The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was a proposed multilateral treaty for the purpose of establishing international standards for intellectual property rights enforcement. The agreement aims to establish an international legal framework for targeting counterfeit goods, generic medicines and copyright infringement on the Internet, and would create a new governing body outside existing forums, such as the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, and the United Nations.
The agreement was signed in October 2011 by Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States. In 2012, Mexico, the European Union and 22 countries that are member states of the European Union signed as well. One signatory (Japan) has ratified (formally approved) the agreement, which would come into force in countries that ratified it after ratification by six countries.
Industrial groups with interests in copyright, trademarks and other types of intellectual property said that ACTA was a response to "the increase in global trade of counterfeit goods and pirated copyright protected works". Organizations such as the Motion Picture Association of America and International Trademark Association are understood to have had a significant influence over the ACTA agenda.
Organisations representing citizens and non-governmental interests argued that ACTA could infringe fundamental rights including freedom of expression and privacy. ACTA has also been criticised by Doctors Without Borders for endangering access to medicines in developing countries. The nature of negotiations was criticized as secretive and has excluded non-governmental organization, developing countries and the general public from the agreement's negotiation process and it has been described as policy laundering by critics including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Entertainment Consumers Association.
The signature of the EU and many of its member states resulted in widespread protests across Europe. European Parliament rapporteur Kader Arif resigned. His replacement, British MEP David Martin, recommended that the Parliament should reject ACTA, stating: "The intended benefits of this international agreement are far outweighed by the potential threats to civil liberties". On 4 July 2012, the European Parliament declined its consent, effectively rejecting it, 478 votes to 39, with 165 abstentions.
- "ACTA will force border searches of laptops, smartphones for pirated content" | 2012-01-22 | 412 Upvotes 191 Comments
The Chicken Tax is a 25 percent tariff on light trucks (and originally on potato starch, dextrin, and brandy) imposed in 1964 by the United States under President Lyndon B. Johnson in response to tariffs placed by France and West Germany on importation of U.S. chicken. The period from 1961–1964 of tensions and negotiations surrounding the issue was known as the "Chicken War," taking place at the height of Cold War politics.
Eventually, the tariffs on potato starch, dextrin, and brandy were lifted, but since 1964 this form of protectionism has remained in place to give U.S. domestic automakers an advantage over competition (e.g., from Japan, Turkey, China, and Thailand). Though concern remains about its repeal, a 2003 Cato Institute study called the tariff "a policy in search of a rationale."
As an unintended consequence, several importers of light trucks have circumvented the tariff via loopholes, known as tariff engineering. Ford (ostensibly a company that the tax was designed to protect), imported its first-generation Transit Connect light trucks as "passenger vehicles" to the U.S. from Turkey, and immediately stripped and shredded portions of their interiors (e.g., installed rear seats, seatbelts) in a warehouse outside Baltimore. To import vans built in Germany, Mercedes "disassembled them and shipped the pieces to South Carolina, where American workers put them back together in a small kit assembly building." The resulting vehicles emerge as locally manufactured, free from the tariff.
- "Chicken tax" | 2017-05-17 | 75 Upvotes 28 Comments
The Micronesian island of Yap is known for its stone money, known as Rai (Yapese: raay), or Fei: large doughnut-shaped, carved disks of (usually) calcite, up to 4 m (13 ft) in diameter (most are much smaller). The smallest can be as little as 3.5 centimetres (1.4 in) in diameter. There are around 6,000 of the large, circular stone disks carved out of limestone formed from aragonite and calcite crystals. Rai stones were quarried on several of the Micronesian islands, mainly Palau, but briefly on Guam as well, and transported to Yap for use as money. They have been used in trade by the Yapese as a form of currency.
The monetary system of Yap relies on an oral history of ownership. In the case of stones that are too large to move, buying an item with one simply involves agreeing that the ownership has changed. As long as the transaction is recorded in the oral history, it will now be owned by the person to whom it is passed and no physical movement of the stone is required.
- "Rai Stones" | 2020-03-20 | 95 Upvotes 35 Comments
The great grain robbery was the July 1972 purchase of 10 million tons of grain (mainly wheat and corn) from the United States by the Soviet Union at subsidized prices, which caused global grain prices to soar. Crop shortfalls in 1971 and 1972 forced the Soviet Union to look abroad for grain, hoping to prevent famine or crisis. Soviet negotiators worked out a deal to buy grain on credit, but quickly exceeded their credit limit. The American negotiators did not realize that both the Soviets and the world grain market had suffered shortfalls, and thus chose to subsidize the purchase. The strategy backfired and intensified the crisis with global food prices rose at least 30%, and grain stockpiles were decimated.
- "Great Grain Robbery (1972)" | 2020-04-25 | 47 Upvotes 26 Comments