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Growth and development: Why openness to trade is necessary but not sufficient

Selina Jackson's picture
Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

We are experiencing a battle of ideas regarding the state of the global economy and prospects for growth. Larry Summers has been leading the group of economists proclaiming that the world entered an era of secular stagnation since the global financial crisis. On the other end, Standard Chartered Bank and other players have been arguing that we are experiencing an economic super cycle—defined as average growth of around 3.5 percent from 2000-2030—due to strong growth in emerging markets and fueled by a global demographic dividend.

There is not even agreement on the factors that drive global growth and development. While parts of the Americas and Asia just concluded the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and recent World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements on trade facilitation and information technology products show progress is possible, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations between the U.S. and the EU remain highly controversial and the upcoming WTO Ministerial in Nairobi will likely underwhelm. 

However, if you look at the facts, the situation is very clear:

How can G20 trade policies benefit developing countries?

Michele Ruta's picture
Cambodia garment factory (Chhor Sokunthea / World Bank)

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.

Exploring the nexus between trade policy and disaster response

Selina Jackson's picture
 Nugroho Nurdikiawan Sunjoyo/World Bank

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.  

Making Trade More Inclusive

Anabel Gonzalez's picture

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Photo Credit: Arne Hoel, World Bank Group

This week, I will be joining a panel of women in trade at the World Trade Organization’s Public Forum in Geneva, Switzerland. Along with Lilianne Ploumen, Trade Minister from the Netherlands; Yuejiao Zhang of China’s International Trade and Economic Arbitration Commission; former United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab; and Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs; we will be discussing how to make trade work more inclusively. For me, the focus will be how to make trade work more inclusively for the poor living in developing countries.

Waiting on a waiver - what the WTO's new services initiative could mean for LDCs

Marcus Bartley Johns's picture

Workers sort, repack, and ship goods in Al Obaied Crop Market, North Kordofan, Sudan. Source - Salahaldeen Nadir/World BankThe World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) has been getting a great deal of attention since it was finalized at the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference– and rightly so. As we’ve written before on this blog, trade facilitation is a powerful driver of increased competitiveness and trade performance in developing countries.
But last month, the spotlight at the WTO was on another important decision from Bali—how to maximize the impact of a waiver to support exports of services from Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

At a meeting on February 5, around 30 WTO Members, covering most major export markets for LDCs, set out in concrete terms what preferences they could provide. The preferences cover a wide range of services and modes of supply, as well as regulatory issues that LDCs have identified in a “collective request” to other WTO Members. 

At the Heart of the Matter: Improved Market Access to Food Supplies

Bill Gain's picture
Hi-Las workers weighing and sizing mangoes. Source -

At the Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference held in Bali on December 2013, all WTO members reached an agreement on trade facilitation and a compromise on food security issues, a contentious topic which had previously stalled talks during the 2008 Doha Development Round. The “Bali Package,” as it came to be known, was quickly heralded as an important milestone, reaffirming the legitimacy of multilateral trade negotiations while simultaneously recognizing the significant development benefits of reducing the time and costs to trade.

Seven months after the Bali Ministerial Conference, however, the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) has yet to be ratified as India is concerned that insufficient attention has been given to the issue of food subsidies and the stockpiling of grains. India maintains that agreements on the food security issue must be in concert with the TFA.
Despite the current impasse in implementing the Bali decisions, the food security concern at the heart of the matter sheds light on the importance of improving the agribusiness supply chains of developing countries to ensure maximum efficiencies. Consider the fact that in 2014, farmers will produce approximately 2.5 billion tons of food. Yet, 1.3 billion tons are lost or wasted each year between farm and fork, while 805 million people suffer from chronic hunger.

The WTO Environmental Goods Agreement: Why Even A Small Step Forward Is a Good Step

Miles McKenna's picture

Will the WTO be the first global organization to take action on climate change? Source - VerticalarrayInternational trade has a critical role to play in environmental protection and the effort to mitigate climate change. While it certainly isn’t always framed this way, it is important to realize that increased trade and economic growth are not necessarily incompatible with a cleaner environment and a healthier climate.

If we are going to move away from dirty fossil fuels and inefficient energy processes at a rate necessary to limit the likely devastating results of a warmer planet, then we need enabling policies in place—especially when it comes to trade policy.

That’s why, this week, a group of 14 World Trade Organization (WTO) Members are meeting to begin the second round of negotiations on the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA)—an effort aimed at liberalizing trade in products that help make our world cleaner and greener.

The Trade Stakes of WTO Disputes

Chad P Bown's picture

The WTO will soon initiate its 500th formal dispute, and discussions of such international litigation are now a media mainstay. Last Thursday, for example, the WTO’s Appellate Body released its latest ruling, upholding most of a set of legal challenges to China’s use of export restrictions on “rare earth” materials, a set of intermediate inputs important for green technologies such as wind turbines, batteries for gas-electric hybrid cars, etc. Other recent examples of formal WTO litigation in the news include the EU’s challenge to Russia’s import restrictions on vans, the US’s challenge to Chinese barriers to autos, and Canada’s and Norway’s challenges to an EU ban on trade in seal products.

Trade Regionalism in the Asia-Pacific: New Game, Old Rules?

Swarnim Wagle's picture

What's the next move in the major economies' Great Game? Source - wonderkris.Editor's Note: This blog draws on the forthcoming article “New Trade Regionalism in Asia: Looking Past the Sino-American Great Game," written by Swarnim Wagle, to be published in the Global Emerging Voices 2013 Working Papers. 
Negotiations over one of history’s most ambitious trade deals have taken another step towards defining the future of Trans-Pacific trade.
The latest round of discussions on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) wrapped up this past weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah. Negotiators are believed to have made headway on a number of thorny issues, clearing the way for ministerial talks to be held in Singapore, Dec. 7-10.   
The TPP will draw together 12 countries dotting the perimeter of the Pacific—Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. But it’s the United States’ efforts to spearhead the talks that have attracted the most attention. Concerns over a lack of transparency and the intrusive scope of the agreements’ provisions into national policymaking have led many to question its objective.

What Policies Will Allow Russia Achieve Environmentally Sustainable Growth?

Adriana Jordanova Damianova's picture

The Russian Federation’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) is an event of exceptional importance.  On many levels, there are concerns that the environment in Russia will  be negatively affected by trade liberalization.   A growing body of research looking at economic and physical linkages between trade, environment and development shows that  these linkages are often complex and interdependent. 
Scientists have implicated that from an economic perspective, trade liberalization and environment are related because most economic output is  based on input from the environment, including the energy for processing them, and waste released to environment.  However, the effect of trade liberalization  on the environment would vary depending on  sector, country policies, markets, technologies and management systems. Changes in environmental quality as a result of potential expansion of “dirty industries” (e.g., ferrous and non- ferrous metals, chemicals) could be mitigated by effective and transparent enforcement mechanisms.  Russia’s economic gains from trade liberalization are estimated at  about $49 billion annually.  For these gains to be environmentally sustainable, it will be crucial to implement complementary “do-no-harm” policies tailored to address environmental concerns. This  will be pivotal in  sustaining the sources of gains from WTO accession in the long run.
So how does trade liberalization affect environmental quality?