Some analysts are predicting that the commodity price boom of the new millennium is something that has played itself out. Except for shale gas and its downward pressure on U.S. natural gas prices, however, natural resource-based commodity prices have remained high by historical records in the last few years, despite the feebleness of the recent global economic recovery.
Using gross figures of exports and imports to approach the contribution of trade to economic growth and a country’s resource allocation may be misleading. Products often cross borders more than once while being processed until their final use and may thus be counted multiple times. Furthermore, given the increased use of imported intermediate goods and services associated with rising global trade flows in the last decades, not only exports of goods and services carry some content of imported inputs classified in other sectors, but also some exports of intermediate products may return embedded in imported final products. Therefore, in order to gauge appropriately where and how much is the value added by a country’s employed labor and other factors of production, one has to do due accounting of those intra- and cross-sector trade in order to measure trade in value-added terms – see a thorough analysis in Mattoo et al (2013).
Food prices in international markets have spiked three times in the past five years: in mid-2008, early 2011 and mid-2012 (Figure 1). The first of those spikes – when rice prices more than doubled – prompted urban riots in dozens of developing countries. It may have contributed even to the unrest that led to the Arab Spring. The most common government response was to alter trade restrictions so as to insulate the domestic market from the international price rise. And the most common justification for that action (tighter export restrictions or lower import barriers on food staples) was that it would reduce the number of people who would fall into poverty. Not only are food prices politically sensitive, but many poor people are vulnerable to higher food prices, because the poorest people spend a large fraction of their incomes on food.
Merchandise trade has become an increasingly important contributor to a country’s gross domestic product (GDP), particularly for developing countries. Before the global financial crisis hit in 2008, merchandise trade as a percent of GDP for low- and middle-income economies was 57 percent, about 5% higher than for high-income economies. This is very evident in Europe and Central Asia (ECA) where merchandise trade accounts for 73 percent of the developing region’s GDP. Many ECA countries including Hungary, Belarus, and Bulgaria have merchandise trade to GDP ratios above 100 percent (155, 136, and 114 percent respectively in 2011), meaning merchandise exports are a large contributor to their overall economy.
Mention China at your next dinner party, and chances are you will be met with references about future superpowers, exchange rates, and the joys of traveling through gleaming new airports. And while the conversation may touch on the dining scene along the Bund or outstanding new restaurants in Shanghai and Beijing, the impact of food standards on global consumers will almost certainly not be the center of discussion.
The fact is, however, that trade in agriculture is one of the most important ways the world connects with China. China’s exports of food products increased from US$ 9.7 billion to US$ 56.3 billion between 1992 and 2012. The United States alone imported US$ 6.5 billion worth of Chinese fish, seafood, juice, vegetables, fruit, and other food products in 2012—making China the third largest source of US food imports.
LONDON -- I'm just back from the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland, and under the leadership of Prime Minister David Cameron, we focused on some critical but often overlooked elements on how the world can end extreme poverty in a generation: taxes, trade, and transparency. Watch the video to see why I feel so strongly about this.
Despite tremendous progress in poverty reduction over the last two decades, poverty still persists. Along with South Asia, Africa is a region where large numbers of people continue to live in extreme poverty. It is also a region where there is clearly room for higher foreign trade levels (see Chart). Given that trade can generate growth – and thus poverty reduction – focus on trade-related reforms (e.g. lower tariffs, better logistics, and trade facilitation) deserves to be a high priority of the region.
The Chinese economy has changed dramatically over the last three decades. While its per-capita income was only a third of that of Sub-Saharan Africa in 1978, it has now reached an upper-middle income status, lifting more than half a billion people out of poverty. The numbers are dramatic: per capita income has doubled for more than a billion people in just 12 years. What was once a primarily rural, agricultural economy has been transformed into an increasingly urban and diversified economic structure, with decentralization and market-based relations rising relative to the traditional government driven command-based economy.
Spring in DC draws more than just tourists. Last week, government officials, policy makers, civil society representatives and other thought leaders converged to take stock of the global economy during the IMF-World Bank spring meetings. The tone in the hallways was optimistic, but cautious. Growth in advanced economies still remains tepid, weighed down by lingering effects of the global financial crisis, demographic challenges, as well as weakening innovation and productivity growth. At the same time, there are encouraging signs that developing countries are in good shape, thanks to fiscal buffers that helped them to weather the storm.
Nevertheless, we must be mindful of the work ahead: the IMF warned of a ‘3-speed recovery’, where emerging markets are growing rapidly, the United States is recovering faster than most other advanced industrial countries, but Europe continues to struggle. Where does this leave developing countries? At a meeting with the G24 – a group of developing countries - I had the privilege of discussing the prospects for growth, and policies needed to achieve productivity growth essential for eliminating extreme poverty and for creating shared prosperity.