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Key elements of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement

MD Staff

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The EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement will boost trade in goods and services as well as create opportunities for investment.

The agreement will further improve the position of EU exporters and investors on Japan’s large market, while including strong guarantees for the protection of EU standards and values. It will help cement Europe’s leadership in setting global trade rules and send a powerful signal that cooperation, not protectionism, is the way to tackle global challenges.

This Agreement, as other agreements concluded recently by the EU, goes beyond trade issues only. It represents a significant strengthening of our partnership with Japan, as reflected in the name of the agreement.

What is the Economic Partnership Agreement about?

Elimination of customs duties – more than 90% of the EU’s exports to Japan will be duty free at entry into force of the agreement. Once the agreement is fully implemented, Japan will have scrapped customs duties on 97% of goods imported from the EU (in tariff lines), with the remaining tariff lines being subject to partial liberalisation through tariff rate quotas or tariff reductions. This, in turn, will save EU exporters around €1 billion in customs duties per year.

Agriculture and food products – Japan is a highly valuable export market for European farmers and food producers. With annual exports worth over €5.7 billion, Japan is already the EU’s fourth biggest market for agricultural exports. Over time around 85% of EU agri- food products (in tariff lines) will be allowed to enter Japan entirely duty-free. This corresponds to 87% of current agri-food exports by value.

The agreement will eliminate or sharply reduce duties on agricultural products in which the EU has a major export interest, such as pork, the EU’s main agricultural export to Japan, ensuring duty-free trade with processed pork meat and almost duty-free trade for fresh pork meat exports. Tariffs on beef will be cut from 38.5% to 9% over 15 years for a significant volume of beef products.

EU wine exports to Japan are already worth around €1 billion and represent the EU’s second biggest agricultural export to Japan by value. The 15% tariff on wine will be scrapped from day one, as will tariffs for other alcoholic drinks.

As regards cheese exports, where the EU is already the main player on the Japanese market, high duties on many hard cheeses such as Gouda and Cheddar (which currently are at 29.8%) will be eliminated, and a duty-free quota will be established for fresh cheeses such as Mozzarella. The EU-Japan agreement will also scrap today’s customs duties (with a transitional period) for processed agricultural products such as pasta, chocolates, cocoa powder, candies, confectionary, biscuits, starch derivatives, prepared tomatoes and tomato sauce. There will also be significant quotas for EU exports (duty-free or with reduced duty) of malt, potato starch, skimmed milk powder, butter and whey.

Geographical Indications – the EU-Japan agreement recognises the special status and offers protection on the Japanese market to more than 200 European agricultural products from a specific European geographical origin, known as Geographical Indications (GIs) – for instance Roquefort, Aceto Balsamico di Modena, Prosecco, Jambon d’Ardenne, Tiroler Speck, Polska Wódka, Queso Manchego, Lübecker Marzipan and Irish Whiskey. These products will be given the same level of protection in Japan as they experience in the EU today.

Industrial products – tariffs on industrial products will be fully abolished, for instance in sectors where the EU is very competitive, such as chemicals, plastics, cosmetics as well as textiles and clothing. For leather and shoes, the existing quota system that has been significantly hampering EU exports will be abolished at the agreement’s entry into force. Tariffs on shoes will go down from 30% to 21% at entry into force, with the rest of the duties being eliminated over 10 years. Tariffs on EU exports of leather products, such as handbags, will go down to zero over 10 years, as will be those on products that are traditionally highly protected by Japan, such as sports shoes and ski boots.

Fisheries – import quotas will no longer be applied and all tariffs will be eliminated on both sides, meaning better prices for EU consumers and big export opportunities for EU industry.

Forestry – tariffs on all wood products will be fully eliminated, with seven years staging for the most important priorities. Most tariffs on wood products will be dropped immediately, with some less important tariff lines being scrapped after 10 years.

Non-tariff barriers – The EU-Japan negotiations addressed many non-tariff measures that had constituted a concern for EU companies, as some Japanese technical requirements and certification procedures often make it difficult to export safe European products to Japan. The agreement will make it easier for EU companies to access the highly regulated Japanese market. Examples of such barriers addressed include:

Motor vehicles – the agreement ensures that both Japan and the EU will fully align themselves to the same international standards on product safety and the protection of the environment, meaning that European cars will be subject to the same requirements in the EU and Japan, and will not need to be tested and certified again when exported to Japan. With Japan now committing itself to international car standards, EU exports of cars to Japan will become significantly simpler. This also paves the way for even stronger cooperation between the EU and Japan in international standard setting fora. It includes an accelerated dispute settlement between the two sides specifically for motor vehicles, similar to the one agreed under the EU-South Korea trade agreement. It also includes a safeguard and a clause allowing the EU to reintroduce tariffs in the event that Japan would (re)introduce non-tariff barriers to EU exports of vehicles. The agreement will also mean that hydrogen-fuelled cars that approved in the EU can be exported to Japan without further alterations.

