Monday, 25 May 2015

I agree with Elizabeth Warren !

Readers of my last few posts on TPP would have noticed my complete disagreement with one Elizabeth Warren - junior Senator from the Bay State of Massachusetts. In this blogger's humble opinion she is a card carrying member of the loony left. And yet, here is proof that even from the loony left, an occasional wise word may arise (granted this is as rare as a bright sunny day in the great state of Oregon, but ..... !)

Her utterance was actually from last year - "The message to every Wall Street banker is loud and clear. If you break the law you are not going to jail", said the good lady. Well, let us pass lightly over the fact that there are no banks on Wall Street and that the New York Stock Exchange is not the same as banks. She has a point, which has been doubly proven in the events of lastweek.

It was a familiar story. Six banks agreed to pay $5.6 bn in penalties for manipulating currency markets. Five of the six admitted to the crimes. And yet, there is not a single banker going to jail. In fact , in all the settlements (LIBOR rigging, abetting client tax evasion, etc etc), the penalties are in billions of dollars. And nobody has gone to jail.

The details of the current forex manipulation case are not the purpose of this post. The  banks formed a cartel and used coded communication in online chat rooms to rig the daily fixes of the exchange rate between the Euro and the US dollar. We won't get into the details. Suffice to say that this is a fraud, and that if prosecution were to be brought against the perpetrators, they would go to jail. Yet this never happens. Why ?

Firstly it is hellishly difficult to prosecute banks. They have access to the best lawyers, tons of money, and their actions are of such a highly specialist nature that proving the fraud in a court of law is extremely difficult, time consuming and expensive.  Secondly the authorities drool at the prospect of these huge settlements and greed wins them over the principle of criminal deterrence.  Thirdly, even though banks agree to these huge settlements, it is far from clear that a criminal act was actually involved - banks are so terrified about losing a case and having their banking license revoked (an automatic consequence) that at the first possibility, they agree on a settlement however outrageous the amount is and however strong or weak the case against them is.

Look at who wins and loses. The shareholders of the bank lose (after all these settlements are being paid out of their profits). Their customers lose - by rigging forex rates they essentially screwed their customers. The winners are firstly the bank management and the actual employees who committed the fraud. Nothing happens the bank management. As for the employees caught in the act, they get fired allright, but simply join another bank or fund house across the street. Worse, they get to keep their bonuses.

This is an outrageous state of affairs. This will keep happening again and again. Fines, even of such gargantuan amounts, mean nothing to them. The bank committing the fraud must be taken to court. The employees who actally did the deed must be locked up in jail. The bank must lose its license and suffer the consequence. Only such a deterrence will prevent such monstrosities from happening again and again.

In this stand I am in the camp of the said Elizabeth Warren, the Tea Party (they are outraged at this too) and The Economist ! Strange bedfellows, eh ?

Friday, 22 May 2015

In defence of TPP - Secrecy in Negotiations

One of the biggest criticisms of the TPP in the US has been that the negotiations with other countries have been carried on in secrecy by the US government. US politicians have been falling over to yell themselves hoarse against this. When Wikileaks published confidential negotiation documents in their expose, there was much ballyhoo of how evil the government was.

Stuff and Nonsense. (The Queen would appreciate this remark !!)

I have not read Wikileaks and the very fact that I, an outsider sitting a million miles away with no access to any negotiating document, is able to write this series should be ample evidence that there is no Fort Knox secrecy. The principles with which the US (and every other country) are negotiating are well known and have been well known for years. None of the contentious issues are any different from what the US has been stating and signing in bilateral agreements for the last 20 years. Neither is any of this different from the positions the countries took in the Doha round of  the WTO. The arbitration clause I referred to three posts ago has been touted as a major googly being slipped in secretly through the back door. Bullshit. It has been there in every US bilateral agreement for years. The principles and the US stand have all been open and perfectly well known. You may agree or disagree with them, but you can't say they are secret.

