E-trade is a huge opportunity for countries and exporters. But maximizing benefits requires establishing smart and efficient policies. Different types of e-trade involve different issues that have policy implications both at the national and international levels.
Three World Bank Group Economists published a new blog post, This trade slowdown has a silver lining, that looks at the reasons for the 2015 global trade slowdown – cyclical factors and emerging economies – and what good we can expect to come out of it in 2016 and beyond. Using current World Bank Group data and facts, the piece from experts who work on trade every day offers a fresh perspective in a light-hearted manner on global trade and its future.
As a small, land-locked, and commodity-dependent country in a fast-expanding region, Lao PDR’s growth prospects are directly linked to its ability to integrate with the global economy. This is why the government has been prioritizing economic integration with both the Southeast Asia region and the multilateral rules-based trading system. In 2010, Lao PDR became signatory to the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), acceded to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2013, and ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement in 2015.
In a recent study, we provide a comparative overview of the landscape of Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) affecting imports in Lao PDR, and identify lingering regulatory hurdles that hamper its ability to reap the gains of deeper integration with the global economy. Our findings reveal that while the existing NTM framework is broadly in line with regional practices (figure 1), Ultimately, the system of quantitative controls applied by Lao PDR is equivalent to an ad-valorem tariff of 5.4%, which is well above regional and world averages.
There are three main problems associated with the procedures for obtaining import licenses in Lao PDR:
The simplest way to think about international trade is the transfer of goods – cars, clothing, bananas. Countries that export more goods are generally better off, because they’re earning money, which allows them to import and build their economies in the process. But services are also vital to exports. In fact, services play a dual role in building an economy’s export competitiveness.
For one, services matter for manufacturing and agriculture exports. Take tee-shirts for example. Sure, they’re made of cotton, but they’re also the result of many service industries. This can include transporting cloth to the factory, tee-shirt design, testing to ensure quality standards are met, and branding and marketing for sale on international markets. All are part of the tee-shirt exporting process. 
The second role services play in export competitiveness involves diversification. With cost reductions and technological progress, services have become more tradeable. Exporting services provides an opportunity for export diversification and growth, which is important for economic stability. If global demand for one sector drops, a country with diversified exports can rely on others such as banking, transport, or business services.
Many governments are interested in how services support their country’s exports and economy at large. For example, how much value added do services exports, such as transport or communications, generate in a country? And how much of that is generated directly versus indirectly as inputs like transportation in our tee-shirt example? What types of services inputs, and is that different from comparator countries?
Answers to such questions are typically left unanswered because systematic data is not readily available on how services contribute to exports across developing countries and sectors.
The Export of Value Added (EVA) Database was developed to fulfill this need. The database was recently launched on the World Bank Group’s World Integrated Trade Solutions (WITS) data website. It includes data for user-specific queries and also has data for bulk download.
The EVA Database measures the domestic value added contained in exports for about 120 economies across 27 sectors, including nine commercial services sectors, three primary sectors, and 14 manufacturing sectors. The data spans intermittent years between 1997 and 2011.
What sets the EVA Database apart is the wide coverage of developing countries: over 70 of the economies included are low- and middle-income.
Natural resources management, particularly in the extractives industry, can make a meaningful contribution to a country’s economic growth when it leads to linkages to the broader economy. To maximize the economic benefits of extractives, the sector needs to broaden its use of non-mining goods and services and policymakers need to ensure that the sectors infrastructure needs are closely aligned with those of the country’s development plans.
In Africa, especially, mining and other companies that handle natural resources traditionally provide their own power, railways, roads, and services to run their operations. This “enclave” approach to infrastructure development is not always aligned with national infrastructure development plans.
These are questions we’ve been seeking to answer at the World Bank Group. And we’ve developed a new visualization tool, accessible through our World Integrated Trade Solution database, which allows the public to explore the quantifiable reality of GVCs.
To give you an example of how it works, let’s look at the automotive sector—a very prominent and commonly discussed GVC.
Sturgeon and Memedovic developed a methodology to break down the automotive production chain into final goods—those purchased by the consumer—and intermediate goods—those purchased by other manufacturers as inputs to be used in their own production. They identify three main GVC ‘nodes’: Automotive components (made by suppliers); engines, transmissions, and body assemblies (made by automakers); and finished motor vehicles. Table 1 shows the main exporting country within each of these nodes and its relative market share within that node.
Table 2 goes one step further. By digging into the trade data, we can identify the most important products for each GVC node, in terms of their relative weight on world trade. This also helps us, in part, to identify which products or activities along the production chain are most significant or add the most value.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the most exchanged automotive input ‘made by suppliers’ in 2014 falls under the classification HS870899—‘parts and accessories.’ Now, to better understand exactly how these parts and accessories move along the GVC, we can use our Global Trade Network tool on WITS to map all of the bilateral trade flows for HS870899. 
The successful conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations has generated a lot of interest. While much of the discussion has focused on what the mega-regional trade agreement – the largest in a generation – means for environmental or labor standards, equally important are the regulatory standards on agricultural and food products known as Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, which are addressed in Chapter 7 of the agreement.
But how much do SPS standards really matter for trade?
Countries impose food safety standards for good reason, namely to protect the health of domestic consumers. However, domestic food safety standards often deviate from international ones. From an exporter’s point of view, such standards are likely to be seen as barriers to entry. Producers must modify production processes in order to meet each individual market’s product regulations, which raises the cost of the product for consumers. Economists and policy-makers are hungry for micro-level evidence on the effects of such standards on trade.
New World Bank Group research (Fernandes, Ferro, Wilson 2015) offers a first look at how a specific set of mandatory product standards—in this case, the maximum pesticide residue permitted on unprocessed food—impacts exporters. Novel firm-level data for exporters from 42 developing countries from 2006-2012 were analyzed along with data on pesticide standards for 243 agricultural and food products in 63 importing countries. We found that pesticide standards differ greatly across countries.
The World Bank Group has often argued that delivering outcomes in WTO negotiations around the core issues of the Doha Round is critically important for developing countries. Let’s take one example: with three-quarters of the world’s extreme poor living in rural areas, fulfilling the Doha Round mandate on agriculture could make a real contribution to the Bank Group’s goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.
But recent news reports on global trade talks suggest that WTO Members are finding it hard to develop a shared vision on key issues and are unlikely to deliver significant progress at the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi from December 15-18. Efforts are being made to produce outcomes on important issues like export competition in agriculture but large gaps remain only one week before the Ministerial Conference.
This continued impasse on the Doha Round is indeed a significant missed opportunity, but should this be cause for despair about the future of global trade governance? We don’t think so. There have been developments in the global trade agenda that are worthy of our attention, which should provide some hope in the lead-up to the Nairobi conference that with political will, it is possible to move forward. Here are five of these developments: