February 7, 2007 - by Juan
On his latest Financial Times column (Feb 1, requires subscription), Mr. Martin Wolf sways aside from his usual world finance columns to one on education. Condemning a utilitarian approach to education policies, Mr. Wolf stands for the idea that education is a goal in its own right. In his own words:
"The aim of policy must not be the mere maximization of gross domestic product. Understanding is a good in itself. A society that has forgotten this is impoverished, however high its GDP may ultimately become".
I could not agree more. This very philosophical statement is what I think keeps many of us lawyers in our profession. As a lawyer, it is fascinating to see that every new case represents a new study (sometimes of the oddest fields of science or metaphysics), consequently widening your mind and understanding. By this I mean that the practice of law is not only composed of law itself, but to be filled up by the knowledge of an infinite range of domains. And with this conviction I feel that it should be applied within the realm of law as well.
I am always intrigued by those legal practitioners that do not want to know about certain matters, under the poor argument that it's not in their field (I am likewise appalled by those people living in China for years who are just about able to say kneehow). Law firms that support the idea of education as a "worthwhile end in itself" (doing it through internal legal practice groups, information exchange, encouraging participation in seminars, presentations, fora, etc.) are the breeding grounds of the best lawyers.
Voltaire had already said it in such an enlightening way: Il faut cultiver son jardin. (We must cultivate our garden)
February 7, 2007 - by Juan
February 3, 2007 - by Juan
Unprecedented information for Chinese tourists: on a unilateral and non-negotiated decision, the Colombian government has decided to allow (from the 1st of January 2007) Chinese citizens to enter its territory without need to apply for a visa.
This news must have really caught the mainland's government off guard. The measure, first of its kind in the world is of a major political importance, and reflects the South American country's ambitions to strengthen its ties with the Asian giant.
For a tourism rapprochement there is however something to overcome, since China has not yet granted Colombia the Approved Destination Status, making its tourism promotion very restricted.
Whilst the trade balance between the two nations reveals, as with the rest of the world, a Chinese export domination (in this case amounting to a US 1.7 billion deficit for the Colombians) I still wonder if the China National Tourism Administration will react to the news.
The truth is that Colombia has not yet recognized China as a market economy, and will probably have to wait until that moment in order to be on the 132 (so far) country list. Yet it appears that in this commercial relationship, one of Colombia's means to protecting its few relevant sectors (textiles, leather manufactures, to mention a couple) is the possibility of using the WTO's "third country comparison mechanism". This means that whenever dumping suspicions arise, the WTO will use the alleged product's price in a third country in other to determine whether there has been or not an infraction of international trade rules. Recognizing the market economy status will make this important tool (specially for a country like Colombia) vanish.
With this in mind, the tug of war appears far from over...I believe however that after the bleak years of the past, Colombian tourism and hospitality should not be deprived from the possibility to present its unique landscapes, sites and culture to the 34 million Chinese who travel abroad.
Leaving the politics aside, if this post encourages at least one of them, it's a good start.
In the meanwhile: whilst Beijing discusses about Starbuck's shop in the Forbidden city, I still wonder when I'll be able to sip the best coffee in the world on a Juan Valdex shop.