What has certainly been kept secret are the details, the fine print and the negotiating documents. Yes, I know, the devil is in the details. In fact there is an unprecedented levels of security including telling pompous US Senators that they can't take notes - a tactic designed to exploit their infantile memory. You can disagree with this level of secrecy, but it is at least understandable. Negotiations involve give and take and involve messy compromises. When they are made in the glare of publicity, no agreement can be reached at all. Nobody negotiates under the glare of television cameras. Single issue activists and voluble gassy politicians (you know who I am referring to) will pump money lobbying and make so much noise that no agreement is ever possible.  For example the US is currently leaning towards accepting agricultural tariffs being retained in Japan with a quid pro quo that tariffs on Japanese automobiles will also remain in the US. This is an ugly compromise, but there is no way any deal is possible without bowing at the sacred altar of Japanese rice. As it stands the American sugar producers are vigorously lobbying for TPP (since it will protect their domestic subsidies), while the US Chamber of Commerce is furiously lobbying against and are being egged on by Australian sugar exporters. This is just on one minor item - sugar. Imagine the chaos and cacophony if every lobby group were to be shouting at 10000 decibels on Clause 4a, subsection ii of a negotiating document. We might as well not attempt any agreement at all. Anybody who wants negotiations in the full glare of publicity is either a cynical manipulator with a huge self interest or has never done a negotiation in her life (notice the gender).

The second big  controversy is the granting of fast track authority to the President to negotiate trade deals. Fast track gives authority to the President to negotiate a trade deal which Congress cannot subsequently amend or filibuster - they can either approve in toto or reject in toto. Predictably, the biggest noise on this is coming from the good lady. Of all the self serving and pompous stands, this takes the cake.

Firstly the fast track procedure is nothing new. It has been in existence since 1975. Successive Republican and Democrat presidents have been granted this power. This is not some Obama evil invention.

Secondly how, and with who, does any other country negotiate with the US ? You only negotiate with somebody who has the power to negotiate. Who is that person in the US ? What is the use of spending 3 years negotiating with the President when after a deal has been reached, 100 Senators and 435 Representatives can then amend at their will. This is the US Congress which can attach completely unrelated amendments to any bill - they of the crowning glory of killing a human trafficking bill by attaching a clause on abortion. So if the President cannot make a commitment on behalf of the US, then who can ? Does Japan have to negotiate with 535 Congressmen ? Or with a committee of Congressmen ? - imagine negotiating with an American team comprising of Elizabeth Warren, Ted Cruz,  Bernie Sanders and Eric Cantor !!!!!! There is no greater laughable concept than that.

I will conclude this series with an appeal to the Americans I know. You have elected a President. Give him some credit - he is not a traitor selling off Mom and Apple Pie. Sure, disagree with any policy, but be prepared to negotiate and make compromises with the rest of the world . Do not listen to Elizabeth Warren and Ted Cruz - both the loony left and the rabid right will lead you to a hell hole. Not only are they unhinged, they act with zero responsibility. Weigh the pros and cons of any policy in total - there are always positives and negatives. It is easy to throw out any initiative simply because you strongly disagree to a single clause.

The TPP may not be the best deal ever. It is however not a bad deal. It is to America's benefit. You have been the champion of free trade in the world. Your own prosperity arose because of your commitment to enterprise and trade. The world has grown following your footsteps. Do not kill your greatest strength.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

In defence of TPP - Environment and Intellectual property

In this post I'll tackle the  issues raised against the TPP in the areas of environment and intellectual property.

The opposition to the TPP from environmental activists comes from two contradictory positions - one is that any promotion of trade and economic activity leads to degradation of the environment and therefore must be stopped. The second argument is that the TPP does not go far enough to make environmental and climate change issues at the heart of any trade deal.

The first argument is not worth debating, for it is a loony left idea that deserves contempt. Denying the opportunity of economic advancement to the world's poor should be treated as a crime; for that is what it is. It would be far better if these activists were to specify how growth can happen with minimum effects on the environment (for eg what energy sources could be acceptable) and what the trade offs and choices should be. This they do not do and simply oppose everything. Such a position is not worth a shouting match.

The second argument is worth serious consideration. The US over many bilateral trade agreements has been pushing the following principles

* A binding agreement that countries would not lower their environmental standards in order to attract investment
* That their obligations under other multilateral climate control agreements would override any provisions of the Free Trade Agreement
* A long list of prohibited activities - like logging, deforestation, trade in wildlife, etc

In the TPP negotiations, the US is actually on the defensive as internally the Republicans will block any deal that contains significant provisions on climate change. Countries like New Zealand and Australia which are far more advanced on climate change issues are pushing for tighter provisions. These will have to be negotiated through, but given that the US is such an important player, it is unlikely that they would be able to do much progress. The activists are right to push for greater environmental standards. But the TPP is the wrong place to fight this. They should force the US, which single handedly screwed up the Kyoto Protocol, to come with an alternative.

