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Welcome to The Trade Post

Mona Haddad's picture

A trading post from the old west. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/reservatory3/Welcome to The Trade Post, the World Bank’s new blog on international trade. Here, our trade experts will share their research, observations and questions. We will post when a new, interesting trade study is published or when a solution to one country’s trade policy issue might be applicable to others. We will discuss data, trends and complex ideas. But, above all, our goal is to make our work accessible and understandable, and we hope to engage a wide audience.

Some of our past blogging – originally published elsewhere in the World Bank– can be found here in our archive. We have remarked on the ways extreme flooding in Thailand exposed the vulnerability of supply chains, pointed out political hurdles to infrastructure planning in Africa, and described Indonesia’s efforts to make its main port more efficient. We believe that, while some of the issues we address are technical, we find them fascinating and we should be able to explain them to any layperson willing to listen.

Uncertainty and the Wait-and-See Effects on Trade

Daria Taglioni's picture

If your job were suddenly in jeopardy, and you couldn’t predict next month’s income, you might put off buying that new car you had been eyeing. Similarly, an appliance company faced with sudden hardship among its customer base might delay building a new refrigerator-manufacturing plant. It turns out that uncertainty affects international trade flows, too. In a working paper published by the World Bank’s International Trade Department, we explore how that uncertainty hurts some types of trade more than others.

Our recent working paper, “Innocent bystanders: How foreign uncertainty shocks harm exporters,” is an attempt to address a shortcoming in scholars’ ability to anticipate the trade-related impacts of crises. In 2008, for example, trade economists failed to predict the drop in international commerce that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers, an event that shook the global financial system. More recently, trade economists have failed to capture the full impact of the European debt crisis on exporters across the globe. While models and simulations have been getting better, the impacts of such shocks on trade are still poorly understood. Our research explores a theory that places exceptional uncertainty at the beginning of a chain-reaction that ultimately slows trade.

The Mysterious Case of Chilean Service Exports

Sebastián Sáez's picture

Chile has long been known as a superstar in liberalization reforms and innovative export-led growth strategies. The country successfully exports tourism and transportation services. But these successes are, in some ways, yesterday’s news. The country’s performance in more modern service exports – internet and communications technology, business process outsourcing and others – has been less remarkable. Chile is no India.

What does this mean for a country that has famously followed sound economic policies? Is the government doing something wrong? Is the country stuck? A look at the way services data is interpreted may provide a different answer. Perhaps Chile’s reputation is simply a victim of statistical inaccuracies.

Where is our Road? Taking the Politics out of Regional Transport Infrastructure Planning

Charles Kunaka's picture

A road between the DR Congo and Zambia. Source: World Bank.Africa’s infrastructure deficit is no secret. Several recent studies by the World Bank and others have confirmed that across the continent, roads are inadequate, railways in poor condition and waterways limited. While the problems are most obvious at the national level, they are more acute along routes connecting countries. Lack of resources contributes to the patchy state of infrastructure connectivity between African countries. But it is not the only hurdle. A key question is: given limited resources, how should infrastructure be planned, prioritized and financed?

Sixteen countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are landlocked. To trade goods in overseas markets, they must cooperate with their coastal neighbors, working together to plan roads, transport goods to port and keep borders open. This is harder than it sounds. While numerous regional organizations exist to coordinate infrastructure planning in Africa, in practice they are made up of representatives with interests rooted in their own countries. Decisions by these bodies are often political and driven by members’ desire to see projects in their home territories.

Exporting is Easy; the Challenge is Making it Sustainable

Catalyst factory in Macedonia. Source: Johnson Matthey Inc.In 2009, an EU-based chemical manufacturer opened a plant inside one of FYR Macedonia’s recently-established special economic zones. The plant began production of catalysts, a type of emissions-control component used in automobiles. Two years later, this investment drove chemical products to the third-highest spot on Macedonia’s export list, lessening the country’s reliance on metals and textiles.

In Nicaragua, low labor costs and high security compared to its neighbors have led zonas francas to expand dramatically, attracting producers of electronic wires and medical devices and expanding the country’s exports beyond an already-strong apparel sector. Between 2006 and 2008, for example, ignition wiring sets for vehicles were the country’s fourth biggest export.

Why Dwell Time Matters

Ship at dock. Source: World Bank.The state-owned operator of Indonesia’s Tanjung Priok Port is taking major steps to decrease congestion at the country’s main gateway. The company, Pelindo II, recently announced it will increase storage fees at the port to discourage shippers from leaving containers there for long periods of time. It has also said it will install a new information technology system to better monitor and direct traffic at the port.

The two initiatives are an effort to boost the performance of a port that handles two-thirds of Indonesia’s international trade. The container traffic at Tanjung Priok has grown at a rate of about 20 percent the last two years and is expected to double by 2015. But containers arriving at the port spend an average of 6 days to obtain clearance and get removed, one of the highest “dwell time” rates in the region and up from 4.9 days in 2010.

Rise of Non-Tariff Protectionism amid Global Uncertainty

A troubling phenomenon is occurring in large, emerging economies: the gates are closing. Governments, skittish about global economic trends, are introducing new policies to limit imports and exports. The aim is to protect domestic industry in tough times, but the tools they are using threaten to make their economic problems worse.

A December World Bank analysis documents a trend of creeping protectionism in countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Indonesia – all countries with burgeoning industry. Instead of tariffs, other, more indirect policies are being used to hinder free commerce between countries. The Bank analysis, based on World Trade Organization (WTO) monitoring reports and data from the Global Trade Alert, a network of think tanks around the globe, found that the number of non-tariff measures (NTMs) –including quotas, import licensing requirements and discriminatory government procurement rules –showed an increasing trend in the first two years post-2008, and rose sharply in 2011. India, China, Indonesia, Argentina, Russia and Brazil together accounted for almost half of all the new NTMs imposed by countries world-wide.

After the Holidays, a Time to Reflect on the State of Food in Africa

Ian Gillson's picture

As we gather in kitchens and dining rooms during this two-month stretch of eating and charity, let us pause for a moment to review the state of food trade in Africa: how fares cross-border commerce in key crops on a continent with pockets of harsh weather and unpredictable politics? How goes the traffic in grains and tubers?

It’s clear that prices are high, following the February 2011 peak worldwide. The price of maize in Nairobi has tripled this year alone, while the price of a 50 kg bag of rice in Dakar has risen from $36 to $43.50. These spikes can be blamed partly on increased demand for food crops – including for biofuel production in Europe and the US. They are also due to supply-side factors, such higher energy prices which impact transportation and fertilizer costs, and weak harvests in large exporting countries.

Shoe molds and scuba divers: How natural disasters affect our supply chains

Thomas Farole's picture

A scuba diver in Mexico. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/akumaldiveshop/5824559898/sizes/m/in/photostream/Like the massive earthquake in Japan earlier this year, the floods in Thailand are again exposing the vulnerabilities of fragmented global supply chains.

Last month, a team of economists from PREM's International Trade Department encountered some flooding side-effects during a visit to the Indonesian production site for ECCO, a Danish company that manufactures footwear. The news from Thailand: the ECCO production site there was under three meters of water, a problem for shoe-making. In order to transfer production to the factory in Indonesia, the workers needed the specific shoe molds used in the Thai factory. These specialized molds would have taken several weeks to manufacture, which would have further delayed production. So ECCO hired scuba divers to enter the Thai factory and recover the molds. They then shipped them via air to other factories around the region, including ECCO Indonesia.

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