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Microsoft Asks WTO Not to Impose Software Tariffs 201

Element5 writes "In an interesting story featured on Netscape's Netcenter Tech News, Microsoft is apparently trying to keep the WTO from imposing a duty fee for international online transactions."
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Microsoft Asks WTO Not to Impose Software Tariffs

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  • by apocalypse_now ( 82372 ) on Saturday November 27, 1999 @03:00PM (#1500251) Homepage
    Probably not. But a continuation of the temporary ban could actually be beneficial for developing countries (who, remember, the WTO is supposed to benefit the most) by allowing them more unrestricted access to items - items with heavy duties tend not to make their way into countries with poor distribution networks or a small demand. However, in the end, the ban should be lifted, and the items should be taxed in the same manner as all international trades are.
    Matt Singerman
  • I guess Microsoft is trying to do some serious kiss up, OR they are doing a total 180.
  • It's about time that Microsoft came up with a good proposal for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) summit in Seattle this week.

    Regulating international commerce via the Internet would be a rather tricky endeavour anyways. Sometimes, a company is based in one nation while that company's Web host is in another country. Attempting to impose import/export duties on online transactions would pose a great difficulty because the transaction takes place in a different country from the company's home country, and it must be shipped to yet *another* country (whew!). Microsoft's idea is a very good one, and I hope that the delegates at the summit will be open to it despite the legal troubles Microsoft is dealing with now.

    So, Microsoft (the company) isn't all bad (excepting the fact that it's an abusive monopoly), but I still hate Windoze...

    For more information about the World Trade Organisation (WTO) summit, visit [] for up-to-date news and views.

  • Could someone be so nice as to explain what Microsoft is trying to ban? What does it mean software tarriffs? Thanks.
  • Microsoft wants the WTO to impose a permanant ban on tariffs for online transactions of services and digital items. In other words, the tariffs that normally apply when you buy an online service (such as a monthly subscription to do not cirrently exist. In theory, there should be a tariff. But because this is a digital service, it is not regulated at this time. See?
    Matt Singerman
  • The immediate reaction to any e-commerce tax is "heck no!". Of course we don't want governmental interference with this great electronic world. However, the same people who believe this (usually) believe that eventually technology will progress to the point where the whole world spends their entire time wired directly into the Internet in a utopia of communication. I, myself, subscribe to this view.

    But stop and think for a moment. If in a thousand years we will spend our life wired up, then surely in a hundred we will do all our shopping online! But at this point, the government won't be able to collect sales tax because of our silly "moratorium" on Internet taxes. So why now do we shout "keep the Internet tax-free" when in a hundred years the government will be mired in debt due to our shortsightedness?
  • One thing I think people well look back on this ear is are inablity to classify digital media. All prevous laws in economy are base on phiscal products or ideas. Software is a combo of the two. There for they constantly either hitting a legal barrier or running around another. I wish we could have a set of standerds that divided software into two groups. Group a: thought software (i.e) opensource Group b: goods software (i.e) Video games and commercail apps. Sorry if this looks offtopic. And sorry about the piss poor formating.

  • However, in the end, the ban should be lifted, and the items should be taxed in the same manner as all international trades are.

    Possibly. But how can this be regulated? Remember, the Internet is a vast and often confusing complex which is hard enough to regulate already. Uncle Sam has already failed in regulating Internet content with the (expletive) Communications Decency Act. I'm not sure how countries can monitor transactions done over the Internet and tax them accordingly.

    Of course, to avoid tariffs, vendors and consumers could "smuggle" items between nations by conducting "unofficial" transactions under the nose of both governments involved, and get away with it. I can't imagine any *reputable* online vendors doing this, but you never know...

  • Of course M$ is against duties on online transactions. First, it makes their products less expensive to consumers overseas. I guess that's not really a problem for them right now, but it could become one. But the real reason M$ doesn't want duties is because they don't want to deal with them. I work for an e-commerce company myself, and so I can tell you it will make things a lot easier for me if I don't have to worry about including duties in my pricing code. It would save my company a lot of time and money, too. Micro$oft just sees this as a way to save money, and as much as it surprises me to say this, I completely agree.
  • "He spoke out firmly against an EU proposal that would reclassify electronically delivered software as a service. Software has traditionally been classified as goods."

    ``It would be sort of stupid to see the same product classified differently whether it's delivered on a CD for example or delivered electronically. It's the same product we believe it should be treated equally and as goods,'' he said. "

    Hasn't MS been saying all along that "your not buying the software, your licensing it's use". That sounds a lot more like a service than a product to me.

    Maybe someone should pass this link on to the folks responsible for the latest UCITA fiasco:

    I'm sure they'd be interested in MS's change of heart.
  • Although I'm sure thier reasons may be different from mine, I offer a tip of the hat to Microsoft. I found myself mostly in agrement with the paragraph "Among the principles it proposed were that electronic commerce should not be subject to more onerous rules than those applied to traditional commerce and that any WTO agreement should not favor or freeze in place any particular technology." However I realize this could be a two edged sword. While it does allow for the propriatary standards that MS loves so much, Getting this into any agreement prevents open source from being frozen out in favor of (currentally) more popular software.

  • Well, ask yourself how big government would need to be in that society. If everybody is directly wired to the Internet, would we need a government, or just a really good OS?

    We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way.

  • So why now do we shout "keep the Internet tax-free" when in a hundred years the government will be mired in debt due to our shortsightedness?

    Somehow I don't think real-life person-to-person interactions and transactions are going away anytime soon. Some things *need* to be done in person, like depositing a paycheck. I, for one, would not want to buy golf clubs online because I want to check out how they feel and how well I can hit the ball with them before I buy them. Regardless of how much we can do online, people still like to talk to a human (especially when they call for technical support) ;o)

    Even if face-to-face interaction *is* going away, this "moratorium" can always be lifted. Then, the government can tax to its heart's content. Until then, keeping Internet transactions tax-free is certainly the way to go.

  • by evilad ( 87480 ) on Saturday November 27, 1999 @03:30PM (#1500269)
    I am in favour of a global economy, but a moratorium on tariffs means one more nail in the coffin of governmental control over the hypercorps. Microsoft isn't asking that governments work towards eliminating unreasonable barriers to international trade. They are asking that elected governments be categorically forced to allow unrestricted trade. They are lobbying for an overruling of the democratic principle in this one specific case that happens to strongly favour -- you got it, the hypercorps.

    This is precisely what makes it possible for third-world wage-slavery to exist. This is what makes it possible for unnamed chemical companies to dump as much shit as they want into the water, so long as they do it in countries too poor to say no to the business. Odd how those same countries also tend to be too poor to buy their products, too.

    Here is an example of why tariffs can be good. Canada can't impose strict environmental protection laws, because to do so would be to force some companies to produce in Mexico, which cannot afford strong environment laws for exactly the same reason. Canada loses the business, Mexico's environment gets polluted. Canada is then prohibited from imposing an "environmental tariff" on those same goods. That tariff would keep the company in Canada, locally producing goods for local consumption. If the locals think the pollution is too bad to justify the product, then they get to legislate it out of existence. That is what government is for.

    An electronic transaction is no different than a phone call. If there is no good reason for import restrictions then let free market do as it will! But when there is a good reason, then somebody should make it clear that I am doing the world a disservice by purchasing that product.

    A tariff will do this perfectly well, without prohibiting a damned thing.

    This has been an unsponsored and uneducated rant. Flame away.

  • Why would Microsoft want to kiss up to the World Trade Organisation (WTO)? They're not the ones that are bringing monopoly charges against them.

    If Microsoft were to try and win the favor of anyone, they'd go for Uncle Sam. They're the ones that Microsoft has to deal with right now...


  • Electronic deposit....I use it.
  • Hey! Would anyone from Seattle care to comment on what the feeling on the streets is like tonight? How big of a protest turnout has made itself evident so far? Anyone there reading this getting invloved in any way? How (or why not)?
    And to you people who are going on about how no international trade tax is such a Good Thing - do you really enjoy paying income tax so much that you'd encourage an abolition of tarriff's and sales taxes? Think about it. Microsoft is just being typically selfish here. "It's in our best self-serving interest, and hey, the press'll be great"
  • Well, what about income tax? This was supposed to be a temporary measure during the war to help pay for it. Now it seems that we're stuck with it forever.

    Tax sucks. The government basically steals money from people and then wastes it. We get taxed on our income, then we get taxed when we buy goods. Those goods themselves have already been taxed several times (the raw materials are taxed, the fabricated materials are taxed, the final sales are taxed, then there's shipping etc).