I approach the second issue of intellectual property rights with some trepidation as that would mean arguing with Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) , a saintly organisation, which I am neither competent nor entitled to do. The issue is primarily of patent protection to pharmaceuticals. The US would like patent protection similar to what it has inside its own country. This would mean high prices for drugs for a long time in other countries and inhibition of development of far cheaper generic drugs. As this would disproportionately hurt the poor, MSF has been objecting to patent advancement through Free Trade Agreements. It is a difficult and thorny issue on which there are no easy answers . I am ducking this issue as this is not a big issue with the opposition to the TPP in the US, which is the prime theme of this series of posts. To its credit, the US negotiating team is trying to promote the principle  of "active window" - a period of time which would be longer for developed countries and shorter for developing countries when patent protection would exist and after that the country would be free to promote generics. That might be the best compromise.

This is probably an easy post - neither of these issues are ones on which US politicians should  kill the TPP. Despite the lunacy of a not insubstantial number of US politicians, this is unlikely to happen.

Tomorrow I will conclude this series with examining the secrecy surrounding the negotiations which is common cause made both by my good friend and Elizabeth Warren !!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

In defence of TPP - the loss of jobs

The opposition from labour unions in the US ( and labour activists everywhere in the world) to the TPP is that it will lead to the loss manufacturing jobs (read in the US) and therefore it is anti labour. I have some sympathy for the view of the labour unions in the US, but absolutely no sympathy for the "global labour activists".

In every change of  the status quo, including opening up of trade, there will be winners and losers. When international trade is made more easy, by whatever means, the risk of American manufacturing jobs being lost is real. Labour intensive activity will migrate from higher cost locations to lower cost locations - that's an indisputable fact of economics. Therefore there has to be some sympathy for the US unions' opposition to every trade deal with a foreign country.

The balance sheet of wins and losses for the US looks like this. Jobs will be lost, especially in manufacturing. US consumers win in terms of lower costs of products. If international trade were to be substantially reduced, inflation will soar in the US. Prices of all goods will rise to levels which will put them out of reach of many people making it hard for even the poor in the US to enjoy the quality of life they currently have. Increased economic activity leads to rise in taxes for the US government - don't believe all that spin about evil corporations hiding their money overseas ; this is a point I am happy to debate separately. The increased economic activity does create more jobs, but not enough to compensate for the loss of jobs and in any case it is mismatched in terms of skill levels. So the only constituency that has some case for objecting to the TPP ( and every trade deal) is the US labour unions.

The group that deserves utter contempt are the international "labour activists" who are protesting against the TPP.  As we have seen, jobs will be lost in the US, but they will migrate to lower cost, and poorer countries . These are the societies that desperately need economic betterment through jobs.  Secondly, by lowering the cost of labour, there is a defence against machines taking over these jobs. That is why iPhones are still assembled by hand in China and clothes stitched by hand in Bangladesh. In sum total, there are more jobs created and preserved in the world than it would have been if manufacturing were to be done in high costs countries. You would have thought this is in net good for the world.

It is also an indisputable fact that labour is exploited in poor countries.The US, to its credit, through various trade agreements and via the TPP, is trying to minimise this. In particular, US negotiators want TPP members to implement and enforce the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work of the ILO. This includes the freedom of association, right to collective bargaining, a ban on forced or compulsory labor, the abolition of child labor, and a ban on discrimination in employment. The US also wants countries not to exempt their special economic zones from the labour laws of the rest of their country. These are all sticking points in the negotiations, but this is what the US has been strongly negotiating for.  If there were no TPP, it would be laissez faire for labour exploitation in each country. The TPP at least attempts to get some common protection for labour in every country. And the "international activists" are opposing this.

So yes, international trade will hurt US jobs. It has been doing so for many decades. But if you see it from a global perspective, the world would be a better place with the TPP, than without it. Having said that, I have sympathy for, and would not argue against the opposition of the US trade unions.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

In defence of TPP - the arbitration clause

One of the big issues in a trade relationship involving multiple countries is what happens if a country unilaterally decides to ban a product, or raise import duties astronomically, or take a similar form of unilateral action that dramatically affects the viability of a foreign investor's project. This might go against something that the government itself contractually agreed with the investor. What does the investor do.

