Supply chains, mega-regionals and the WTO: New CEPR book
Bernard Hoekman19 May 2014
The World Trade Organisation is one of the most successful instances of multilateral cooperation post-WWII. Yet WTO negotiators have yet found a way to break the recent deadlock on key elements such as the market access and rule-making dimensions on the agenda since 2001. This column introduces a new CEPR book that suggests the adoption of a ‘supply chain framework’ that could help to mobilise greater support for concluding the Doha Round and provide a basis to use the WTO as a forum for learning from regional initiatives.
In December 2013, WTO members struck a multilateral agreement at their ministerial meeting in Bali as part of the long-running Doha Round. The Bali Trade Facilitation Agreement – the first such agreements since the WTO was founded in 1995 – is important in demonstrating WTO members can ‘get to yes’ despite their differences. While trade facilitation will benefit traders around the globe, the basic challenge confronting WTO negotiators remains.
Hitting where it hurts: Retaliation requests in the WTO
Diego Bonomo01 March 2014
When a dispute in the WTO does not reach any resolution, the offended member country can request the right to retaliate against the offender. This column reviews the profile of most common retaliation-requesting members. There is a preference among certain countries to either pursue retaliation, or resist compliance. The magnitude of requests and the means of retaliation are also discussed. Overall, requesting retaliation is an important tool of analysis, as it often reveals a country’s goals in the WTO disputes.
When a trade dispute being adjudicated in the WTO’s dispute settlement system reaches the end without resolution, the offended member country requests the right to retaliate – or as the diplomats call it – request the suspension of concessions and other obligations vis-à-vis the offender (Shadikhodjaev 2009).
From the WTO’s inception to the end of 2013, there have been 36 such requests related to 28 disputes. In five cases, typically with more than one dispute settlement number, there were multiple requests by different countries against a single offender. Those cases are:
World-leading trade lawyer, Gary Horlick, talks to Viv Davies about the 2013 WTO Bali ministerial conference and the post-Bali agenda. Horlick discusses food security, agriculture and whether mega regional trade agreements pose a threat to the future of the WTO. They also discuss the potential benefits of the post-Bali agenda for developing countries and the ‘trade transforming’ effect of SMEs and the internet. The interview was recorded in January 2014.
Alejandro Jara talks to Viv Davies about the 2013 WTO Bali ministerial conference and the recent Vox report, ‘Building on Bali’, co-edited with Simon Evenett. Jara presents his views on the post-Bali agenda, mega regional trade agreements and trade protectionism. They also discuss the extent to which the ‘global value chain revolution’ has changed the nature and focus of international trade and trade agreements. Jara concludes by presenting policy recommendations for the way forward. The interview was recorded in January 2014.
The global value chain revolution has changed trade and trade agreements. Trade now matters for making goods as well as selling them. Trade governance has shifted away from the WTO towards megaregional agreements. This column argues that 21st-century regionalism is not fundamentally about discrimination, and that its benefits and costs are best thought of as network externalities and harmonisation costs respectively. More research is needed to determine how the megaregional trade agreements across the Pacific and Atlantic will fit with the WTO.
Trade and trade agreements used to be relatively simple. Trade primarily meant trade in ‘made-here-sold-there’ goods, so 20th-century regional and multilateral trade agreements dealt primarily with barriers to goods crossing borders – especially tariffs. For governments, the key purpose of trade and trade agreements was to help their firms sell things.
Global value chains, interdependence, and the future of trade
Pascal Lamy18 December 2013
The emergence of intra-firm trade as the primary component of international trade reflects a global interdependence in the production process. In this column the former Director-General of the WTO argues that this necessitates a re-examination of how we think about – and how we measure – trade between nations. Interdependence allows different sectors to add value, and complicates the implementation of trade barriers. Only with a modern perspective can effective trade policy be conducted.
Andrew B. Bernard, Andreas Moxnes, Karen-Helene Ulltveit-Moe
Today, the expansion of global value or production chains means that most products or services are assembled with inputs from many countries. We may still think in terms of Ricardo’s world of trade between nations, but in reality most trade now takes place within globe-spanning multinational companies and their suppliers. The results of this ‘trade in tasks’ are all around us.
The recent Bali Ministerial Conference was successful enough to ensure that the WTO lives to fight another day. This column introduces a new VoxEU eBook exploring how the WTO can make the most of this opportunity to restore its central place in world trade governance.
The successful conclusion of the Bali Ministerial Conference and its terrific reception in the international press and from government leaders means that the WTO now has the opportunity to restore its fortunes. Talk of the WTO’s demise as a negotiating forum has been set aside, at least for now. If the WTO membership takes the right decisions in the coming months concerning its near-term work programme, and assiduously follows up, then such talk might be banished for good.
The WTO signed a mini-package of trade initiatives in Bali last week. This column argues that the ‘Bali package’ is welcome but not enough. Without some new initiative or direction, the WTO looks set to drift for the next few years. The WTO cannot move ahead until the trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic ‘mega-regionals’ are done or dead. In the meantime, the WTO should promote research and discussion on how 21st-century trade issues could be brought into the WTO when the time is ripe.
Bali’s success got multilateralism out of the emergency room and into the intensive care unit – but we don’t know whether the operation was a success. The Bali package is only distantly related to the heart of the 2001 agenda (WTO 2013). Indeed, the ‘Bali Package’ should really be called the ‘Bali Ribbon’ since very large parts of it were already being implemented unilaterally by members (Meltzer 2013).
Bernard Hoekman, Jesper Jensen, David Tarr29 November 2013
Two regional trade agreements are centre of attention in Ukraine: the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU – that for the time being Ukraine has rejected – and the Eurasian Customs Union with Russia, that Ukraine has been invited (or pressured) to join. Rather than choosing between the two, Ukraine should focus on reducing policy frictions that negatively affect trade through processes that mobilise firms and industries on both sides of the border. The recent proposal by Ukraine to establish a joint commission among Ukraine, Russia and the EU to promote trade could be a step in this direction.
On November 21 2013, Ukraine suspended preparations for signing the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the European Union (EU) at the Third EU-Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius on November 28-29. In 2010, the Russian Federation, Belarus and Kazakhstan formed the Eurasian Customs Union (ECU) and have invited Ukraine to become a member. This has become a politically charged issue, generating great uncertainty that is likely to have negative consequences for investment and economic activity (see Handley and Limão 2013, Shepotylo 2013).
Does policy uncertainty reduce economic activity? Insights and evidence from large trade reforms
Kyle Handley, Nuno Limão23 November 2013
The impact of policy uncertainty on economic activity is potentially important, but controversial because it is hard to identify and quantify. Recent research provides a framework to identify the impacts of policy uncertainty on firm decisions, and finds it has strong effects in the context of international trade. China’s WTO accession secured its most-favoured nation status in the US, and the evidence shows this reduction in uncertainty can explain a significant fraction of its export boom to the US.
The impact of policy uncertainty on economic activity is an issue traditionally associated with developing countries. Since 2008, however, the spotlight has shifted. Governments’ responses to the Great Recession and the Eurozone crisis have raised considerable uncertainty about the future policies of advanced economies. Examples include the timing and size of financial bailouts, government expenditures, and the risk of sovereign-debt default. These crises have also heightened trade policy uncertainty.