    It seems like for each $1 you earn, you actually get maybe $.10 of buying power out of it.

    We need less taxes and less stupid waste, not more taxes.

  • The WTO could be next in line
  • That's all very interesting but how can they do that in good conscience(sp)? They are planning on charging a seat type fee for secure transictions using the next degeneration of IIS in W2K. Maybe they think that if people are charged duties for international transactions they will go with a cheaper web solution?

    Once again my .02
  • ... going to have to spend less of our tax $$$. They allready get money out of my pay check and 87oct gas is $1.41 here, $0.60 of that is tax.
  • by DaveHowe ( 51510 ) on Saturday November 27, 1999 @03:50PM (#1500279)
    I can't see how you could possibly keep track - for example, say sells a copy of superware V3 (tm) to an aol user at aol .com. ALL the following could be true:
    1. is in the .com domain
    2.'s host is in New Zealand
    3. has a download server in england that the software actually comes from (
    4. is actually an english company
    5. is in the .com domain
    6. registered in japan
    7. is actually in england, and will be downloading and using the software there. so, which of the countries are entitled to duty? we are downloading from england to england, but the data is going to AOL's US server enroute...
  • ...except that this is from Bill Gates, who, if he could, would probably have everyone paying him by the hour for everything they do on the net. I believe there was an article in Time or Newsweek where he said exactly that.

    People would start up Windows, open IE, go through MSN to a website that in run off of WindowsNT, and they would pay MS a few pennies for every little thing they do.

    The only reason Bill is against this version of the plan is that he doesn't get the money.
  • If national governments start taxing internet transactions, how long will it be before every state, city, etc. decides that they deserve a cut as well? It could easily get to the point where the cost of complying with all of the various taxes could easily outstrip the taxes themselves.
  • by CrAlt ( 3208 )
    What the hell does this have to do with OSS?

    I still don't trust it. I do not know about what the WTO wants to do, but I doubt it would damage FORD.
    Maybe it'd be a good bash to MS that would help FORD into new niche markets.
  • Micro$oft wants to be the only body issuing a tax on computing.
  • But stop and think for a moment. If in a thousand years we will spend our life wired up, then surely in a hundred we will do all our shopping online! But at this point, the government won't be able to collect sales tax because of our silly "moratorium" on Internet taxes. So why now do we shout "keep the Internet tax-free" when in a hundred years the government will be mired in debt due to our shortsightedness?
    I can't see the problem here - no-one is suggesting a permanent ban on RW goods and services; all they are suggesting is that purely electronic transactions (software and online services) are so difficult to track and police, the cost of doing so far exceeds the benefit to be gained. I would't be too surprised to see a "internet tax" taxing the right to use the internet, though. that would be wrong as well, but the government already taxes the right to receive radio waves here in .uk, so.....
  • It's not that easy when duty fees are different in each country. Canada's duty might be 5% for items below 300$, 8% for items above. United Kingdom Duties might be 3$ for items below 100 pounds, etc..
    Whoops, Canada changed their duty structure last week. Time to get the programmers back in here to modify the code.

    It's not easy keeping track of various duty fees around the world. THere's more than just your country involved.

  • by wyv ( 90248 ) on Saturday November 27, 1999 @04:01PM (#1500287) Journal
    Disclaimer: These are just things to think about. The whole matter confuses me thoroughly, so I could be 100% wrong.

    We discussed the WTO in my political science class last week. If I got the jist of it straight, the WTO is basically supposed to give underdeveloped countries the chance to develope.

    Suppose that you've got a few big industrial nations that import raw materials from smaller, poorer countries. They take those materials and turn them into much more expensive goods. This way, they get lots of profit. The poor countries are stuck selling their cheap raw materials and importing expensive manufactured goods (created with the same materials they sold.) Thus they don't make enough money to start industrializing themselves, and it becomes a cycle.

    The WTO is supposed to let the poor countries impose high tariffs on the manufactured goods from foreign nations. This way demand will be created for domestic industry to produce cheaper goods. With demand comes capital, and with capital comes industry. With industry comes being able to compete in the global marketplace.

    But this is dealing with raw materials, like metals and food, etc. Does the same logic hold for non-material-based goods like software? After all, there is no "raw material" to create software, other than a compiler and good mind. I suppose this is what Microsoft, and many other software companies think. They think that the WTO does not need to impose tariffs to help the smaller countries, because there is nothing stopping the smaller countries from buying a few computers and creating there own software.. it's a lot cheaper and easier than building a factory to start an industry.

    This is a reasonable argument, but it can also be said that countries underdeveloped in the electronics industry resign themselves to importing superior products from their more technological neighbors. Some could argue that by imposing (at least temporary) tariffs on software imports it would spur domestic interest in software development. As soon as the domestic software industry in these smaller countries gets on it's feet, the tariffs can gradually decrease as they become more competitive in the global software marketplace. So maybe tariffs wouldn't be that bad.

    I'm not taking a stand either way. I'm Just thinking about it.
  • Thank you. That was an excellent point. Higher sales of their product thanks to no international tax, and higher profits from sales of other peoples product due to some typical microsoft sneakiness - taking a piece of each transaction that goes through their commerce software. I must say, though, I can't see how in the hell microsoft could get away with "charging a seat type fee for secure transictions using the next degeneration of IIS in W2K".
  • My sentiments exactly. See my earlier comment [] for my interpretation of the situation :o)

  • What are the rules on tarrifs for free stuff? Say I want to download something that is created by a company based in the US, and i need to fill out a form to download it, but it's free. The form is basicly a shipping form, but at the end they have a download link. I (for example live in Umbekixstan, which i don't, but it's an example) fill out this form and download the software. Also, for example the tarrif for online crap to our country is US$10. Does someone (the company or I) have to pay that tarrif? or because it's free software, is it ignored?
  • by awkwardone ( 77785 ) <> on Saturday November 27, 1999 @04:11PM (#1500292) Homepage
    We need less taxes and less stupid waste, not more taxes.

    As Bob Dole, one-time Presidential candidate and now poster boy for Erectile Dysfunction and Viagra once said, "It's time for the government to pinch pennies instead of the American citizens!"

    Our money goes towards some of the dumbest things. I heard something about government-sponsored studies to see what causes male sexual arousal or something like that... kind of a segue with the whole Bob Dole thing ;o) [] - for all the latest WTO summit news.

  • Where I come from import duty is charged on the item at a percentage of the invoiced cost *or* the "true value" ( as determined by some bureaucrat ) and the tax collector can actually choose which one to use. You are of course allowed to fight it.

    As an aside for computer stuff they use "Computer Shopper" as the reference and if they reject your invoice ( people do get forged invoices with lower prices ) you can look through the latest issue and suggest the lowest advertised price for each item.

    Not a fare system by any means but lawmakers suck.

    As to the WTO being "for the benefit of developing nations" that is such absolute bull I could laugh. Jamaica as a former colony of England ( up to 1962 ) has a special deal with England and some of her allies in Europe where they buy our Sugar and Banana at well over the market price. ( For 400 years they tacked everything earned hear so don't start with morality etc... ). The US took this deal before the WTO as unfair competition and won the 1st round. If this goes all the way before these crops are fazed out Jamaica will suffer real and immediate problems.

    Not least of which is a massive jump in unemployment and a widening of the trade gap.

  • I'm not a big fan of Microsoft, but they're doing something here that is beneficial to everyone. There's no reason to cry foul. Contrary to popular belief, microcrap isn't all bad. Their software needs work, and their predatory tactics could definitely be changed. But this is in everyone's best interest, especially those who sell software to foreign markets. The last time I checked microsoft was selling quite a bit of software, so its in their best interest too remember.

    I will go on to say that the problem with Microsoft is not necessarily their buggy software, but the fact that if you use it, you're better off having MS everything. Reason being: Windows works best with a total MS environment, no 3rd party software (this is desktop, MS's server stuff could use some work...Win2000 has the management features down pat, now they need to improve the quality of the back end). They make it hard to use other peoples stuff or other OSes in the network. They do this very well. They also make some quality desktop software and IE is only better than netscape now because it's more stable and the market it and make development a cinch so retards use it (classic MS marketting). Office is a pretty good office suite, but it has way too much shit in it. I prefer Abiword and Gnumeric myself, they are simle and have what you want to use (except bullets ;), not wacked out formatting. If I wanted that I'd get Adobe Acrobat Writer. I want the basic stuff: justification, spell check underline, bold, italics, font and font-sizing, cut paste, inserting pictures, the OLE stuff is good too. Anyways, Microsoft wants everything dealing with computers to go through them in some way or another, and hopefully the Judges ruling will force them to play nice with everyone else.

    As far as I'm concerned with Microsoft, I think the best solution is not to open source them, though I think they need to open up the API's so other OSes on the Intel Platform can run Windows executables should the choose to add support for it. I don't think breaking them up would do any good either. I think they should be required to make it so that other operating systems can access Microsoft products too. The case is about the Desktop Monopoly. They don't have a Server monopoly, though were it not for Linux they probably would be really close, but now they're going to have to play nice with other OSes. They should be required to port Office and IE to competing platforms. Ah shit, I don't know, I'm not expressing what I'm trying to say very well, but I hope you get the point, that and I'm rambling on which doesn't help.

  • I suppost the tariffs are a percentage of the price (like most taxes are), so you don't have to pay for free software - another point in favor of taxes on ecommerce.
  • Yes, the WTO is supposed to benefit developing countries - but look at the effects it has. The WTO is a tool of the capitalist countries to force their economical model (capitalism, of course) on those countries e.g. by coupling the payout (don't know the right word here, English is not my native lang) of credits to certain actions by the respective government like opening their markets towards US (or, for that matter EU) firms.
    So IMNSHO the WTO is not here to benefit the developing countries but to stabilize the current state of affairs (developing countries dependant on developed countries).
  • The WTO isn't, never was, and never will be a benifit to develping countries. In fact, it isn't about benifit to any countries. The WTO is all about empowering corporations --- the largest benifit is to large multinationals.

    Any statements (and we will probably here a lot of them next week) to the contrary are smoke & mirrors...

  • This has been an unsponsored and uneducated rant. Flame away.

    I don't think that was uneducated - to the contrary it's more educated than what you can read in popular media mostly. I won't flame but totally agree - congrats for some really good points you made

  • Actually, one might consider the "good minds" to be the raw materials that poor countries export to info-industrialized nations. Consider all the students (==great minds) who come to the United States, get educations (==capital) in technical areas, then get greencards to work for companies that sell products (including software) back to those poorer nations. I've also heard of companies using coders in developing nations to write software that will be packaged and sold back to them with enormous mark-ups. The only capital required is the machine that puts shrink-wrap on.

    One difference here is that the barrier to entry in software production is much lower than it is for manufacturing. So, software may not have the cyclic effects that other industries do.
  • Ok sounds like your feelings to all of the oppresed is in the typical place. Please tell me just how you can force every country in the world to actually levy tarifs on their software? How will Portugal actually say force China to pay an extra tax on something? A great deal of thewse countries that are considered part of the 3rd world are countries that were once European colonies. They they force the Europeans to go packing because they get a group of disgruntled farmers and start a little trouble. Well that's fine and dandy let's look at the results. 1. Millions of dead, dieing and starving. 2. Lack of critical infrastructure that other more tenaciously held colonies received (Taiwan) 3. Civil strife: when you don't have a governent you can't keep the local or popular bullies off your doorstep. The main reason anti-government types are flat out wrong about the "evil government" 4. Because of all of the above factors you get a smaller percentage of highly educated people to remedy all of the 3 over time like in most other places. To fix all of this will take a little more than a simple tariff or tax on software. Already I could fathom most people internationally pay more for items (even small ones) that are ordered in places like the US. Just look at the price of books at the local bookstore. Usually on the back of these boks you see several prices. First is the price in the local part of the world. The second is usually canada or someplace like that, and then next maybe New Zealand or Great Britian. Usually when you get to the end of the list the p rice is usually over 5-15 dollars (lyre, pounds, franks, DM, etc). Dealing with this is already an inconvience. What would be better is to gradually move to a unified global ecconomy and spare taxiation on certain parts of it. Even in the most developed regions of the world there are still poor and needy you just have to look better for them.
  • The opening words of the article:
    Microsoft Corp, the world's largest software company...
    Unlike ignorant reporters and editors, you should know that Microsoft is not the largest software company. IBM is. Microsoft is the largest in just the PC software market. What can we do drill this point home?


  • by Anonymous Coward
    Used to be speech was the only real free thing. You could yell something in a room and anyone there would hear you, nobody could really stop you or charge you for yelling, and no one could stop you or charge you for hearing. Lookie here at this internet thingy, now we have free software (GNU), free literature (Project Gutenburg) and free music (MP3 files, Meaning the legal ones.) Some are still stuck in the dark ages, like the RIAA and software giants, and don't realize in a few years these things will be free like speech. Obviously, you can't shout across the oceans to foreign countries, but there are no tariffs on exchanging information with foreigners, via internet or hard copy through the mail. There's no tax on speech since it's free. Shouldn't it soon follow that these other things that the internet is making free also be exempt from tariffs? But doesn't it seem odd that Microsoft seems to be fighting for something free software advocacy should be fighting for when Microsoft is still operates under the old way of doing things, the non-free way? If they want to sell their software to foreigners, like it's a product, then they should deal with the export tariffs like anyone else that sells a product.
  • The fact that MS, a software company moving very heavily in an e-commerce direction (look at the plans for web-based office), would prefer that e-commerce not be taxed isn't really too surprising, is it?

    The current moratorium is a good thing right now, most gov'ts are so confused by the whole issue anything they tried to do would probably just be a mess. But in the longer run this stuff is going to be taxed, and it would be good for the WTO to start thinking about reasonable ways to handle the complexities involved.

    We don't like to think about it very often, but the Net really re-enforces gaps between the haves and the have-nots. In the US, for example, e-commerce has become a way for many folks to avoid sales tax. The situation is similar globally.

    This is a good thing, for now, but the rise of e-commerce is really going to play havoc with tax systems.
  • Just our of curiousity how many of the programs that I use on a daily basis are coded in Bolivia?
    I haven't seen any major pieces that have comments done in Spanish. I still think that people should support software development when so much code that is developed in the US and other developed countries *cough* microsoft *cough* is just junk anyway. As a fact I know that I have a collection of NT development CDs at home that are published in ENglish, French, Italian, and maybe German at least it shows that even so called "selfish" people in the USA aren't really so cold hearted.
  • by Sharks ( 9336 ) on Saturday November 27, 1999 @05:00PM (#1500309) Homepage
    Does any of you know the power the WTO wields? They have this awesome power to pretty much shut down any economy they want to, and override any government they want to.

    One little country decided to not import some goods that would be bad for a couple of reasons, and the WTO stepped right around it because it "hurt" their business.

    The WTO shut down a law in New Jersey for the same reasons. The law conflicted with what the WTO wanted to do, and so it got rid of the law.

    It has happened to the EU as well, concerning the decision not to import beef from the US. The WTO stepped in, and now Europe is importing beef from the US.

    The reason for those governments giving in is simple. If they didn't, the WTO and all the supporting corporations, and possibly countries could, and probably would, boycott the "offending" nation, sending that nation into total economic ruin, and that isn't cool.

    This means that the WTO takes what little voice you do have in your government, and throws it all out the window, and it could be on the whim of some large corporation, such as Microsoft. So be wary of what the WTO can do.
  • Ok, like most generalisations, my above statement is too strong. Thought I would jump on it before someone else does ;)

    The WTO is not *inherently* a tool of multinationals --- it is just shaping up that way. A concerted effort could turn that around, I suppose, and in that way it could become an aid to developing countries. Not holding my breath on that one.

  • Rather interesting that as you point out that the capitalists are both evil (they exploit all the por workers) and they are both good (boy when we come home and eat boiled shoe leather for dinner we want help from said capitalists).
    The only time where calling people evil capitalists is founded is when an ecconomic system is set up that is different from is substantially. Maybe socialism, or communism perhaps. Howevereven socialistic countires do not necessarily go against capitalistic implimentations of ideas. Communism is looking to come to terms with capitalism. Now unless this point of view is seen from either North Korea, or Cuba (places where the worst run communist governments are usualy found today) this point is dead.
  • In case your looking back here... here is the first article about it. The way I read it Microsith will require a license for every user requiring authentication wether local or remote. Fun stuff no doubt.
  • MS publishes it's stuff in other languages because it makes money that way, not out of "caring".

    People prefer to use the native tunge as much as posible and if you don't alow that you are second choice.

    I.e. If Windows was not in French and OS/2 was then Warp wold own 90% of the fench desktop market today.
  • You don't implement tax law by monitoring each individual sale... I've never seen a government official checking up on transactions in the supermarket, for example. (Perhaps they do, but I would expect they do spot checks anonymously, so that is looking for opportunities to take violators to court, and not a normal procedure.)