Medical devices – In November 2014, Japan adopted the international standard on quality management systems (QMS), on which the EU QMS system for medical devices is based. This reduces the costs of certification of European products exported to Japan considerably.

Textiles labelling – In March 2015, Japan adopted the international textiles labelling system similar to the one used in the EU. Textiles labels therefore do no longer need to be changed on every single garment exported to Japan, as was the case before.

“Quasi drugs”, medical devices and cosmetics – a complicated and duplicative notification system that hampered the marketing of many European pharmaceuticals, medical devices and cosmetics in Japan was finally abolished on 1 January 2016.

Beer – From 2018 onwards, European beers can be exported as beers and not as “alcoholic soft drinks”. This will also lead to similar taxation, thus doing away with differences between different beers.

In addition, the Economic Partnership Agreement also contains general rules on certain types of non-tariff barriers, which will help level the playing field for European products exported to Japan, and increase transparency and predictability:

Technical barriers to trade – the agreement puts the focus on Japan and the EU’s mutual commitment to ensure that their standards and technical regulations are based on international standards to the greatest possible extent. Combined with the provisions on non-tariff measures, this is good news for European exporters of electronics, pharmaceuticals, textiles and chemicals. For instance, reliance on international standards will be helpful for easier and less costly compliance of food products with Japanese labelling rules.

Sanitary and phytosanitary measures – the agreement creates a more predictable regulatory environment for EU products exported to Japan. The EU and Japan have agreed to simplify approval and clearance processes and that import procedures are completed without undue delays, making sure that undue bureaucracy does not put a spanner in the works for exporters. The agreement will not lower safety standards or require parties to change their domestic policy choices on matters such as the use of hormones or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Trade in services

The EU exports some €28 billion of services to Japan each year. The agreement will make it easier for EU firms to provide services on the highly lucrative Japanese market. The agreement contains a number of provisions that apply horizontally to all trade in services, such as a provision to reaffirm the Parties’ right to regulate. It maintains the right of EU Member States’ authorities to keep public services public and it will not force governments to privatise or deregulate any public service at national or local level. Likewise, Member States’ authorities retain the right to bring back to the public sector any privately provided services. Europeans will continue to decide for themselves how they want, for example, their healthcare, education and water delivered.

Postal and courier services – the agreement includes provisions on universal service obligations, border procedures, licences and the independence of the regulators. The agreement will also ensure a level-playing field between EU suppliers of postal and courier services and their Japanese competitors, such as Japan Post.

Telecommunications – the agreement includes provisions focused on establishing a level playing field for telecommunications services providers and on issues such as universal service obligations, number portability, mobile roaming and confidentiality of communications.

International maritime transport services – the agreement contains obligations to maintain open and non-discriminatory access to international maritime services (transport and related services) as well as access to ports and port services.

Financial services – the agreement contains specific definitions, exceptions and disciplines on new financial services, self-regulating organisations, payment and clearing systems and transparency, and rules on insurance services provided by postal entities. Many of these are based on rules developed under the World Trade Organisation, while addressing specificities of the financial services sector.

Temporary movement of company personnel – the agreement includes the most advanced provisions on movement of people for business purposes (otherwise known as “mode 4”) that the EU has negotiated so far. They cover all traditional categories such as intra-corporate transferees, business visitors for investment purposes, contractual service suppliers, and independent professionals, as well as newer categories such as short-term business visitors and investors. The EU and Japan have also agreed to allow spouses and children to accompany those who are either service suppliers or who work for a service supplier (covered by “mode 4” provisions). This will, in turn, support investment in both directions.

State owned enterprises – state-owned enterprises will not be allowed to treat EU companies, services or products differently to their Japanese counterparts when buying and selling on commercial markets.

Public procurement – EU companies will be able to participate on an equal footing with Japanese companies in bids for procurement tenders in the 54 so-called ‘core cities’ of Japan (i.e. cities with around 300.000 to 500.00 inhabitants or more). The agreement also removes existing obstacles to procurement in the railway sector.

Investment – The agreement aims to promote investment between the EU and Japan. At the same time, the text explicitly reaffirms the right of each party to regulate to pursue legitimate policy objectives, highlighted in a non- exhaustive list. The agreement does not cover the protection of investment, on which negotiations are ongoing between the two sides for a potential agreement on the protection of investments. The EU has also tabled to Japan its reformed proposal on the Investment Court System. For the EU, it is clear that there can be no return to the old-style Investor to State Dispute Settlement System (ISDS).