The investor can take the government of that country to court, but in many countries of the world  there is no hope of winning, or it would take years in court. After all a government can simply change laws retrospectively (as India often does) and the courts can do little else but enforce them. It is precisely for this reason that the United States for many years has been insisting on independent forums for resolving Investor-State Disputes (ISDs). The US position has been that the legal system of every country outside the US cannot be trusted and therefore there must be an independent mechanism for resolving disputes. In current bilateral trade agreements with 5 of the 12 countries in TPP, the US already has ISD clauses.  In recent years the US has an ISD mechanism in every trade agreement it has signed, bar the US-Australia one. In fact the biggest opponent of the ISD clause has been Australia, rather than the US. In a blatant double facedness, Australia has ISD clauses in trade agreements with developing countries, but refuses with developed countries.

The principle is not new either in the commercial arena or in governmental ones. Every commercial contract has arbitration clauses - parties submit to the jurisdiction of arbitrators rather than courts. This is both cost effective as well as time saving and is universally used in commercial contracts. There are well established global rules governing arbitration - the "capitals" of arbitration being London, New York and Singapore. If each commercial dispute came to the courts, the judicial system in every country in the world will come to a grinding halt - it is partly for this reason that courts themselves encourage arbitration.

It is therefore rich for US politicians, and especially Elizabeth Warren to argue against the ISD clause on grounds of loss of sovereignty. Firstly it is the US itself over successive Republican and Democrat administrations that has championed this principle. Secondly it the US which is usually the gainer in such matters - for example it prevents countries from outrightly nationalising companies and industries, as say for example, Argentina is wont to do. 

Two cases are often used to illustrate how "greedy companies are milking countries" - the Veolia Egypt case and the Philip Morris Uruguay case.

Veolia , a French firm was executing a project to reduce greenhouse gases in Alexandria in Egypt. The firm executed a contract with the government whereby the government would compensate the company for cost increases because of governmental action. Egypt then raised the minimum wages in the country and Veolia then took the Alexandria authorities to arbitration for compensation for rising costs. The matter is in dispute and has not yet been decided. This is a contractual matter and the spin that Warren & Co are mouthing that this is a corporation suppressing minimum wages in a poor country is pure balderdash.

The Philip Morris case is more nuanced. Uruguay passed laws requiring that 80% of the pack contain graphic images and the risks of smoking. It raised taxes, banned advertising, and sponsorships. Philip Morris took this to arbitration on the grounds that this makes it virtually impossible to do business. The matter is yet to be decided. Uruguay is a signatory to an ISD arbitration and hence this came up before the arbitration panel rather than the courts in Uruguay. There  is no evidence that just because it has gone to arbitration  the ruling would be "unfair" or "unjust".

As a consequence of this case, in the TPP negotiations, the US has sought to prevent misuse of the arbitration clause by recognizing each country’s “inherent right” to regulate for health and safety. This will probably get incorporated into the final deal so that unilateral action by governments on grounds of health or safety  cannot be legally challenged.

As far as the US is concerned, the TPP provisions are no different from the existing situation it already has in some 50 odd agreements.  So why all this noise from Warren ? The noise is not because she has a better mechanism for dealing with an investor government dispute. It is in reality because she is against globalisation & trade. That is a different argument and battle.

Monday, 18 May 2015

In defence of TPP

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a trade deal that 12 countries bordering the Pacific Ocean are negotiating. The countries include the USA, Japan, Australia and Canada, but exclude China. The TPP is being vigorously opposed by a collection of groups - Democrats in the US, environmental groups, labour unions  and even Medicines Sans Frontiers. There is much fear mongering and shrill yelling, especially from US politicians, and this blogger believes a reasoned debate on the real issues would be useful. This series is also in response to this post from my good friend.

Firstly, we must clarify what TPP is. It is an attempt at a trade deal between 12 countries. The WTO was (is ?) an attempt to do a trade deal across most of the countries in the world. The TPP is far less ambitious - it attempts to cover only 12 countries, most of whom see eye to eye on many issues. And yet, this is proving to be very difficult to achieve, with much of the noise in opposition emanating from the US.