    You just put a law on the books (or on the WTO "book", in which case members must enforce it as local law because of the terms of whatever treaty they signed on to) that says you have to report certain types of commerce and collect taxes on them, and then turn those over to the government. If it is the responsibility of an incorporated business to pay the taxes, they usually will. If you make it the consumers job, as in the case of sales tax on interstate sales in the US, then you dont get quite as much of it....

    If, in your example, the buyer and seller are both British, it doesn't seem like there is much ambiguity about what is going on from a financial standpoint.

    What I'm curious about is what governing authority gets the tax money from tariffs like this. If it is the national government of the seller, then what difference does it make to less developed nations anyway? (Assuming they aren't doing relatively more selling, which could be totally wrong, considering that writing software requires a lot less capital than many "high-tech" economic activities.)

  • Implying that I come from a communist country is wrong -- I don't (I live in Germany).

    That said, I think that capitalism is responsible for many bad things in today's world. Just think about South America. Yes, I know Cuba is a thorn in USA's ass but how many people are starving (and dying from that) in the capitalist countries of South America compared to Cuba? How is the rate of education in all those great capitalist (you would probably say democratic, capitalist is what you really mean) countries compared to Cuba? How has the quality of life improved in the eastern European countries since the great turnover for the average population? Just take a look: many people have been set off (rates of 80% are quite common), they don't have a life as good as before.

    That said, I don't believe in communism -- at least not how it was implemented in all those countries like SU, GDR et al. Those were not really communist countries but IMO state-capitalistic with some people having control (and privileges and money and ...). So calling something communist (or capitalist for that matter) doesn't make it like that.

  • That is a nice argument for local control of tariffs, although I think it speaks more strongly for global environmental protection treaties... but anyway, what does pollution have to do with writing and selling software?
  • O.K. time to set the record straight on the WTO's purpose and how this relates to MicroSoft's appeal. The WTO is an international organization that was brought into being in 1995, and is really just a successor to GATT, which was set up in the Bretton Woods agreement after WWII. It was set up more or less to expand the scope of GATT to include those countries which were not part of the Bretton Woods agreement.

    GATT, as some of you might remember, was essentially a forum for the settlement of grievances between countries that related to trade. It allowed a forum for countries to decide as a group whether or not barriers or subsidies within a member country was "unfair" or "predatory". It also sought to lower the barriers to trade between all countries, as these barriers have a negative effect on the efficient allocation of resources globally.

    Countries have the ability to tax and subsidize activities as they please, within the boundaries of their own nation. What this means in the international realm is that it is harder/easier to sell certain things to other countries. By creating artificial barriers to trade via taxes, a government can protect a local (by which I mean local to that country) industry from competitors outside of that country. It can also subsidize an industry (via tax relief, guaranteed prices, buying up a percentage of production to raise prices, etc.) to help local industries be profitable enough to continue/expand. Here in the USA, there are many instances of that type of behavior in our agriculture, steel, manufacturing industries.

    Now that e-commerce is becoming widespread, issues related to protectionism get really interesting. The internet respects no boundaries, and doesn't care about where the buyer and seller are. If international barriers on e-commerce are not imposed, then goods and services can be exchanged without the intervention of sovereign governments, right! All the sudden protectionist taxes become meaningless, because the normal flow is short-circuted. This has got to have the bureaucrats in a tizzy, because their carefully crafted walls have suddenly sprung leaks.

    In general, this is good for the average consumer. I say in general, because it affects people in different ways. If the price of imported socks becomes 50 cents versus $5.00 because you can buy them on line, everybody wins, right? But how about the textiles plant in South Carolina that has to close shop and lay off thousands of workers because they can no longer produce socks at a competitive price? (BTW, the textiles industry is the most protected industry in the USA. Some estimates say it costs every US family an average of about $1500 per year.)

    So you see, this stuff gets pretty complex, because there are trade-offs involved. If you open your doors to the world completely, you are vulnerable to having entire industries killed off. This may be as a result of honest competition, or maybe that foreign countries industry is being subsidized by their government so they can sell their stuff cheap, then since the domestic industry is gone, they can raise their prices at will (some would argue that Japan did exactly this to the US steel industry in the 80's, I say bullshit.)

    What M$ is making a play for is to be able to open up markets, independent of government intervention, provided it is over the internet. Honestly, I think this is a pretty good thing, but it opens up a pandora's box because subsidies to industries are a lot harder internationally than tarrifs.

    This diatribe has gone on long enough. To get a real understanding, you need a degree in Economics (like I did, and it's still not enough) If enough people are interested in more, maybe I'll post something on my home page.
  • Suppose that you've got a few big industrial nations that import raw materials from smaller, poorer countries. They take those materials and turn them into much more expensive goods. This way, they get lots of profit. The poor countries are stuck selling their cheap raw materials and importing expensive manufactured goods (created with the same materials they sold.) Thus they don't make enough money to start industrializing themselves, and it becomes a cycle.

    The WTO is supposed to let the poor countries impose high tariffs on the manufactured goods from foreign nations. This way demand will be created for domestic industry to produce cheaper goods. With demand comes capital, and with capital comes industry. With industry comes being able to compete in the global marketplace.

    You're economics here seem a little strange. Tariff's don't increase demand, they increase the price of goods. If steal comes out of a county, and could have come back as a $6,000 car, a $2,000 tariff will dive the price up, and thereby decrease demand. I'm not sure how you think otherwise. Therefore a tariff would have the effect of moving money from the people producing the raw materials to the government of the country. No different from any other tax really.

    Tariffs are only ever a good deal for politicans and privleged industries who can sway those politicians.


  • Though even if the WTO imposed tariffs, tariffs are based on a percent of the price of the incoming product. Linux is free. Which would mean a much larger potential Linux base for developing countries unwilling to pay the tariffs and therefore adopting an already tariff and otherwise cost free OS. Yay.

  • We discussed the WTO in my political science class last week. If I got the jist of it straight, the WTO is basically supposed to give underdeveloped countries the chance to develope.

    Suppose that you've got a few big industrial nations that import raw materials from smaller, poorer countries. They take those materials and turn them into much more expensive goods. This way, they get lots of profit. The poor countries are stuck selling their cheap raw materials and importing expensive manufactured goods (created with the same materials they sold.) Thus they don't make enough money to start industrializing themselves, and it becomes a cycle.

    The WTO is supposed to let the poor countries impose high tariffs on the manufactured goods from foreign nations. This way demand will be created for domestic industry to produce cheaper goods. With demand comes capital, and with capital comes industry. With industry comes being able to compete in the global marketplace.

    Well, your reasoning is um somewhat accurate, except for that the WTO endorses lower tariffs in practically every case...

  • The country where the purchaser resides can tax the credit-card purchase, and the exporting country can tax the export at the dock. The intermediate countrieds might not be able to do too much, but that doesn't mean all must fail. Fail they would if I had my way, but unfortuniately I don't.
  • I haven't seen any major pieces that have comments done in Spanish.

    Because people write comments in English -- even in non-English-speaking countries.

  • by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Saturday November 27, 1999 @06:22PM (#1500327) Homepage
    This is _important_. MS is once again on the WRONG SIDE here. While what they propose seems to be a good idea to many of us here (who are fed up with governmental interference with the net), things would be much, much worse if MS succeeds.

    The WTO has an abominable amount of power. Far too much, IMHO. Though it is not their original purpose, they basically exist now to overturn the sovereignty of the various (many) nations which are members in favor of international corporations.

    If the WTO rules that US antitrust law, for instance, somehow harmed international trade and was in violation of the treaty, the US would have _no option_ but to revoke the law and submit to the WTO.

    The WTO is a jillion times worse than our governments, because at least we have some hope of changing the way that our governments work. We have no such hope wrt the WTO; they serve the best intrests of real people in name but not in deed.

    Sure it sucks to have trade regulations on the net. But did you support embargoes as protests against apartheid? Human rights violations? Environmental, health and safety concerns? Not only could a moritorium prevent cessession of trade with nations which had such practices or harmful effects on the planet or even yourself, but they have already done so in the past.

    If you don't like the behavior of your government, fine. But for God's sake, wouldn't you rather have YOUR government listen to you and not to some faceless corporation-serving committee.

    So let's not only encourage the WTO to take no action whatsoever, but encourage it's dissolution or at least an extreme change to a body which is founded on not just money but ethics as well.
  • Uncle Sam has already failed in regulating Internet content with the (expletive) Communications Decency Act.

