It is still too early to estimate with much precision the quantitative impacts of the devastating events in Japan on the global energy sector, as well as the effects on energy and economic activity in Japan. Nevertheless, some qualitative conclusions can be drawn about the near and medium effects on Japanese and global energy balances. Much more difficult and speculative are judgments about the effect of the nuclear accident that resulted from the natural disaster on the longer-term energy picture.
East Asia and Pacific
China has been the fastest growing country in the world over the past two decades and as it gains economic clout, it is worthwhile to envision where the country is going and how it has gotten to where it is today.
In 1990, while China was home to 20 percent of the world’s population, it commanded a mere 1.6 percent of global GDP. Now it is the world’s second largest economy and produces 8.6 percent of global GDP (in 2009). Even after that extraordinary leap forward, the country still has the advantage of backwardness and it has the potential to have another 20 years of rapid transformation.
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.
Debates over the relationship between trade openness and growth have been going on for around 160 years. A key aspect of that debate is how important growth is for poor countries as they strive to catch up with the best-of-the best in a competitive world. For openness to succeed, you must first put in place ports, roads and other building blocks for prosperity, and you need well functioning bureaucracy to help build the foundation for a strong trade sector. Passionate free-trader Arvind Panagariya, Columbia University Economics Professor and Jagdish Bhagwati Professor of Indian Political Economy, spoke eloquently about this at his February 16 Development Economics (DEC) Lecture at the World Bank. His research has entailed cross-country case studies of what he terms ‘debacles’ and ‘successes’ in Asia, Africa and beyond. On the one hand, Panagariya admitted that free trade is no panacea to overcome stagnation and he acknowledged that trade liberalization has failed to catalyze and sustain growth in many instances. On the other, he argued that there are many more examples of countries failing to stimulate growth through protectionism. Panagariya expressed skepticism about industrial policy, but cautioned that its presence cannot prove either the beneficial or harmful impact of openness on growth. You can watch the interview with Professor Panagariya here.
There is a shared sense that globalization has a strong potential to contribute to growth and poverty alleviation. There are several examples of countries in which integration into the world economy was followed by strong growth and a reduction of poverty, but evidence also indicates that trade opening does not automatically engender growth. The question therefore arises, why the effects of globalization have been so different among countries of the world.
A look at changes in the structure of employment in Latin America and in Asia hints at possible explanations for observed differences in the growth effects of trade. Since the 1980s, Asia and Latin America have both rapidly integrated into the world economy. Asia has enjoyed rapid employment and productivity growth, but the consequences for Latin America have been less stellar.
The chart below shows how the pattern of structural change has differed in the two continents. The chart decomposes labor productivity growth in the two regions into three components: (i) a “within” component that is the weighted average of labor productivity growth in each sector of the economy; (ii) a “between” component that captures economy-wide gains (or losses) from the reallocation of labor between sectors with differing levels of labor productivity; and (iii) a “cross” component that measures the gains (or losses) from the reallocation of labor to sectors with above-average (below-average) productivity growth. The underlying data for the charts come from the Groningen Growth and Development Centre.