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) – the agreement builds on and reinforces the commitments that both sides have taken in the World Trade Organization (WTO), in line with the EU’s own rules. The agreement sets out provisions on protection of trade secrets, trademarks, copyright protection, patents, minimum common rules for regulatory test data protection for pharmaceuticals, and civil enforcement provisions.

Data protection – Data protection is a fundamental right in the European Union and is not up for negotiation. Privacy is not a commodity to be traded. Since January 2017, the European Union and Japan engaged in a dialogue to facilitate the transfers of personal data for commercial exchanges, while ensuring the highest level of data protection. With the EU General Data Protection Regulation that entered into force last year and the new Japanese privacy law that entered into force in May, the EU and Japan have modernised and strengthened their respective data protection regimes. In July 2018, the Commission and the Japanese government reached a satisfactory conclusion on the robustness each other’s data protection rules, and hence they intend to move forward with the adoption of a so-called “mutual adequacy” arrangement, which will create the world’s largest area of safe transfers of data based on a high level of protection for personal data.

Sustainable development – the agreement includes all the key elements of the EU approach on sustainable development and is in line with other recent EU trade agreements. The EU and Japan commit themselves to implementing the core labour standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and international environmental agreements, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, as well as the Paris climate agreement. The EU and Japan commit not to lower domestic labour and environmental laws to attract trade and investment. The parties also commit to the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources, and to addressing biodiversity, forestry, and fisheries issues. The parties agree to promote Corporate Social Responsibility and other trade and investment practices supporting sustainable development. The agreement sets up mechanisms for giving civil society oversight over commitments taken in the field of Trade and Sustainable Development. The agreement will have a dedicated, binding mechanism for resolving disputes in this area, which includes governmental consultations and recourse to an independent panel of experts.

Whaling and illegal logging – The EU has banned all imports of whale products for more than 35 years, and this will not change with the Economic Partnership Agreement. The EU and its Member States are committed to the conservation and protection of whales and have consistently expressed strong reservations about whaling for scientific purposes. Whales receive special protection under EU law and the EU strictly enforces the ban on trade under the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The EU addresses whaling by all third countries, including Japan, both in bilateral relations and in the international fora that are best suited to deal with this issue – for example, at the International Whaling Commission, where we work with like-minded partners to address whaling with Japan. The sustainable development chapter of the EU-Japan economic partnership agreement will provide an additional platform to foster dialogue and joint work between the EU and Japan on environmental issues of relevance in a trade context.

The EU and Japan share a common commitment to combat illegal logging and related trade. Trade in illegal timber is not an issue between the EU and Japan. The EU has a very clear legislation on illegal logging, just like Japan, which applies to imports from any country of origin. Both partners have surveillance and certification systems in place to prevent the import of illegal timber. The two partners also work closely with third countries to support them in setting up efficient mechanisms to address the problem. The agreement includes a legal provision committing both partners to the prevention of illegal logging and related trade.

Corporate governance – for the first time in an EU trade agreement, there will be a specific chapter on corporate governance. It is based on the G20/OECD’s Principles on Corporate Governance and reflects the EU’s and Japan’s best practices and rules in this area. The EU and Japan commit themselves to adhere to key principles and objectives, such as transparency and disclosure of information on publicly listed companies; accountability of the management towards shareholders; responsible decision-making based on an objective and independent standpoint; effective and fair exercise of shareholders’ rights; and transparency and fairness in takeover transactions.

Competition – the agreement contains important principles that ensure that both sides commit themselves to maintaining comprehensive competition rules and implementing these rules in a transparent and non-discriminatory manner.

State-to-State dispute settlement mechanism – the agreement ensures that rights and obligations under the agreement are fully observed. It provides an effective, efficient and transparent mechanism with a pre-established list of qualified and experienced panellists for avoiding and solving disputes between the EU and Japan.

Anti-Fraud – The EU and Japan will include an anti-fraud clause in the economic partnership agreement. The anti-fraud clause is a condition for the EU to grant tariff preferences to any third country. It makes it possible for the EU to withdraw tariff preferences in cases of fraud and refusal to co-operate, while ensuring that legitimate traders are not adversely affected. The aim is to prevent abuse of preferential tariff treatment.

At the same time, negotiations with Japan continue on investment protection standards and investment protection dispute resolution.

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Economy

Uber & the Neoliberal State

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Everyday in my local papers, I read stories with headlines like “Subway Ridership Dropped Again in New York as Passengers Flee to Uber.”  AMNY, in its daily Tweet compilation section, generally devotes at least half of its selections to posts bashing the subway and bus system.  In the midst of the hangover that was last week’s Uber IPO (in which it immediately lost 8% of its value), it would be appropriate to contemplate the intersection of Uber (and its ugly stepsister Lyft) and the government.