    They never go to try to do any regulating, because injunctions were (properly) issued because of its facially-evident unconstitutionality. It would have failed if enforced, but that's still a matter of opinion and can't be imperically determined from those particular events.
  • It's not that simple. There could be different rates for different countries. There could be special agreements with some countries which would then have no duties. There could be some products with no duties and others with duties. There are lots of different possibilities. If we have to deal with a complicated system, it can get really difficult. We have to keep track of all of the possible duty rates, plus we have to find out where the recipient is (which means we have to have a means of preventing someone from lying), and we have to keep track of which products have duties. This could easily become a complicated algorithm, even with a relatively simple structure. And it gets even worse when you consider that we have to constantly update our code to reflect any changes.
  • Umm, they said "tariffs", ie. duty and such
    paid when goods cross national borders.

    Sales tax is entirely different.
  • It is technically rather difficult. They can't do anything to tax Internet
    commerce itself - nothing distinguishes a packet containing part of a credit
    card number or an offer to send a money order from anything else. You can
    keep piecing it together and compare it to a regex, but even if you knew for
    sure what you were looking for, you could never even begin to search it all.

    What is more likely is that they will find a way to force the credit card
    companies, eCash or whatever they call it providers, etc. to catalog and
    tax all the various transactions. If it's not a sales tax and is instead
    a duty tariff for importing goods, then this will just force sites that
    sell electronically transferrable goods to buy web space in the countries
    which they perceive as their target markets. Now, they could try to
    charge duty on that, but is it one copy per mirror, or infinite copies,
    both. It's not like they're importing fruit or something quantifiable
    like that.

    If they respond by saying that you're essentially importing it from the contry
    of origin, well, I can buy a book by a European author from Chapters. Will
    the reciept have a duty charge because I imported it from Germany? No.
    So to make that change, they would have to change the music and book industries.

    Of course, the credit card companies would stand to lose a lot if this
    happens. They'd have to purchase and maintain new infrastructure to
    implement this sort of thing, tracking the location of the purchaser
    and comparing it with the location of the store requires some simple
    software modifications and perhaps some new staff so that's not too
    bad. However, a lot of people don't normally use credit cards but might
    so that they can get something online. The more money tranferred through
    electronic commerce, the more the credit card companies get.

    Microsoft doesn't like this either. They'd like nothing more than to stop printing
    boxes and pressing CDs - it eats into their margin. But that requires being able to
    sell things online. People won't buy online if it costs less and is easier otherwise.
    So, we have the credit card companies and just about any software company, bank, e-commerce startup, and a bunch of other corporate types against this.

    The WTO is a group of nations, so they want more revenue for their governments.
    They see some of that revenue (tariffs on imported CDs, software, etc) going
    elsewhere and that market is growing. They don't see why it should be
    any different on-line and thus they want a way to get it.

    Since Visa, et al are international organisations and the Internet has no
    borders, they need an international regulation.

    Woo, corporations and governments with differing interests. In this particular
    case, it appears we're better off with the corporate, and in other issues
    (certain anti-trust lawsuits, various cases of companies generally
    ripping people off, etc) the government protects us. Neither really
    represents what's best or what individuals would want, the best
    we can hope for is that they keep each other in line.line if it costs less and is easier otherwise.
  • What will we do when the governments are bankrupt? Give a big cheer, methinks. Indeed, a large part of the appeal of the net for commerce is that it frees commerce from government control. Sooner or later, someone will devise a form of 'e-currency' that catches on. Since the government has already conditioned people to accept the idea that money is just a token, not needing to be backed by anything, it is not hard to imagine that, soon enough, people won't need their tokens to be government-produced.

    It ought to be noted that, if governments decide that software is a taxable service, 'free' software will simply cease to exist. For that matter, what happens when someone decides that the transmission of this very forum is similair enough to a newspaper or magazine that it, too, ought to be stopped at the border, censored, and taxed?

  • Actually this is economicly correct. (IMHO) Tariff's increase the price of foregn goods. This reduces the demand for forign goods and increases the demand for substitute goods i.e. domestic goods. The metefore tossed about in my econ class says if the price of Shell's gas goes up then the demand for cheeper am/pm gas (which is a subststute good) will increase also. Just a thought
  • Microsoft is in the right this time, but this should be neither a surprise nor should it arouse suspicions.

    As a software company, it is in Microsoft's best interest to be able to reach as many customers as possible and to make as much money as possible. By taxing international software, it would either cost the customer more (and potentially result in fewer customers) or eat into the company's profits. Therefore, it is natural for Microsoft - or any other software company - to oppose such a tariff.

    IMHO, it is important to avoid such tariffs. The Internet has been growing very rapidly, and any regulations would slow this growth. Plus, a tax on international transactions would result in a disadvantage to those in need, as software from major companies (abroad) would be more expensive and software from developing countries would have a hard time being sold in developed nations where domestic developers could avoid these taxes when dealing with customers in that country.

    Besides, it would be impossible to keep track of every online transaction. Shareware developers are especially able to circumvent these taxes because they aren't necessarily "companies" per se.

  • Say what you will about the WTO, but I trust a supra-national entity controled by corperations more than any government.

    Corperations are all about greed, they want you to buy their stuff and make loads of money. And that I understand and can account for.

    Altruistic Moral governements have a tendancy to want to "better society" which ususally means stripping people of basic freedoms and attempting to dictate morality.

    All things considered, I trust a greedy man who admits that he wants my wallet than a noble man who claims to want to help me.

    Just my humble opinion.
  • FYI, yes, Microsoft will be charging duties on participating Passport websites. For any Passport enabled website with up to 500,000 users, MSFT will charge $500 annually. For 1 to 2 million users, MSFT will be charging $20,000 annually.
  • Right on man.. if I had a moderator point I'd give it to you. hehe
  • although I think it speaks more strongly for global environmental protection treaties

    If they could exist and be reasonably effective, I'd be right in there every day with mah letter-opener-of-death forcing my country's leaders to sign. In an imperfect, Hobbsian economic-superpower eat economic-minnow world, however, the only thing that can save us is a good healthy attitude of "Y'aint dumpin' that shit here. Now git. This thing's loaded."

    ... but anyway, what does pollution have to do with writing and selling software?

    Nothing whatsoever, zatz. Thanks for asking. I actually stopped writing half-way through my essay because I was suddenly hugely afraid that I was off-topic. Come to think of it, I'm not, so here we go.

    If I started spouting off about mob-run software sweatshops in the former USSR, people might write me off as one of those scruffy-lookin', Z-net readin', International-Buy-Nothing-Day observin' Chomsky-agreein'-with socialist fruitcakes. Chomsky's the fruitcake, and I ain't no socialist. (I mean, Who's Scruffy Lookin'?) It's just that Big Business ain't just plain folks like you and me.

    Software is Big Business. Big business, be it oil, pharmas, or software, is in it for the money, and to hell with your civil rights. To hell with your human rights, for that matter -- Big Oil walks on 'em as a matter of course. Therefore, whenever you start talking about restricting a sovereign government's abilities to control the actions of a hypercorp WITHIN THAT SOVEREIGN NATION, why, I start to get a little nervous. So should you.

    Your government, as shitty as they might be at it, has entered into a social contract with you, as a citizen, to provide you with certain things, like security of property and person. The nature of the contract is outlined in your constitution, or some other such document. In other words, your government is there to take care of your ass and your shit. If they didn't do that, we wouldn't have 'em. That's the basis of modern liberal political theory.

    A hypercorp has entered into a contract with its shareholders. The rich ones. The little guys don't vote, generally speaking, and they don't hold enough stock to make a difference. The people a hypercorp cares about are easy to recognize. Simply put, they're the ones rich enough to own automobiles with climate control systems which enable them to not care if the smog index is too high to bike to work today. Or roll the windows down in your Ford POS, for that matter.

    If they don't care about the poor piece of shit wheezing his last in the next car, what makes you think they care about some poor, intelligent, but sadly manipulated and controlled sod that they'll never see because he lives in Russia or India?

    Again, I use pollution as the allegorical soapbox for my human rights tirade. I see this pollution shit going down. So do you if you'll look around. We don't see intellectual sweatshop laborers getting the shit beat out of them for trying to unionize very often, so it doesn't make a very gut-wrenching example. It is what we should really be concerned about, though. The really bad shit will never go down here, cause this is where the rich folks live.