Why do we need any trade deals at all ? It is necessary simply to make imports and exports between countries possible. It can be as simple as a Double Taxation Agreement - two countries agree that the same income will not be taxed by both countries. It can be an agreement between both countries not to raise huge tariff barriers that make trade impossible. It can be to respect intellectual property rights in both countries, etc etc. It can be an agreement on a single issue (piecemeal and suboptimal) or a more comprehensive multi issue pact (preferred and in which case it becomes a full blown trade deal) .

In the past countries did bilateral trade deals with one another. This led to a complex plethora of agreements which came in the way of trade, as the world started to become more and more globalised. Therefore countries tried to form groups and do a single trade deal amongst themselves in order to create level playing fields and facilitate trade and commerce between all of them. The European Economic Community is perhaps the earliest and deepest bloc. NAFTA tried to create a far less ambitious trade deal in the Americas. Trade zealots tried to achieve a global deal amongst all countries - first called GATT and then WTO, but this is proving impossible to achieve and perhaps a pipe dream. The TPP is a far more modest attempt by 12 countries, but even this is proving so tough to do.

I hope you would agree that some sort of trade deals are necessary for the globalised world of today. If you are in the camp that says all globalisation is wrong and no trade deals should ever be done at all, then I will not debate the matter with you as our positions are on different ends of the universe. If you accept that trade deals are good in principle, then let us turn our attention to the TPP and the issues which are most objected to by the opponents of the deal.

 * The setting up of arbitration panels to decide disputes, including where a government is a party to the dispute, instead of taking the matter to national courts (This has what got my friend's goat in his post referred to earlier and is also the point on which a certain Elizabeth Warren is making the maximum noise)

 * The fear of loss of jobs in the US , which is the chief complaint of the trade unions

* The fear of increased economic activity creating more pollution and climate change, which is the chief objection of the environmentalists

* The enforcement of intellectual property rights, which is the chief objection of Medicines Sans Frontiers

There is also the added objection in the US that the negotiations are being done in secret by the US government- another issue that has aroused my friend's ire.

I will cover each of these issues in detail in subsequent posts.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

How does an American pronounce Pallagoundenpalayam ?

The most unlikely of bedfellows can come together in the business world. Consider this rather unusual "marriage".

The bride is the city of Detroit. We shouldn't be uncharitable to a bride, but the immediate words that come to mind when you mention Detroit are decay, dilapidated, joblessness,  decline, etc etc. Can any good news come out of Detroit these days ?

The groom is Sakthi Group. Sakthi who ? - even my Indian readers are entitled to ask. It's an unknown, small conglomerate from the South of India. They were essentially a sugar company, but have dipped their fingers into a bewildering array of businesses. They are still small by global standards - some $2 bn in size. One of their businesses is Automotive Components - a business in which Indian companies have excelled and are starting to lead the world. 

Sakthi announced a $ 31 m investment in a manufacturing facility in Detroit to make aluminium castings. GM and Ford are big customers for them and their logic for this investment is being close to customers.  Of course they have milked the incentives and subsidies - some $4 m.  But Sakthi has played the PR angle perfectly. The castings will substitute imports from China. The facility will create 650 jobs over 2 years. They have committed to hire at least 2 ex felons a month ( both a brilliant and a movingly human move). And the site they are developing is a historic school, now closed and left in ruins. Can there be a better feel good story ?

The sight of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, waving a casting, as he welcomed Sakthi makes interesting viewing. And the Sakthi's chairman calling the marriage a Catholic marriage (meaning,  for the long term), is equally interesting Whether Sakthi will succeed in the most challenging location of all in the US remains to be seen. But you have to give it full marks for daring and boldness. It may fall flat on its face. But it will still have been an interesting experiment.

Meanwhile the American employees have to learn to pronounce Mukasi Pallagoundenpalayam ! That's where Sakthi's auto component headquarters is located in India. Even my good friend Sriram is going to struggle with that !

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Call the SNP's bluff

Just in case you were not following the British elections, a small earthquake happened. The Tories won, the Lib Dems were wiped out, Labour performed poorly, and UKIP performed well but got no rewards. The bigger earthquake happened north of the border where the Scottish Nationalist party (SNP) won all seats bar three in a landslide, essentially running on a plank of Scottish independence.