In the shadow of the Great Depression and WWII, under the Administrations of the multimillionaire Franklin Roosevelt and the no-nonsense Republican Dwight Eisenhower, the federal government invested the equivalent of football fields full of cash on infrastructure projects like the Interstate Highway System (which cost half a trillion in today’s dollars).  States and cities likewise undertook great transportation schemes.  Between the 1920s and 1960s, Robert Moses funded 413 mi. of parkways and 13 bridges for NYC through, among other things, local tolls. 

This spirit of investing in the mobility of American citizens and goods gradually died off with the rise of neoliberalism in the 1970s and 1980s; federal spending for transportation infrastructure spending has been in decline since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.  The sea change was most spectacularly evidenced on Oct 22 1981, when President Reagan fired and blacklisted 11,345 striking federal air traffic controllers. Cue to the present… The American Society of Civil Engineers has given America’s infrastructure a dismal grade of D+ since 2013.  Trump on the 2016 campaign trail said that, “Our airports are like from a third world country.”

Governmental abdication in regards to public transportation has created a vacuum that the private sector is now trying to fill. This is problematic for many reasons. Bereft of the full-time employee status and union membership of public transit employees, Uber and Lyft drivers, as “independent contractors”, are treated like sharecroppers, with no minimum wage or pension/healthcare plans.  Infrastructure underfunding leads to lost opportunities for construction companies and their suppliers, which costs the economy money and jobs.  Uber and Lyft, by contrast, contribute nothing to the roads, tunnels and bridges that they use, other than tolls and the income that they don’t shield via elaborate tax evasion schemes… That and a nearly threefold increase in congestion, which hurts shipping and personal drivers’ commutes. Safety laws are frequently broken by Uber and its drivers, who undergo nothing more than a basic background screening, and receive no substantive training, prior to being hired.  The secluded, close-quarters nature of the rideshare template has led to many incidences of sexual assault and harassment for drivers and riders alike (by contrast, bus and yellow-cab drivers are generally shielded from their clients by bulletproof glass).

The privatization of transit also creates a commuter caste system, in which affluent citizens can spend $20 on a quick Uber ride to work, while poorer people must rely on perpetually-delayed trains, anxiously waiting on train platforms that are often literally falling apart due to neglect.  This problem extends far beyond rideshare apps.  For years, Elon Musk has been unsuccessfully trying to sell various municipalities on the concept of the experimental hyperloop, a pricier, less efficient version of a subway.  Hyperloop trains of the future will supposedly be able to travel at 700 mph… but they can only carry 28 people at a time!  So Musk wants cities to potentially invest billions to construct underground tunnel networks that only a couple hundred people a day max would be able to use, let alone afford, considering the pricy ticket fees that would probably be necessary in order to generate electricity for the hyperloop’s futuristic maglev-vacuum operating system.  Bullet trains also operate on a maglev system, but the cost gets spread out to over a thousand customers per trip, instead of just 28.  Emulating Musk, fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos just unveiled his space exploration company Blue Origin’s lunar lander prototype.  The fact that NASA is, due to chronic underfunding, being outpaced by Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, is not only a national disgrace, but a matter of concern for the welfare of humanity as a whole.  If space travel becomes monopolized by a handful of billionaires, it could eventually lead to the scenario envisioned by sci-fi dystopias like Elysium, wherein only the rich will be allowed to escape our dying planet, while the poor masses are left behind.

In regards to public transportation (and many other fields), the US is quickly falling behind China.  The Middle Kingdom has over 19,000 mi. of high-speed rail (much of it built just this past decade); the US has just 2% of that total and much of it is contained to an old NYC-DC Acela line that is woefully obsolete. Eight new airports get built in China every year, meaning that China’s total stockpile of airports will double by 2035.  The last American international airport was built last century and many existing airports, like the infamous LaGuardia, are falling apart due to underfunding.  The nation famous for its cyclists also boasts the world’s largest elevated bike lane; by contrast, bike lanes are a very controversial issue in American cities, where its staunch-individualist detractors decry them as Communist plots.

This growing disparity is being fuelled by the two nation’s different appropriations models.  China realizes the importance of central planning in regards to major infrastructure projects.  Investing in high-speed rail might not be “profitable” if measured solely by ticket revenue, but it pays for itself in the long-term by spurring urban development, construction contracts and employment, and increased tax revenues from workers now able to access better jobs and commerce.  Not to mention that traffic accidents, often the result of crumbling and obsolete road infrastructure, is the #8 cause of fatalities worldwide, including 32,000 a year in the US.  The American mindset is more myopic, focused only on short-term viability for investors.  This was encapsulated by Trump’s infrastructure plan, which focused on subsidies for corporations and localities… the same model that has been failing America’s infrastructure for decades.

