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December 2013

WTO Helping Santa Clear Customs?

Miles McKenna's picture

Happy holidays! Source - Sky Noir.
'Tis the season for the Trade Post to be taking a little holiday hiatus. But before we leave you all to enjoy the holidays, we figured we'd offer you with a few trade-related cookies and carrots to nibble on.

The holiday season is a pivotal time of year for toymakers and retailers. Underneath the mistletoe, companies are trying to woo consumers with the right prices—a task often made tricky by tariffs on imported goods.

Traded goods have their very own naughty-or-nice list, one that the new World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement is trying to make easier to read. Each year, customs officials around the world decide how to classify the millions of toys crossing international borders. They do so according to the World Customs Organization’s (WCO) Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, better known as “HS,” which provides a six-digit numeric code on about 5,000 different commodity groups. These codes help reduce trade costs by creating a uniform classification on goods, and a legally recognized system for customs officials to draw upon. According to the WCO, more than 200 countries use the HS, covering roughly 98 percent of internationally traded goods.

A product's classification can make a big difference on whether or not it becomes this year's top stocking-stuffer. But is there more to this classic tale?

The Power of Imagery: The White House Celebrates International Trade This Holiday Season

Chad P Bown's picture


The White House’s 2013 National Christmas Tree Railroad Exhibit. Photo by Chad P. Bown.

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.

The Agreement in Bali Is Just the Beginning: Now the Work Toward Implementation Starts

Selina Jackson's picture

Day 4 of the WTO's Ministerial Conference, Bali, 3 December 2013. Source - WTO.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.

Notes From the Field: Taking On Politics, Shifting Paradigms

Miles McKenna's picture

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.