Aid for trade
A key topic for the G20 this year is what can be done to boost inclusiveness in the global economy. Ministers and officials, with advice from the World Bank Group and others, have been looking into what policies they can adopt to maximize the development prospects of lower income countries outside the G20 (what the Turkish Presidency has termed “low-income developing countries” -LIDCs). A critical area of action is in trade – an area where G20 countries have asked the Bank Group to survey the current situation and provide recommendations.
In our work, we found that the value of LIDC imports and exports has increased substantially over the last decade, but it still represents only between 3 and 4% of world trade (Figure 1). The share of LIDC exports in the global services market is similarly low and has remained stagnant during the last 3 decades. Although there are some exceptions – Vietnam and the Philippines – LIDCs are poorly integrated into global value chains (GVCs) – they constitute only 3% of world imports in parts and components.
G20 countries are the main trading partners of LIDCs. Around 70% of imports of LIDCs come from the G20 and around 80% of LIDC exports are directed to the G20. Trade costs between LIDCs and any G20 country, however, are systematically higher than the trade costs between G20 countries or other non-LIDCs and any G20 country (Figure 2).
Naturally, many domestic factors that inhibit the productive capacity of LIDCs contribute to the low connectivity of LIDCs to GVCs and world trade more generally. However, trade policies of G20 members can help low-income developing countries integrate in the world economy. In our analysis for the G20 we reviewed key G20 trade policies and how they could be improved to benefit LIDCs.
Strong trade connectivity can help disaster response and recovery by ensuring that humanitarian relief goods and services get to where they are needed when disaster strikes. Trade policy measures, however, can sometimes have adverse effects. Research led by the World Bank highlights that a common complaint of the humanitarian community is that customs procedures can delay disaster response, leaving life-saving goods stuck at borders. Other measures such as standards conformity procedures, certification processes for medicines, and work permits for humanitarian professionals can slow the delivery of needed relief items. Border closures can exacerbate situations already marked by human tragedy and unlock full-scale economic crises.
This nexus between trade policy and humanitarian response was discussed at an event organized jointly by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the World Bank Group and World Trade Organization at the 5th Global Review of Aid for Trade on June 30 in Geneva. Among the steps suggested to address concerns were rigorous disaster planning; better coordination between humanitarian actors, implementation of the WTO's Trade Facilitation Agreement and better recognition of the role of services.
The world’s 45 Least Developed Countries that are not oil producers (non-oil LDCs) are exporting less and less in the global market place. Between 1985 and 2012, the world market share of non-oil LDCs’ exports of goods and services fell from 1.2 percent to 0.8 percent—all while their share in world population rose from 7.5 percent to 9.9 percent.
The 2005 Aid for Trade (AFT) initiative was designed to arrest this decline. Yet, LDCs’ trade costs continue to fall less rapidly than those of their competitors.
Clearly, it’s time to re-evaluate the AFT initiative.
A new e-book does just that, and, contrary to what some may think, concludes that the initiative has been beneficial. But due to a collective failure to clearly articulate its results, the achievements of the AFT initiative are now at risk as development budgets come under increasing pressure.
Not a month goes by without some sort of bad news about foreign aid. Examples of incompetence , abuse of funds by corrupt leaders, and distorted incentives abound. These stories fuel a deep skepticism of foreign aid. In this view, perverse effects dominate – and end up weakening, rather than encouraging, growth and development. If one accepts this view, then it is logical to turn off the poisoned tap of foreign aid. But are such views well founded?
The answer is no.
APEC and New Beginnings in Trade
The first Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM I) of Asia-Pacific Economics Cooperation (APEC) concluded earlier this month in Washington D.C. The APEC 2011 agenda now swings into full action. The member economies in the region are looking for ways to reaffirm APEC’s reputation for innovative economic integration initiatives – and the means by which to stave off new hiccups in the region’s economic recovery. In particular, the new APEC Supply Chain Connectivity Initiative (SCI) holds real promise as a dynamic successor to APEC’s successful Trade Facilitation Action Plans, which resulted in significant trade cost reductions across the region.
In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, many observers thought that the G-20 had a chance to succeed in the development arena where the G-8 foundered. Expectations were high that the G-20’s wider legitimacy and fresh remit would result in breakthrough solutions to knotty problems, from health pandemics to global warming. Yet the reality was that the G-20 Working Group on Development was pragmatic and selected a somewhat narrower range of priorities to focus on and many of the issues were ones that grew out of regional or national priorities. That is how the real world works—by consensus and stakeholder collaboration.
At the book launch for Postcrisis Growth and Development: A Development Agenda for the G-20, Moisés Naím and Arvind Subramanian, both astute observers of trends in globalization, expressed disappointment that the G-20 development agenda didn't devote more energy to big ‘global public goods’ issues. Moreover, they noted a failure to grapple with the biggest risks facing the development community, such as illicit financial flows or climate change.
(Also available in Spanish)
Many observers predict that this week’s G-20 Summit in Seoul will be remembered mainly as a dance of high diplomacy aimed at persuading members to refrain from competitive devaluation of currencies and to reign in excessive current account imbalances.
If most headlines from Seoul are about spats over currencies and whose deficit or surplus is most harmful, then leaders will have missed the Seoul of the Matter.
Indeed, such an outcome would be a setback for developing countries and could potentially erode the legitimacy of the G-20 as an inclusive broker of financial and economic cooperation in the global economy.
|Port of Rades, Tunisia. Photo: © Dana Smillie / World Bank|
As the G20 looks to establish itself as a permanent fixture in the multilateral policy dialogue, it should consider the global aid-for-trade agenda a top priority. The Summit in Seoul next month presents a unique opportunity to take concrete action in new directions on aid for trade.
The G20 originated – in part – as a global financial crisis management forum, and expanded out of the G8, in the wake of the 2008 world economic crisis. The Group has gained momentum and is solidifying its unique position as the most influential decision making group on global economic stability and growth. As it looks to solidify its transition as a global “steering committee” to sustain sound global growth what better policy issue to champion than one that is high profile, critical to both developed and developing countries, and in need of more effective global coordination -- than aid for trade?