It’s clear that the Uber-ization of public transportation is an inadequate and unsustainable solution.  The corporate model is solely predicated on short-term growth and the exploitation of its workforce.  In order to keep up with fellow superpower China, the US must take a centralized approach to maintaining and upgrading its faltering subways, trains, airports, bridges, roads and waterways.  Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration employed about 9M Americans in the construction of some of the world’s most successful infrastructure projects, such as 29,000 new bridges, at the height of the US’ greatest financial crisis. People like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are looking to emulate this past success by enacting a Green New Deal, which would employ millions of Americans in constructing sustainable infrastructure.  Likewise, it would be a boon for construction firms, industrial goods suppliers like Caterpillar, shipping-oriented companies like Amazon and urban-based businesses as a whole.  America must invest itself, in its people, in its future.

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Convergence Of Competitive Markets And Indian Elections

Joseph Abraham

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If competition is a key component of a flourishing economy, it is equally true that competition in electoral politics and elections is a powerful force for the healthy growth of a vibrant democracy enhancing legitimacy of political parties and their responsiveness to the aspirations of the electorate.

Viewed from the Indian perspective, there is a striking identity between the rights of consumers in the free market economy and the rights of voters in our political democracy. Equally noteworthy is the identity of the fundamental principles governing the rule of law in the free market system, the institutional arrangements for safeguarding consumer rights and the rule of law of elections and the regulatory environment for monitoring the functioning of a free and fair electoral democracy. The free market system ensures the best available goods and services are offered to the consumer at the optimal price following the principles of free market competition without restrictive and unfair trade practices enforced through the Consumer Protection Act1986 and the Competition Act 2002. 

 In the democratic system, the voters are given the right to elect the best available persons as people’s representatives through conducting elections in a free and fair manner which forms the bedrock of democracy. This is ensured by the Election Commission through the enforcement of the Guidelines of Model Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates during elections mainly with respect to speeches, polling day, polling booths, portfolios, election manifestos, processions and general conduct. Thus, while the role of a Referee in the free market system in India is played by the Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum and Competition Commission of India, the rules of  free and fair elections in  political democracy are enforced by the Election Commission of India.    

In a market economy, competition facilitates a host of benefits: awareness and market penetration, higher quality at same prices, increase in demand and consumption through competitive pricing, product differentiation, upgradation and innovation, improvements in efficiency of production at optimal levels by minimising cost and losses and increasing customer service and satisfaction. Competition in politics and elections elevates the voter to a pivotal role in democracy as that given to the consumer in a market driven economy. Electoral candidates vie for votes by promising reforms such as better governance, greater socio-economic equity and positive measures for poverty alleviation.

Each political party through its campaigns, manifesto and other propaganda machinery strives hard to win the maximum number of voters in electoral democracy transforming it as a political free market system with fierce competition  between the players similar to the efforts of sellers in the  free market economy to attract the maximum number of customers.

A   free market system across the globe,  is characterised by the existence of not only the  most efficient firms but also several  inefficient ones who are unable to produce the best quality goods and services  at lowest prices and even  those resorting to fraudulent ,  restrictive and unfair trade practices. Similarly, in political democracy and elections around the world,  besides politicians and parties with high degree of integrity and democratic values, there are those with criminal records, adopting ideologies prejudiced by notions of  race,  caste, colour, gender and religion based politics, and those charged with allegations of vote buying etc. which continues to undermine the democratic process.

Consumer Rights in a Free Market Economy

In India,  the interests of the  consumer in the market economy from restrictive, unfair and anti-competitive trade practices by firms  is safeguarded through several strong legal provisions which inter alia includes  the enactment of the  Consumer Protection Act 1986  and the Competition Act 2002. In addition, consumers rights in the economy are further protected through The Indian Contract Act, 1872, The Sale of Goods Act, of 1930 and  The Agriculture produce Act of 1937.   This is further strengthened by the establishment of supportive quasi-judicial institutional arrangements i.e the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission at the National, State and District level as well as the Competition Commission of India.

The main objective of the competition law of India is to promote economic efficiency using competition as one of the means of assisting the creation of market responsive to consumer preferences. The advantages of perfect competition are three-fold: allocative efficiency which ensures that costs of production are kept at a minimum and dynamic efficiency which promotes innovative practices.

To achieve its objectives, the Competition Commission of India endeavours to do the following:

  • Make the markets work for the benefit and welfare of consumers
  • Ensure fair and healthy competition in economic activities in the country for faster and inclusive growth and development of the economy.
  • Implement competition policies with an aim to effectuate the most efficient utilization of economic resources.
  • Develop and nurture effective relations and interactions with sectoral regulators to ensure smooth alignment of sectoral regulatory laws in tandem with the competition law.
  • Effectively carry out competition advocacy and spread the information on benefits of competition among all stakeholders to establish and nurture completion culture in Indian economy.

