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Smuggling Adds to Tunisia's Budget Woes

Gael Raballand's picture

The political situation in Tunisia is still volatile, as protests and riots continue to break out across the country. Source- Arne Hoel, World BankRiots broke out across Tunisia last weekend, as citizens reacted to the government’s latest efforts to trim its budget deficit. Officials are struggling to cut spending and increase revenues, all while responding to the demands of a citizenry increasingly dissatisfied with high unemployment and continued inflation.

The economy grew by close to 3 percent last year, but it has not been enough to create new jobs. Making matters worse, many manufacturers and business owners have been forced to lay off workers in response, they say, to a rise in informal trade and “unfair competition”.

A big issue for the business community, informal trade has been equally as troublesome for the cash-strapped transitional government. According to recent World Bank research, the Tunisian government is losing a significant amount of public revenues-- duties, value-added tax and other taxes-- from informal trade along the Libyan and Algerian borders.
 

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.
 

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.
 

Growth in Greece? A Logistical Possibility

Daria Taglioni's picture

The Partnenon in Athesn, Greece. Source -  Nicholas Doumani.More than 95 percent of goods traded between Europe and Asia are transported via deep sea. All of this happens through two primary routes-- some serious traffic. But it's far from stop-and-go. In fact, most doesn’t stop at all.

Large container ships leave ports in Asia and proceed directly to Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Many choose to get there by passing through the Suez Canal, entering the Mediterranean, and bypassing its bygone empires.

One of these ancient powers, Greece, now finds itself in a marginal position on the logistical map of Europe. Despite being geographically and economically well located, it’s far from being the hub it once was. The World Bank’s International Trade Unit and the Transport Unit of the World Bank’s Vice Presidency for the Europe and Central Asia Region recently teamed up with the government of Greece to find out how the country can capture a share of the world’s growing East-West trade and kick-start an economy that has been struggling to maintain GDP growth after the global economic crisis.
 

Travel Channel Meets Discovery Channel: How Tourism Can Promote Export Performance and Diversification

Gonzalo Varela's picture

Folded pashminas on display in China. Source - Ashley Wang. We all enjoy a nice vacation. Today, tourism has become a major driver of economic growth around the world. But measuring its impact, either directly or indirectly, is an evolving exercise.  

Our new research unveils a strong association between tourism inflows from a particular country and increases in exports of traditional or “exotic” goods to that same country the following year. In other words, tourism not only helps local vendors sell goods to people on vacation, but also works as a springboard for promoting traditional products abroad once that vacation is little more than a memory.
 

Notes From the Field: World Bank Projects Undeterred by Trade Developments in Armenia

Miles McKenna's picture

About "Notes From the Field": With this occasional feature, we let World Bank professionals who are 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.
Gohar Gyulumyan. Source - World Bank.

The interview below was conducted with Gohar Gyulumyan, a Senior Economist in the World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia regional division of the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management (PREM) network. Her work has been strongly centered on economic development in Armenia, where she is now based in the country office. She spoke with us about her most recent work on trade facilitation and the removal of trade barriers, including what the recent government announcement to join the Eurasian Customs Union may mean for the Bank's work in the country in the future.

Non-Tariff Measures Raise Food Prices and Hinder Regional Integration in Central America

Jose Daniel Reyes's picture

A cow browses in Nicaragua. Source - www.flickr.com/photos/ajohndoeproject/3657141084/sizes/m/in/photostream/It is July 2012 and cattle farmers in Nicaragua are worried because Guatemala has enacted a series of laws that restrict beef trade. These so-called “non-tariff measures,” or NTMs, require that beef crossing the Guatemalan border meet stricter safety and labeling standards. The Guatemalan government argues that these measures protect the country’s consumers from health hazards. But the Nicaraguan farmers say they hurt business and unfairly shelter Guatemalan producers from competition. 

This is just one example of the debates that arise in the food industry in Central America and elsewhere. While it is laudable and good policy for a government to use legitimate, non-trade related legislation to protect its citizens from certain risks, governments can also use these measures to protect domestic industry. Regardless of their intention, in an increasingly globalized, competitive world, non-tariff measures increase the cost of doing business, impact prices, affect the competitiveness of the private sector, and impact the overall welfare of the economy.

Beggar Thy Neighbor’s Beggars? Using Trade Policy to Moderate Food-Price Spikes May Hurt the World’s Poor

Will Martin's picture

Wheat. Source - World Bank. www.flickr.com/photos/worldbank/3633424588/sizes/m/in/photostream/Many countries use trade policy to protect their own consumers from spikes in international food prices. It turns out that this well-intentioned practice can actually do more harm than good. During food price spikes -- such as those in mid-2008, early 2011 and mid-2012 – governments restricted the export of food staples or lowered barriers to importing them. They hoped to keep their domestic prices of rice, wheat, maize, and oilseed low, reasoning that this would help their poor and stop people from falling into poverty. But there is new evidence that, while the practice kept each country’s domestic prices down relative to the world prices at the time, it contributed to the higher international prices that were the source of concern. In a World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, “Food Price Spikes, Price Insulation, and Poverty,” we explore this phenomenon and find that it did not reduce global poverty in 2008. On the contrary, we estimate it may have increased poverty slightly (by 8 million people).

WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement: A Development Opportunity

Selina Jackson's picture

Signers of the Joint Communique. Source - WTO/Studio CasagrandeDuring this week’s World Trade Organization (WTO) Global Review of Aid for Trade in Geneva, almost all of the participants made a strong plea for concluding the Trade Facilitation Agreement. Developing countries shared the gains their economies have achieved by improving border procedures and updating antiquated customs rules. Senior representatives from 27 developed countries and international development organizations signed a high-level Joint Statement that reiterated their commitment to providing financial and technical support for trade facilitation-related assistance to developing countries. Speaker after speaker quoted the extensive, recent research that clearly demonstrates the large potential gains to developing countries from sound investments in trade facilitation. As we heard, diminishing the barriers that impose high trade costs and long delays on traders will result in increased bilateral trade, greater export diversification, enhanced foreign investment and improved national competitiveness. 

If everyone is singing from the same song sheet, why has this harmonious chorus not produced a final text that could be agreed upon by all WTO member states?

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