    So to sum up, forget pollution. I'm talking Sovereignty. It's there for a whole bunch of really good reasons, and it's worked quite well for a few hundred years. A hypercorp is ultimately a self-serving and incredibly resourceful beastie. Having your government promise to not interfere with a hypercorp's fits of selfish whimsy might be a good idea and it might not.

    All I'm saying is that if you think it's a good idea, please go it slow. Real fuckin' slow.

    If you're not so sure and the WTO asks to meet in your city, tell 'em to piss off. I'd be doing it myself if I could get to Seattle by Monday.

  • The short form is: It's All Bullshit.

    Firstly, the WTO is a toothless tiger. Let's be completely painfully blunt here: it has no powers to enforce its rulings. When the WTO was established, President Clinton took great pains to prove this to Congress before they ratified the treaty.

    The US has said - in essence - "the WTO plays our tune, or we quit". China has said "the WTO will play our tune, or we won't join". Japan's up the creek. Asia was always playing "if you want in to our markets, you need to invest here first". This clearly violated both the spirit and the letter of the WTO treaty, but it's been happening for years.

    I don't think we can blame the players here. The MNCs (multinational corporations) are not really doing what they do out of spite, they do it because they simply must. If they don't play hardball, they lose. The market is not a self-correcting mechanism, it is a Darwinian jungle.

    The WTO is not to blame. It's an attempt to regulate something that doesn't actually exist. Free trade is a lie; a sham-faced lie. For example, for the US company Boeing to enter China, they had to do an 'offset' deal. That is, the price of any Boeing planes sold to China had to be offset by Boeing spending money inside China's borders. So right away, a good deal of what is 'free trade' is deal-making that (once again) violates WTO rules.

    Then you have 'transfer pricing'. For tax and profit purposes, MNCs will trade things at very precise prices back and forth between their various international incarnations. This happens so much that at least 20% of the world's 'free trade' is companies buying and selling stuff to themselves.

    The upshot of all this is that according to some estimates, only about 20-30% of the world's trade is 'free trade'. The rest is swallowed up by transfer pricing, market-access deals and other such hocus pocus.

    The system that has emerged is itself at fault. I can't think of any solutions that really don't have enormous drawbacks for someone; or that will be impossible to deploy. For example, to give the WTO real enforcable powers would cut out a lot of the unchecked bullshit that does happen. But to do so would mean signing away certain portions of sovereignty to a non-representative body. Or perhaps a 'world government' is established to deal with international problems that nations would bicker about. Oh dear, it's fifty years later and I want to live under some other system of government - but there's no alternative.

    I have no idea where this will lead us. Something will give.

    PS: did anyone catch MS's insistence that software be a 'good'? They know damn well that software is a service industry made artificially into a goods industry. It's why they are so rich ...

    be well;


  • Make a thermometer based on the day the milk in your fridge expires, and once in a while it'll be right.

    Listen to a software company who cares about money and not what's The Right Thing To Do, and once in a while it'll be right.
  • Hmm - that's an interesting way to change your nationality, cut all military funding and wait 10 years for another country to take over.

    No thanks.

    - Jeff A. Campbell
    - VelociNews ( [])
  • Why the fuck else would he do anything? Because hes a nice guy?

    Haven't you realised bill is all about the money? Just like what everyone else would do in his position....
  • Any company can claim to be the "largest" or "#1" and find some ways to justify it.
  • You forgot to add:
    ...and the US government is colluding with the United Nations to rob Americans of their lives and liberty. We should all hoard guns and live in log cabins in Montana so we can defeat them when they come after us.
  • We are pritty familure with Microsoft doing what ever sutes them. However it's importent to rember they are still a member of the software community and if the whole industry is hurt then Microsoft is hurt.
    So maybe on occasion Microsoft dose things to our benifit. Not to protect the whole but to protect themselfs.
    Try to picture it this way.. a galatic hord comes to earth to distory all life on it... a corprate tyrent could shoot his mega gun wiping the hord from existence and save earth or keep his wepon a secret and die with everyone else.

    In short it's ok to occasionally agree with Microsoft no matter how self serving Microsofts actions maybe becouse on occasion it's all or nothing. It's no fun to watch Microsoft go away if everyone else dies with em.
  • ...exactly how these tariffs are to be imposed?

    Let's say I work in BigCorp's office in UK (I don't really), where BigCorp is US based. My computer's hostname is (as opposed to; it is connected to the BigCorp's headquarters in, say, San Jose, via private comm line; and firewall is in place (so all computers at BigCorp appear to have the same IP address to the outside world). I do Internet browsing (and shopping!) through my work computer (I have my boss's permit to dial up).

    Pray tell me, how can tell myself from a San Jose resident? Is BigCorp supposed to tell them?

    Don't say "it's insignificant and small percentage". If/when WTO tariffs are in place, expect larger ISPs to have offices/servers in most countries/toplevel domains, to help their customets avoiding said tariffs using the same scheme.

    Please moderate this post down for your protection.

  • And isn't it MS that's thinking about a pay-per-use system for software over the net? Sounds like a service to me ... or a leased good (don't know the correct english term), whatever the implications of that would be.

    I also think that something stinks here.
  • Besides weakling companies who want to use government policy to take the tonya harding approach to business competition, who wouldn't be opposed to software tarriffs?
  • Microsoft is a very successful software company. They have a significant lead in the production of commercial software, and believe that any increase in the size of any computer driven market can only be good for Microsoft.

    MS wants to sell its software in non-US countries as cheaply as possible, and having no tariffs helps that.

    To take a real-world example: Australian (and NZ) farmers produce cheap, high quality lambs which are exported to the US and are still cheaper than (subsidised) US farmers can produce lambs. The US farmers argue for a tariff on lambs (which they get), while the Australians are trying to get the WTO to declare the tariff illegal.

    I bet the Americans among us are saying "Great work by the govenment - saving US jobs", but stop and consider - it is also making lamb meat more expensive for you. Shouldn't we let market forces decide it?

    --Donate food by clicking: []

  • No, no, no no no.

    No, no, no, no, no, NO, no, no no.

    You are totally missing the point, I think. I agree that no one should place tarriffs or other taxes or trade barriers on Internet-mediated commerce.

    The problem is actually with the WTO. Their behavior has pretty solidly been to erode the soverignty that you and I enjoy (remember that 'We the People' thing?) in favor of self-serving multinational corporations.

    Imagine that you have a good reason - a really DAMN good reason to impose a tariff on commerce, including that over the net. For instance some other country is directly or indirectly polluting the US, they killed your dog with it, and you want to make them stop. Or they kill their workers if they attempt to unionize. Or attempt to hold democratic elections. Or attempt to not get killed just because some fascist soldier didn't like their face.

    Is this terribly far-fetched? Do you sincerely believe that it's morally okay to 1) accept other people doing that and not even care; or 2) protest on one hand but not back it up with any actions on the other? Do you think that you have the right to call yourself an American if you're willing to have your rights taken away? That you'd prefer it if other people couldn't enjoy the same kinds of freedoms we do?

    Well, if the WTO says no tarriffs, then guess what? Your vote to establish tarriffs, your protests to do something that can realistically make things better, your fscking soverignty just went down the crapper. Thanks to a combination of over-powerful corporations, stupid politicians/bureaucrats and the WTO itself, your soverignty has been overridden.

    In my book, no one, and I mean but no one should get away with ensuring that you and I no longer have a say in how our own damn country should function. That our votes and our god-given freedoms are ultimately worthless. If the framers of our government could hear this they'd probably regard it as the highest treason imaginable.

    So while I am all for not having tarriffs on the net, that is small potatoes compared to some organization telling me that if every single enfranchised American votes to establish a tarriff we STILL can't have it.

    MS is not doing us a favor, man. They are sugar-coating a knife so that we let them stick it in our backs. We need to radically change, or abolish, or leave the WTO altogether. There may have been good intentions in its' founding, but gee, guess what the road to hell is paved with?
  • Snuck in the middle of that article is this gem: EU proposal that would reclassify electronically delivered software as a service. Software has traditionally been classified as goods.

    It sounds like an interesting proposal, given that (non-free) software is licensed rather than sold, in a purely electronic software transaction, it would seem reasonable to treat it as a service.
  • The preachy layer of populism by which you are covering your political agenda is quickly reaching molecular thickness. The weepy stories of environmental damage and abused workers in the name (but the not the mention) of infringing on the freedom trade and flows of information, are almost exactly like those elements who oppose freedom of speech, and will talk about poor abused children and victims of terrorists until their eyes water.