Voters Rights in a Political Democracy

As a free market economy cannot sustain consumer rights without supportive legal and institutional framework, there is little doubt that for the survival of a free and fair democracy, the rule of law should prevail and it is necessary that the best available persons should be chosen as people’s representatives for proper governance of the country (Gadakh Yashwantrao Kankararao v Balasaheb Vikhepati lAIR 1994 SC 678). India isa sovereign, socialist, secular democratic republic. Democracy is one of the inalienable basic features of the Constitution of India and forms parts of its basic structure (Kesavanand Bharati v State of Kerala and Others AIR 1973 SC 1461). The concept of democracy, as visualised by the Constitution, pre-supposes the representation of the people in Parliament and State Legislatures by the method of election (N.P.Punnuswami v Returning Officer Namakka lAIR 1952 SC 64).

 Accordingly, in India,  in the  realm of political democracy and elections, the interests of the voters and electorate  is safeguarded through the Constitution of India,  Representation  of the People’s Act 1950 and 1951,Presidential and Vice Presidential Elections Rules 1974, Registration of Electors Rules 1960 and Conduct of Elections Rules 1961.

In India, the above legal provisions of elections and voting under political democracy    are administered and further supplemented by the Election Commission’s directions and instructions on all aspects. The underlying principle of  parliamentary democracy enforced by the Election Commission of India  is to ensure free and fair elections for which there are three pre-requisites: (1) an authority to conduct these elections, which should be insulated from political and executive interference, (2) set of laws which should govern the conduct of elections and in accordance whereof the authority charged with the responsibility of conducting these elections should hold them, and (3) a mechanism whereby all doubts and disputes arising in connection with these elections should be resolved. The Constitution of Indi has paid due attention to all these imperatives and duly provided for all the three matters.

The Constitution has created an independent Election Commission of India in which vest the superintendence, direction and control of preparation of electoral rolls for, and conduct of elections to, the officers of president and Vice President of India and Parliament and State Legislatures (Article 324). A similar independent constitutional authority has been created for conduct of elections to municipalities, panchayats and other local bodies (Articles 243 K and 243 ZA) along with legal and institutional provisions for  settlement of disputes relating to elections.

Model Code of Conduct in India

Election Commission of India  has laid down a set of guidelines for conduct of political parties and candidate during elections. The main points of code of conduct are:

  1. The government may not lay any new ground for projects or public initiatives once the Model Code of Conduct comes into force.
  2. Government bodies are not to participate in any recruitment process during the electoral process.
  3. The contesting candidates and their campaigners must respect the home life of their rivals and should not disturb them by holding road shows or demonstrations in front of their houses. 
  4. The election campaign rallies and road shows must not hinder the road traffic.
  5. Candidates are asked to refrain from distributing liquor to voters.
  6. The Code hinders the government or ruling party leaders from launching new welfare programmes like construction of roads, provision of drinking water facilities etc or any ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
  7. The code instructs that public spaces like meeting grounds, helipads, government guest houses and bungalows should be equally shared among the contesting candidates. These public spaces should not be monopolized by a few candidates.
  8. On polling day, all political party candidates should cooperate with the  poll-duty officials at the voting booths for an orderly voting process. Candidates should not display their election symbols near and around the poll booths on the polling day. No one should enter the booths without a valid pass from the Election Commission.
  9. There will be poll observers to who any complaints can be reported or submitted.
  10. The ruling party should not use its seat of power for the campaign purposes.
  11. The ruling party ministers should not make any ad-hoc appointment of officials, which may influence the voters in favour of the party in power.
  12. Before using loud speakers during their poll campaigning, candidates and political parties must obtain permission or license from the local authorities. The candidates should inform the local police for conducting election rallies to enable the police authorities to make required security arrangements. 

Conclusion

In a wider sense, both free markets and democratic elections are run on the basis of a set of rules with respective regulatory bodies enforcing the rules of the game. While there is a strong element of political centralization in the decision making process of elections, free market system is tilted more towards the principle of economic decentralisation. However, the consumer and the voter whose rights are legally and institutionally safeguarded remain as the principal beneficiaries of both systems- the economic and political. Thus free markets and democracy have identical underlying objectives of maximising welfare of the people. The convergence of the political economy of free markets and elections therefore highlights the democratic principles governing the welfare of citizens.

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Economy

Euro – 20 years on: Who won and who lost?

