Economists are often considered to be an aesthetically challenged bunch. Yet, as any trade economist will tell you, there is a single visual aid that someone has decided symbolizes all things international trade. To trade economists, this image is inescapable – it seemingly graces every textbook cover, accompanies every policy brief, website, blog post, or article, article, article, or article. There is even award-winning scholarship about it.
The image, of course, is of stacked cargo shipping containers.
By now the ink has dried on the hard-fought achievement of the 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) last weekend in Bali, Indonesia. The landmark agreement – the first since the establishment of the WTO in 1995 – consists of three components: trade facilitation, some agricultural topics, and issues of importance to least developed countries.
Beyond the substance, the agreement comes at an important moment. Just at the point when many feared that momentum was shifting toward bilateral agreements and “mega-regional” trade agreements and away from the WTO, members managed to reach agreement at the multilateral level. This is especially important for the small and least developed countries that rely most heavily on the multilateral system to have an equal voice, secure market access, and effectively integrate into the global economy. While trade ministers, the WTO Secretariat, and its Director General deserve credit for the outcome and probably a much-needed rest, attention must now turn toward developing a concerted and well-coordinated effort to ensure successful implementation.
Editor's Note: "Notes From the Field" is an occasional feature where we let World Bank professionals conducting interesting trade-related projects around the globe explain some of the challenges and triumphs of their day-to-day work. The views expressed here are personal and should not be attributed to the World Bank. All interviews have been edited for clarity.
The interview below was conducted with Manjula Luthria, a Senior Economist in the World Bank’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regional division of the Human Development Network. Ms. Luthria's work focuses migration, labor mobility, and social protection. She spoke with us about her early experiences as a country economist for the Pacific Islands region, and how lessons learned there have come to inform the programs and projects her unit works on today.
- Bilateral Labor Agreements
- Labor Mobility
- Labor migration
- Migration and Remittances
- Labor and Social Protection
- Global Economy
- Middle East and North Africa
- East Asia and Pacific
- Solomon Islands
- Papua New Guinea
- New Zealand
- New Caledonia
- Micronesia, Federated States of
- Marshall Islands
- French Polynesia
- Cook Islands
- American Samoa
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.
- Brunei Darussalam
- New Zealand
- United States
- East Asia and Pacific
- Europe and Central Asia
- Latin America & Caribbean
- The World Region
- Global Economy
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Law and Regulation
- TTIP. Trans-Pacific Partnership
- Agricultural Subsidies
- Free Trade
2013 has been a year of adjustment for Indonesia’s economy. In the recent edition of the Indonesia Economic Quarterly report, the flagship publication of the World Bank Indonesia office, we asked the questions: what are the drivers of this adjustment and how should policy respond?
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?
Some observers caution that the reforms proposed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) after the Third Plenary meeting of its Central Committee may fall short of promise because of resistance from vested interests or a lack of political will. My view is that it will bring about fundamental changes in China for one simple reason - politics. First, the CCP leadership fully understands that the party has lost the trust of the people because of rising corruption and cronyism, increasingly offensive income inequality, huge question marks over food safety, and worsening pollution. Second, they realize that the current economic model cannot sustainably deliver the economic progress that citizens expect in return for their allegiance to the CCP. The CCP leaders know that fundamental changes are needed to this economic model to regain the trust of the people. Since survival demands big changes, the leadership will pull out all the stops.
Why should this matter to people who care about development? Illegal fishing can undermine the livelihoods of poor people who depend on the ocean to make a living. The evasion of tax and royalty regimes can deprive developing countries up to hundreds of millions of dollars a year in much-needed revenues. In some regions, the rate of illegal fishing is high enough to endanger the sustainable management of a resource already stressed by overfishing.
This past May, I traveled to Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania to produce “Mind the Gap: Gender Equality and Trade in Africa” with a Nairobi-based film crew. As I headed off on my first official trip, I read and re-read the chapters that this film was designed to complement — all part of a fantastic new book, “Women and Trade in Africa: Realizing the Potential.” I felt very comfortable with the facts and figures — tourism in Kenya accounts for 12.5 percent of GDP; cotton is the third largest export in Uganda; small business owners are a huge part of Tanzania’s export economy, etc. — but did not fully understand the situation we were trying to explore until I met Mary.
Women in Africa participate in trade in many ways. They are informal cross-border traders. They produce traded goods and services. They are rural farmers and they are professionals, providing legal and accountancy services. Many are also entrepreneurs with dominant ownership of exporting companies. Women are—and will be—essential to the continent’s success in the global marketplace.