    Bullshit. Tariffs do jack all to protect anybody in the country targeted by the tariff, and for that matter, in the long run, the country imposing them. They are just another form of piss in your pants, isolationistic throwback to a past era of regionalism that have proved to work really bad.

    You know what the biggest trade war of this decade has centered on: bananas. Thousands of man hours and billions of dollars have been wasted on a useless battle because the French want to protect a bunch of people growing bad bananas (and I know because we have to eat them now) in the wrong place.

    I don't particularly believe in purchasing software what so ever, but I can promise that the effect of any tariffs on software would be me having to pay triple the price for Quake3 because id are dumping the market for Swedish and Greek makers of 100 Euro frogger-clones. Hell, by European 35-hour week standards, the American software industry is one big sweatshop, and that does happen to be the reason that you are doing so much better at it than we are. Tarriffs ahoy to protect the jobs of my lazy ass nationals, and fuck our chances of ever coming back in the long run!

    If you truly care about the people of the world you ought to be advocating for greater international cooperation, not jumping on the WTO as something evil in the name of sovereignity of governments (and possibly remember that the party that most argues for sovereignty in this decade is the Chinese government...)

    We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way.
  • So let me just make sure I've got you right. You believe in representative democratic government. You don't believe in the WTO because it's a supra-governmental body which you perceive as being controlled by corporations. I think though that the idea of the WTO was to subordinate the desires of individual governments to a representative democracy of *those governments*, not to corporations.
    If I'm with you so far, then it seems to me we have to determine whether the WTO is indeed controlled by multinational corporations or not. If it is, we should fix it. If it isn't, we should probably just shut up, even if it overrules the once mighty, once proud US.
    Provided it is ruled by said RD, we *do* have the ability to affect it, by choosing our own governmental bit of it. Of course, that means that even the US is no longer in charge, but that's life: all empires fall.
  • A synopsis

    I will state that I support Microsoft's appeal to the WTO for withdrawal of tariffs on software products. I will give a quick affirmative stance then I'm going to address the truthfulness or fallacy of the comments here on the board.

    First, I believe any form of tariff on a good is in essence a crutch for that country, an isolationist's view of the world and a subscriber to the Archimedes idea of wealth. When tariffs are imposed it means that the consumers within that country are hurt because they are "persuaded" to buy products from that country even if those products have poor performance characteristics and/or quality associated with them. I believe that consumers should be the final judge on the merit of product in the marketplace not government. Anything else is a limit of free will. The only time tariffs should be instituted are when another government has subsidized a company to produce product below costs and dump it on another. At that point, I believe it is the government's job to step in. I say this because there is a restraint on free trade when a government props up an industry by subsidies.

    Isolationists such as Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot in my country (USA) like to whine and point fingers at trade agreements such as NAFTA and how they are sucking the jobs out of the United States. You can take these same arguments and find them anywhere else in the world including China. The restriction of trade in essence kills any sort of competitive advantage a country has of getting ahead because they must create all the products that are needed to sustain said country. For instance the United States has the internal resources to make any product in the world including plastic toys. However, it has been found by American business that it is not a fruitful endeavor to produce them in the U.S. because of high overhead costs associated with labor prices. Therefore most all plastic toy making and assembly happen in China instead. Well what does that do for the U.S.? Now more internal resources can be spent on things that are fruitful to make in the U.S. including computers, software, equipment, etc. By recognizing something that you cannot do as well as someone else both countries benefited. For a further example I give you the Research Triangle 25 years ago, a haven of the slogging textile industry, and the border towns along the Mexican side of the line. When NAFTA allowed free trade between the U.S. and Mexico many of these textile mills that used to inhabit the southern U.S. moved to the Mexican border. Why, because it was cheaper and economically more efficient. True, many U.S. cities were stung and never recovered from factory closings, however, RTP noticing the winds of change began to invest more heavily in science and technology industries there making it what it is today one of the foremost regions in the U.S. today. So as an end result we have two regions that in Mexico has become one of the best standard of living in the whole country in a matter or 10 years and RTP which has become a center of technology and industry.

    This all ties into the failed Archimedes Idea of Wealth meaning that to become richer, someone must become poorer. What do you think is the best predictor of a nations wealth? Is it how many goods were bought by someone else or is the amount and how many times money-changed hands? If you said the first your wrong. Its not the Balance of Trade that makes a country strong, it's the Balance of Payments i.e. how many times you use money to buy things. Remember money itself was meant to change hands and has no intrinsic value but when capital is used to build things, make things, do things then that is true wealth.

    Selected answers for rebuttal

    To the Canadian pollution response on the board.

    First all, I don't know how that one got moderated up so high but here is the fallacy in the argument. Personally, I could care less as a consumer what happened environmentally in another country. You were right at the end of the article being for free will but went south by saying "But when there is a good reason, then somebody should make it clear that I am doing the world a disservice by purchasing that product." Let the market decide not some bureaucrat. If there a television special comes on and people don't like what they see, let them choose not to buy the product, don't force them not to buy it.

    To the response on trying to police transactions

    Kudos! What makes anybody here think that many of these small African republics can police their own transactions? Better yet, who here thinks that someone wouldn't come up with a way to sidestep transactions by going through one of these countries? Corruption is a bad thing and while I do believe in helping others I do not believe giving someone a way to harbor crime is an answer.

    To the response MS is leading you into a trap

    Hey when did we give up our right to regulate countries which are incorporated within our own borders? WE DIDN'T! The WTO can't do one thing to stop the court process of Microsoft. The WTO by its nature is set up to deal with international trade conflicts not internal politics of its member nations so quit acting like a chicken with its head cut-off and read some international policy books.

    To the response Re: Evil capitalists and the South American / Cuba connection

    The reason capitalism in South American has faltered in those countries revolves around one word, corruption. You have seen it in Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, etc. Capitalism must have strong court system and mentality that there is fairness in order to thrive. When no fair government regulations exist, self-interest takes over on politicians part and capitalism is hampered. BTW, instead of in South America where there trying to create a middle class and there are poor everywhere, you can goto Cuba where everyone is poor and their no hope for prosperity, least till Castro dies.

    To the response of No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no (ok I got the idea)

    Go line up with Patrick Buchanan and Ross Perot. Don't you think the reason we had a debate for a few months in Congress both sides of the chamber was to make sure we didn't give up what you speak so passionately about. BTW, no rights were taken away as American citizens. There is not even a guarantee a. the WTO will last that long and b. anyone will follow the rules. The WTO's power is with the fortitude of the nations within it to carryout policy. No one is going to try to screw their biggest trading partner, the United States of America, even China won't. We do 3% of our GDP with China they do 50% with us.

    To the response of Thoughts (the one with the polysci class discussion)

    What you and your class fail to comprehend two things. One what you talk about is colonialism with manufactured goods. Actually the case is quite reverse from your own discussion. Most corporations moving into other countries i.e. GE, Coca-Cola, Maytag, use companies in other countries already established so that don't have to deal with local customs and regulations. This is the same way when either opening up a manufacturing plant or distributing a product in another country. The VAST majority of companies will not go into another country alone for one very good reason, ITS RISKY! If your interested, I can point in the direction of some articles on this subject. Two, your arguments about software do not take into account the benefit of using more polished software on existing industry. Say the Ivory Coast imposed a 500% tariff on Microsoft Office. Of course, this might spur some local people to get together and try to produce an alternative but wouldn't the better solution be to keep importing Microsoft Office but to also encourage through investment someone to come up with better or add-on software? It's the difference between competing and combining forces.

    Well I'm tired and that's enough for the day.

  • "I bet the Americans among us are saying "Great work by the govenment - saving US jobs",
    but stop and consider - it is also making lamb meat more expensive for you. Shouldn't we let
    market forces decide it?"

    How many people can have a pet lamb anyway? Seems like quite a niche market. If there were so many lambs imported that they were common, people might try to do something disgusting and gross, like even skinning them and *gasp* eating them. We can't have that, can we?
  • The country where the purchaser resides can tax the credit-card purchase
    That's certainly possible, but given most systems depending on taxing the goods, and taxing diferently depending on type, it would be difficult to do. In particular, you may end up taxing some things four or five ways, depending on national rules (for example, the country that runs the credit card takes a cut, the country you phoned from, the one you registered in, and so forth)

    , and the exporting country can tax the export at the dock. The intermediate countrieds might not be able to do too much, but that doesn't mean all must fail. Fail they would if I had my way, but unfortuniately I don't.
    Dock? so, for online services and downloading software.....?
    I suppose you could impose a goods tax on the D/L server, but that would mean all such companies almost instantly relocating their DL servers to whatever country charges the least.....