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The common European currency – the euro – came into being 20 years ago. Since January 1, 1999, the euro has been widely used in cashless money transfers. On January 1, 2002, banknotes and coins were introduced into circulation. How did the European countries benefit from the single currency? How many profited from its introduction?

In the early 1990s, the European Community entered a new stage of development which was characterized by a transition to a higher level of integration within it and expansion to include more members. This was provided by the Treaty on European Union, which was signed on February 7, 1992 in the Dutch city of Maastricht and entered into force on November 1, 1993. The Maastricht agreements and the subsequent decisions of the EU’s governing bodies – the European Council and the Council of the EU –formed a groundwork for a gradual, stage-by-stage creation of a monetary union and the introduction of a single currency, the euro.

At the time the decision on the introduction of the euro came into effect it was believed that the main objectives of the transition to a single monetary policy and the replacement of national banknotes with a single European one were the following. First of all, a monetary union was supposed to put the finishing touches to the formation of a common market and was to transform the EU territory into an economic space with equal opportunities for all players. A single currency was expected to facilitate the transition of the EU to a common economic policy, which, in turn, was seen as indispensable for moving to a new level of political integration. Many also viewed a single currency as vital for cementing European integration and a symbol of the economic and political integrity of the region. It was assumed that the euro would keep European countries “in the same harness” even in times of crisis and would help them to overcome differences and even resist outbursts of nationalism.

The second goal was to prevent losses caused by continuous fluctuations in the rates of Western European currencies. Once the euro was established, risk payments for possible losses in different-currency transactions became a thing of the past. It was assumed that stable and low interest rates would bring down inflation and stimulate economic growth. Thirdly, it was thought that fixed exchange rates within the euro zone with no more fluctuations would boost investment activity and, as a result, would improve the situation on the labor market. In addition, a better economic performance was to make it easier for countries to enter the EU and adapt to the new reality. A better economic performance was supposed to make European products more competitive in world markets.

Fourth, a single currency was supposed to significantly cut circulation costs. At the end of the 1990s, the existence of various national currencies cost the EU countries 20-25 billion ECU (26-33 billion dollars) annually, including the cost of keeping records of currency transactions, insuring currency risks, conducting exchange operations, drawing up the price lists in various currencies, etc. Finally, fifthly, the initiators of the single currency hoped that the euro would become one of the international reserve currencies. The introduction of the euro was supposed to change the balance of strength between the United States and united Europe in favor of the latter. In the long run, it boiled down to ensuring more independence of the EU economic policy since interest rates on long-term loans would be less dependent on American ones.

What is happening at present? Not surprisingly, the greatest difficulties emerged  while grappling with the most pressing and large-scale agenda involving the ambitious plans of the political and economic transformation of the EU and the strengthening of its global geo-economic role. Indeed, since the late 1990s, the economic and financial spheres of the EU have undergone dramatic changes. In 2004 and 2007, the majority of Central and Eastern European countries joined the Union (an increase in social dumping). The current EU “bears little resemblance” to that of 20 years ago. “Not only the currency has become different, but the entire European economy has changed.”

Nevertheless, as predicted by those who criticized the approved version of transition to a single European currency, chances for meeting the criteria of eurozone membership in case the global economy followed an unfavorable scenario are pretty slim for most countries of the eurozone. As economic and financial crises sweep Europe one after another, the presence of the euro and the unprecedentedly high level of the European Central Bank’s autonomy and its extensive powers are restricted by the “possibility of influencing the economy” of separate states. Since inflation rates vary from country to country, the interest rate suggested by the ECB (about 2%) turns out to be too low for countries with high inflation (which leads to financial bubbles) and too high for countries with low inflation (which has a negative impact on investments).

As a result, the economic slowdown in European economies in the 2000s through 2010s led to increases in budget deficits. According to the requirements of the eurozone, governments have to raise taxes or cut spending, even if it damages national economy. Formally, there exists a procedure to tackle economic upheavals in this or that country of the eurozone to minimize their consequences for other members. From the point of view of abstract macroeconomic indicators this procedure is functioning well. But, judging by what happened in Spain, and then in Greece and Italy, its social, economic and subsequently, political costs are too high. In the first place, we talk about social upheavals, which became one the main reasons for the rise of “right-wing populists” across Europe.

The euro is running into problems mainly because it hinges on politics, rather than economics. On the one hand, it is this that largely keeps it from the collapse. The EU leadership is ready to sustain any financial or economic losses to preserve the single currency.  However, from the economic viewpoint, the ECB’s readiness for currency interventions has ruined market discipline. In March this year the German Wirtschafts Woche stated that the euro had failed to become either an effective currency or an EU stability enhancing tool. What proves it is the fact that without “billions and billions in financial injections on the part of the European Central Bank and European governments to save the euro the single currency would have long sunk dead”. The 2008 financial crunch quickly triggered the crisis of the eurozone which culminated in the Greek debt crisis of 2010. As a result, “the dispute over how to save the single currency laid bare purely political differences across Europe”.

