Are free trade agreements good for ‘Factory Asia’? This column argues that rather than supporting ‘Factory Asia’, it is more likely that fragmentation trade has prospered despite the noodle bowl of overlapping FTAs in the region. Inter-regional FTAs, on the other hand, may have been able to indirectly support the growth of production networks among existing members, if they led to increased demand for the final goods that the networks produce.
Do patents encourage innovation? This column presents a new analysis, suggesting that patent rights block cumulative innovation only in very specific environments. To encourage innovation, remedial government policies should be targeted; a ‘broad based’ scaling back of patent rights is unlikely to be appropriate. Policies and institutions should facilitate more efficient licensing, promoting cumulative innovation without diluting the innovation incentives that patents provide.
What can we learn from China’s experience as a linchpin in the global value chain? This column presents new research showing that financial frictions influence the organisation of production across firm and country boundaries. If you’re credit-constrained, you might be stuck in the low value-added stage of the supply chain. Strengthening capital markets might thus be an important prerequisite for moving into higher value-added, more profitable activity. China’s experience tells us that liquidity-constrained manufacturers might therefore benefit more from import liberalisation and from the fragmentation of production across borders.
Japan looks set to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. Reflecting the current debate in Japan, this column assesses what effect the Partnership will have on Japan’s growth. Evidence suggests that the economic effects may be far bigger than the current consensus suggests.
The first order of business for the next Director-General of the WTO will be to help broker a deal at the Ministerial Meeting in Bali next December. Following the announcement of reductions in tariffs on environmental goods announced by APEC members last September, there is some hope that a deal might be in hand for a reduction in trade barriers on environmental goods and services. This column reviews the stalemate so far and argues that with little to put on the table, progress at the multilateral level is unlikely.
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Reichlin, Baldwin, 14 April 2013