  • Well here's the catch. I still believe in a representative democratic government, but I lean more towards the democratic side than the representative side. As far as I see it, the reasons for the US (at least) being a republic are based more in logistical issues and the idea that various elected government officials will do what's right for the people, taking into account their highly developed senses of morals and justice, et al. The first is no longer entirely a valid point, and I have severe doubts about the second in a lot of cases.

    I don't really like the WTO because it's yet another step up, away from actual people. I don't believe that it can actually or accurately help or represent people being as far up in the clouds as it is. Instead the WTO's constituency seems to consist of governments and corporations, neither of which can be safely relied upon to preserve the best interests of the people whom they are supposed to be serving, IMHO.

    As for American Imperialism, I personally don't care for it much. I'm actually a bit more of an isolationist. I think that America should lead by example, and not by bullying other nations and peoples around.

    But this doesn't mean that we have to love tyrannical (for example) countries either. If Americans decide not to conduct business as usual with some country, then that's our call to make. If some country Foo decides that trade is more important than oppressing their people, they'll change. If not, they can do without.

    Nor do I have no problem with America being subjected to the same criteria by others - we're hardly perfect, but I'd like to see if we could be.
  • I disagree. I'm very much against going to war against anyone that doesn't go to war with us first. But how could I possibly look at myself in the mirror if I protested against actions taken by some other country which I had some issue with, but at the same time also conducted business as usual.

    If someone wants to act in a way that Americans will react negatively to, they'd be kind of foolish to base their entire economy on trade with us. I'm not going to stop them from trading normally with anyone else, but at least I can use the voice of my wallet. It sometimes has a curious ability to be heard when my own voice is ignored.
  • Did I understate that I feel that powerful Americans are also responsible for this lousy state of affairs? They think that they WTO has power, and they respond accordingly. Unfortunately for us, those dopes themselves have power here and we get screwed over.

    But I don't like there being a body which has very great and nearly-unassailiable power over me, but which is not accountable to me. The WTO is representative of governments (and largely of corporations), but that's not the same as being representative of the people. It should be, but it's not.

    I don't care if Foosylvania imposes a tarriff on US goods for something. Because hopefully, that's what the people of Foosylvania want. But no one has the right to override Foosylvania's decision. There are consequences and ramifications to any act, and that one's not somehow exempt; you have to be prepared to live with the results of your actions. But I wouldn't want every other country in the world to suddenly tell them that they can go to hell unless that's actually what each and every one of them, on an individual basis, each representing the will of their people, wants. The WTO as it presently stands seems to not be doing this. That's my problem with them.
  • OK, maybe some of you still remember the days when you coded for free or the thrill of it all, back before you were in on the IPOs (Red Hat, at $250 next week?), but here's a little World Economics 101 from someone who's invested hundreds of thousands overseas and thus profited from the WTO.

    1. MSFT's idea about a moratorium on Net Taxes. Bad Idea. Look, read some Shakespeare, crack the spine, it's "Death and Taxes" that you can't avoid. Privacy costs, dude. Taxes will happen - either hidden in manufacturers or sellers costs, or out in the open with a VAT or GST, but it's gonna get you and you might as well deal with it.

    2. Why the Enviros are right. Yes, you heard me, they're right. Any economic system is a system of "theoretical" laws which impose an arbitrary system of rules upon transactions. Without these, we don't get what are called "public services" and then only the rich (me, not you) can afford to pay what it really costs. All production has true costs - environmental pollution (yes, EVERYTHING causes pollution, just to varying degrees, some of which is easier to recycle through the environment or mechanical means), mineral costs, labor, water (this last one is more critical than you realize), and so on. Any "world trade" system must either assign a cost to pay for the pollution, or subsidize it at the cost of the receivers of pollution (hint - not the rich states). A system which allows corrupt politicians that people like me bribe to argue in my interests so that their country gets the "invisible" pollution quite literally stinks.

    You can argue about how trade is really free till you're blue in the face (great, if you're a Celt), but it ain't. And when you make some serious bucks off of trade, I might listen to your rantings about how MSFT is right and the Enviros are wrong, but that won't happen anytime soon.

  • Well, all the planes were booked up solid from Santa Barbara and San Francisco, so I had to come back Saturday with my son. Tons of limos and press people flooding in. Not much banner hanging - the main stuff is in NYC or Paris really. Bunches of marches, none of which will be visible by the WTO attendees. Counter demonstration by right wing nutcases who can't count at the Space Needle monday night. Probably, in a city with about half a million population, you're looking at 50,000 to 100,000 protesters, mostly local churches, labor groups, and environmental groups.

    Massive silence on the part of the media - they're pretending like nothing's happening, so as not to scare away all the tourists. Docks will shut down tuesday, so will a lot of other things (I get to telecommute).

  • Didn't you catch that? We (the US) tried to bluff and get our way (labor issues) and the EU tried to bluff and get their way (enviro issues), and the rest of the countries didn't vote for either, so ...

    No Agenda This Year

    Not that that changes any of the deal-making. Had fun on the plane rides with some of the attendees - quite amusing.
  • How do you know that he didn't post his reply BEFORE the parent post was moderated up?
    It's not good to assume things you can't prove.

    It's not a problem - as far as I know, he hadn't posted his response yet, as there were no replies to the topic at all when I composed it. That said, I had to read the topic, then the link, then compose my message. I got id #32, he got #4, so he was "before" me; however, I suspect the only ones that beat him into the list were "first post"ers, even if two of them didn't use those words.
    I didn't think it was worth worrying about - At worst, He would get a mod point that might have gone to me, but if his post was better, it deserved it, and it's not like I need the karma :+)
  • Your post relies on the assumption that sales tax of some form is needed to keep governments from being "mired in debt."

    Many states and nations do quite well today without sales tax of any form. In fact, meny people are completely opposed to the idea of sales tax because it is "too regressive."

    I suspect that in 100 years, governments will still be able to tax property and income. Even if they are unable to tax you for spending your money, they will be able to tax you for earning your money and for having your money!

  • As far as I see it, the reasons for the US (at least) being a republic are based more in logistical issues and the idea that various elected government officials will do what's right for the people, taking into account their highly developed senses of morals and justice, et al.

    I believe you're missing one of the most, if not the most, important points of republican government. A republic, as opposed to a democracy, is designed to protect the rights of minorities (it doesn't always do so, of course, but that's an implementation issue, not necessarily a design flaw).

    If Americans decide not to conduct business as usual with some country, then that's our call to make.

    And I'd say the most "democratic" way for them to express their views on that is in the marketplace, not by government fiat; wouldn't you agree?

    Interested in XFMail? New XFMail home page [].

  • Since the WTO sees everything through the lens of trade, any law that could affect trade counts as a tariff to them. That includes environmental laws (such as the famous sea turtle ruling [] among many others), labor laws, human rights laws, etc. Would it be free trade if UCITA []-like provisions are rammed down sovreign countries throats (by punitive tariffs), as could very well be a consequence of the Seattle TRIPS (trade-related IP) negotiations?

    The WTO puts unprecedented power to challenge laws into the hands of corporations. Anyone who thinks that they won't try to use that new power for whatever purpose suits them, rather than just legitimate free trade, is deluded.

    (And see the text of the sea turtle ruling, linked above, for the WTO's attitude towards open process... basically, if you're not a government or a corporation with money on the line, don't bother sending them briefs, they won't even read them.)
  • Well, it's been groovy in Seattle so far. Went and deposited my E*Trade check (yeah, cashed out of RHAT at $119, but my new townhouse closes next Tuesday, so am still happy) and tons of protestors. Mostly Qui Lin Gong (you know, that Chinese Spiritual Movement they lock in prison for life, and there's a HQ just East of Seattle) with 2-3 people on every streetcorner. Hundreds of them.

    Then got to Washington Mutual at Westlake Center, past the carousel and police city. Must have been 50 cops in 5 blocks. Protesters can only get within 2 blocks of the Convention Center. I just wanted lunch at the Blowfish Cafe, but would have had to walk 8 more blocks, so gave in and ate at the Westin (where tons of delegates staying, and media). Got a nice view of the Turtle March - hundreds of them, a nice giant Whale, probably 1000 protesters, with ok signs. Police were cool, protesters were cool, very Seattle.

    Protesters shut down the Convention Center though, via telephone. And I got a bonus parade during lunch. Had interesting discussions with hotel staff, some pro-trade, one from El Salvador who was worried that there might be riots and all. Told them so long as the police let us get our Lattees, we'll be fine.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!