sea routes. As far as the latter is concerned, the opportunities are manifest. The savings in costs and time to commercial shipping have been well documented[1]. Moreover, maritime security is a further factor of concern and this has been a cause of concern for NATO and its often troubled relationship with Russia.

All the factors above have led to a growing interest from those States whose Arctic Circle connections may not, at first sight be obvious. An obvious example is China, with its increased maritime role in both commerce as well as the maritime security. Similarly, States such as Singapore and India have long agitated for their interests to be represented. Read the rest of this entry »

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Better late than never, here is a post on the recently published report of a WTO Panel on the dispute between the United States, the European Communities and Mexico against the People’s Republic of China. The dispute –which official transcripts are available here– flows from forty measures restricting the exportation of raw materials including certain forms of bauxite, coke, fluorspar, magnesium, manganese, silicon carbide, silicon metal, yellow phosphorus and zinc. The complainants identified the following as four types of restraints that China imposes on the exportation of these raw materials: (1) export duties; (2) export quotas; (3) export licensing; and (4) minimum export price requirements.

An interesting aspect of this claim is that China defended its export restriction policy by emphasising the essential impact of those measures on their economic development (sovereignty of natural resources was used here as the major legal argument), resource conservation and environmental protection. This, of course, was rather interpreted by the complaining parties as purely protectionist measures breaching China’s commitments under WTO rules.

Note: this post only provides a summary of the main arguments of the parties and the related findings of the Panel, it does not provide an extended analysis of the case.

Read the rest of this entry »

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