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trade facilitation

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.

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.

Haïti : de l’impact positif des échanges sur le redressement du pays et son essor économique

Calvin Djiofack Zebaze's picture

A busy Haitian market. Source - Glenda PowersL’horizon semble se dégager pour Haïti, qui poursuit son redressement depuis le séisme dévastateur de 2010. Et cela, grâce (en partie) au commerce extérieur.
Les autorités haïtiennes le savent qui s’emploient, avec le Groupe de la Banque mondiale et d'autres donateurs, à identifier les obstacles aux échanges pour les démanteler et doper ainsi les secteurs exportateurs.
Au début du mois, une équipe de la Banque mondiale s’est rendue à Port-au-Prince pour une semaine de travail avec les principaux acteurs, publics et privés, de la logistique commerciale du pays, notamment des représentants du ministère du Commerce et de l'Industrie. L’objectif ? Discuter de solutions pour renforcer le programme de facilitation des échanges du pays, financé par un fonds fiduciaire multidonateurs conçu pour aider les pays en développement à renforcer leur potentiel économique et à lutter contre la pauvreté grâce au commerce.

How Trade Is Helping Haiti Recover and Grow its Economy

Calvin Djiofack Zebaze's picture

 Sun rising behind clouds in Haiti. Source - Yinan ChenThings are looking up in Haiti as the country continues to rebuild from the devastating 2010 earthquake. And part of this progress is a story of trade.

The Haitian government recognizes this, and is working with the World Bank Group and other donors to identify and remove barriers to trade to better promote export growth.

A World Bank team traveled to Port au Prince earlier this month for a week long workshop with the main stakeholders (public and private) intervening on trade logistic in the country, including the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, in order to discuss ways to strengthen the Haitian Trade Facilitation (TF) program. The program is funded through the Trade Facilitation Facility, a multi-donor trust fund dedicated specifically to helping developing countries realize economic development and poverty reduction through trade.

Notes From the Field: Customs Reform in Russia, a Sophisticated Client with a Long Border

Miles McKenna's picture

Editor's Note: "Notes From the Field" is an occasional feature where we let World Bank Group 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 Group. All interviews have been edited for clarity.

The interview below was conducted with Amit Mukherjee, a Lead Public Sector Specialist with the World Bank Group. Amit works in the WBG’s new Governance Global Practice, where much of his work centers on the Russian Federation. Amit was the project team leader for the recent Russian Federation Customs Development Project (CDP), which helped to reform and modernize the country's Federal Customs Service. Approved in 2003, the CDP wrapped up last year—with some impressive results. The Trade Post spoke with Amit about his experience in Russia, what makes reform in the country challenging, and where the two parties’ relationship can bring about positive outcomes in the future.

Resilience vs. Vulnerability in African Drylands

Paul Brenton's picture
Woman carries wood in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Source- Guillaume Colin & Pauline Penot

It’s 38°C (99°F) in Ouagadougou, the capitol city of Burkina Faso, today—and it’s been this hot all week. The end of the warm season is near, but in places like Ouaga (pronounced WAH-ga, as its better known), temperatures stay high year-round. These are the African drylands: hot, arid, and vulnerable.

Over 40 percent of the African continent is classified as drylands, and it is home to over 325 million people. For millennia, the people of these regions have adapted to conditions of permanent water scarcity, erratic precipitation patterns, and the constant threat of drought. But while urban centers like Cairo and Johannesburg have managed to thrive under these harsh conditions, others have remained mired in low productivity and widespread poverty. 

The World Bank has been partnering with a team of regional and international agencies to prepare a major study on policies, programs, and projects to reduce the vulnerability and enhance the resilience of populations living in drylands regions of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Notes From the Field: India, South Asia Buying into Integration

Kaori Niina's picture

Train station in Mumbai, India. Source - World BankEditor'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 is with Ashish Narain, a Senior Economist at the World Bank Group’s Investment Climate Department. He is based in India from where he manages the World Bank Group’s South Asia Regional Trade and Investment Project. He spoke with us about his project, his personal connection with the region, and the evolution of regional trade facilitation in South Asia.

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: Making Trade More Efficient in Tunisia

Julia Oliver'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.

The interview below was conducted with Hamid Alavi, a senior private sector specialist and Regional Private Sector Development Coordinator. He oversees and manages the work program, projects and advisory services related to private sector development and competitiveness. He has published on access to finance, innovation, private sector development, enterprise competitiveness and trade facilitation, food security, telecoms, pollution control, trade finance, and export promotion.

Mr. Alavi spoke with us about the successful implementation of a single-window trade portal project in Tunisia. The project enhanced transparency of trade transactions and cut processing time at the Port of Rades from 18 days to two-and-a-half days during an 8-year period starting in 2000. In 2008, the project was featured in the International Finance Corporation’s “SmartLessons” series. In the interview, Alavi explains why it worked, despite some political resistance.