As skeptics forecast, membership in the eurozone, sought by countries with different levels of economic development regardless of the tough requirements and selection criteria, resulted in a situation in which a setback in the global economic performance hit weaker members the hardest. Citing the IMF, Le Figaro points out that “the euro exchange rate is too high for France and Italy (which deals a blow on their competitiveness), and is too low for Germany (by about 20%)”.  This provided the German economy with a clear edge over other EU members and secured a “huge foreign trade proficit”. Moreover, in the course of the eurozone crisis in 2009 there emerged a vicious circle: Germany’s domineering position in the EU enabled Berlin to dictate its policy of austere budgetary measures to the greater part of the rest of Europe, which, in turn, gave rise to an outburst of anti-German sentiment in a whole range of countries, including Greece and Italy.

Therefore, in 20 years of its existence the euro has made Germany yet more powerful economically than it used to be. Simultaneously, it has become a major factor that contributed to Germany’s isolation in Europe. Critics say that while drafting the euro project its authors meant to weaken Germany. Instead, the single currency “strengthened it, providing it with competitive advantages through a “weak” euro”. Central Europe has become a supplier of spare parts for German businesses thereby putting into practice the Mitteleuropa Doctrine in the 21st century. The rest of the EU countries have become a market for German goods. Meanwhile, Germany has to pay for economic failures of an ever greater number of its EU partners. In such a way, Germany’s economic might has all but become a major threat to European integration. Pessimists fear the current economic and geopolitical trends will sooner or later push the Germans into pursuing a more “egoistic” and “aggressive” policy, in every sense of the word. Everyone remembers what this kind of policy ended with in a period from the mid19th to the mid20th century.

As for the second and third points of the objectives of a single currency, the results are contradictory. Inflation in the eurozone is indeed at an all-time low. There has occurred a unification of the common market of goods, capitals and workforce. At the same time, measures which are being taken by the European Central Bank to fight low inflation have more than once driven a number of EU countries into recession and sovereign debt crises. Living standards in EU countries have not been growing steadily over the past few years. A rise in wages has turned out to be much smaller than predicted in the late 1990s.  Most European banks still prefer holding debt obligations of their countries only, which, in case of financial crisis, is fraught with banking problems and could ruin national economy. As for competitiveness, the appearance of a single market “in the first place, aggravated competition between  EU countries”. Simultaneously, the introduction of the same standards and requirements for all countries of the eurozone “cemented their differences, rather than brought them together”.

The fourth point can be considered fully implemented. Economic transactions have been simplified, cost less and have got rid of exchange-related risks. According to the British The Economist, three out of five residents of eurozone countries consider the euro useful for their country. And 75% of Europeans are sure that the single currency benefits the EU. Meanwhile, the removal of barriers to capital movements has led to a significant imbalance in investments, especially in the industrial sector. The main benefits went to countries located in the center of the EU while the geographical “periphery” of the eurozone has lost some of its former investment attractiveness. But the presence of the euro makes it impossible for the less fortunate countries to stimulate the economy by bringing down the currency value.

As for the fifth point, some of the ambitious plans have been implemented. The euro has already made a significant contribution to the weakening of the position of the US dollar in the global economy. According to the European Commission, one-fifth of the world’s currency reserves are denominated in the single European currency. “340 million citizens use it daily, 60 countries and territories link their currency to it”. On the other hand, 10 years of 20 years of its history the eurozone has devoted to the struggle against an “unprecedented crisis”. By now, experts say there has been a “fragile recovery.” Nevertheless, unlike its main competitors, the dollar and the yuan, the euro has no solid foundation. The EU budget is used mainly for paying subsidies to member countries, while the years-long disputes over prospects for creating a common EU ministry of finance all but fuel differences between 19 eurozone governments.

Thus, according to optimists, criticism of the euro is first of all the result of profound differences on the fundamental issues of European economic policy. The single currency consolidated the leaders of Europe, provided them with the common goal of creating a more integrated, a more attractive for trade and business, and a globally competitive, economy. However, a further stable existence of a single currency mechanism in Europe calls for urgent reforms, which European politicians are either not ready for or are not capable of. According to critics, the single currency has driven the different economies of the EU countries into the Procrustean bed of all-fitting standard format. The single currency mechanism completely ignores, if not completely denies, the geographical, historical and cultural specifics of the member states. Overall, the current model of economic and monetary integration in the EU mindlessly forces countries whose national economies do not match the general format “to carry out endless reforms,” which all but aggravate their long-standing inherent problems.

 First published in our partner International Affairs

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