This blog is a politics free zone and this blogger does not comment on political matters although he has (obviously !) strong views on every matter under the sun including Scottish independence :) But he can and will argue a point of view on the economics of the issue of Scotland's secession.

Scotland runs a much higher level of expenditure as compared to the income it generates. If it were a separate nation, it will be running a deficit of 8% of GDP, as against the UK's 4%. The SNP is even more to the left than Labour and wants to spend more. In the cuckooland of irresponsibility that all opposition parties operate in, this is all very possible. 

Scotland's economy is tiny and is heavily influenced, even now, by oil. With the current low prices of crude, Scotland's already iffy finances would be in dire straits if it was an independent country. But thankfully it is not and is currently being bailed out by the English tax payer.

When the referendum was held last year (and Scotland voted to narrowly stay in the UK), it was promised to the Scots that the powers to tax and spend would be devolved to the Scottish parliament. What the SNP wants is the power to tax and spend, but continue to get the bailout by the English tax payer. For a period of transition this is acceptable, but this is not a sustainable proposition. What the Tory government would probably do is to immediately devolve the powers to tax and spend, but set a graded target of deficit reduction to the UK average over , say a five year period. That is enough to turn the squeeze on any government in Scotland. Independence would start to look an increasingly unattractive proposition.

The issue of independence will never be settled on economic grounds. Everywhere in the world it is settled on emotional and political grounds, even when it is blindingly obvious that it would be a case of economic suicide. It is for the electorate to decide, although every Anglophile, including this blogger, has a view. But one thing is certain. If the UK called the bluff and handed over the management of finances to a Scottish parliament, in an election five years later, whether Scotland is an independent nation by then or not, there is no chance that the SNP will win 56 seats. Its time to make the SNP accountable.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

A tough ethical issue

Businesses are often considered as machines without a heart. But even businesses face some gut wrenching ethical issues , where the "right" course of action is by no means obvious.  Take the case of the compassionate care issue face by pharmaceutical companies.

Drugs produced by pharmaceutical companies are marketed after years, and sometimes, decades of clinical trials. They have to be approved by a regulating body - in the case of the US, the FDA - before they can be made available for use by doctors and patients. This is a justifiably stringent process.

It is therefore obvious that at any point in time, there are a number of experimental drugs which are at various stages of testing or approval. They may or may not finally make it to the market place. But the fact of their existence, their performance in the trials, the stage of FDA approval (relevant since most drugs are discovered in the US) are all fairly common knowledge and often in the public domain.

The ethical issue comes when there is say a terminally ill patient who does not have much time left and where conventional approved forms of treatment have failed. The patient, or his family, makes the appeal to a pharmaceutical company for an experimental drug that is not yet fully tested and has not been approved by the FDA. Is it ethical for the company to release an experimental drug for such a patient ? They may not even be making the drug outside of the lab as yet. Should they actually produce it in a pilot facility to make it available ?

I learnt from this news article that hundreds of such requests actually come to the FDA every year . The regulator examines each such request and apparently they are mostly approved. But for any serious evaluation of a request, they need time and that is probably what the patient does not have. Even if there was a little time, the patient and the family would be understandably anxious to try the treatment tomorrow if possible. So, even with an FDA approval of the case, how does a company respond to such a request.

On one hand, it is absolutely cruel to withhold a possibility of a chance, however slim, from somebody who will otherwise die. The case for release of experimental drugs is very strong. It doesn't need any further elaboration.

But consider the risks. Doctors will be the first to tell you that there are many grey cases where it is not easy to determine if the patient is terminally ill. What if there are are horrendous side effects which are not yet known - at what stage of experimentation of a drug is it OK for it to be released to a live patient. What about the risks of lawsuits - after all we are talking about the US a notoriously litigious society. What about the risks that companies may simply use terminal patients as clinical trials if compassionate care becomes widespread. What about non terminal cases (say Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, which are non fatal but horrible diseases) where an experimental treatment might drastically alter the quality of life.

Thorny ethical issues. I would hate to be in a position making the decision. Johnson & Johnson, a famously ethical company has moved to set up an independent panel to be organised by the New York University to decide on each case. That is probably the best course of action, but each decision would be extremely difficult to make.

What do you think - in which direction would you lean ?

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