Three new leaders face the challenge of food and fuel subsidies: Sisi, Modi, and Jokowi
Jeffrey Frankel 09 September 2014
Subsidies for food and energy are economically inefficient, but can often be politically popular. This column discusses the efforts by new leaders in Egypt, Indonesia, and India to cut unaffordable subsidies. Cutting subsidies now may even be the politically savvy choice if the alternative is shortages and an even more painful rise in the retail price in future. Ironically, it is India’s new Prime Minister Modi – elected with a large electoral mandate and much hype about market reforms – who is already shrinking from the challenge.
In few policy areas does good economics conflict so dramatically with good politics as in the practice of subsidies to food and energy. Economics textbooks explain that these subsidies are lose-lose policies. In the political world, that can sound like an ivory tower abstraction. But the issue of unaffordable subsidies happens to be front and centre politically this summer, in a number of places around the world. Three major new leaders in particular are facing this challenge: Sisi in Egypt, Jokowi in Indonesia, and Modi in India.
Development Energy Politics and economics Poverty and income inequality
subsidies, fuel subsidies, food subsidies, Agriculture, energy, Egypt, Indonesia, India, Poverty, environment, trade, WTO, Doha Round, Bali
African growth looking forward
Marco Annunziata 16 August 2014
Africa has generated a lot of enthusiasm lately. The cynical view of the continent as a hopeless basket case has been replaced by the lofty narrative of Africa Rising. This column argues that Africa’s progress is impressive, and there is more to the story than a commodity boom. But Africa is at a crossroads. The opportunities are huge, but the road ahead is long, and will require persistent and patient effort from policymakers as well as business.
Views on Africa’s growth prospects have jumped from utter pessimism to extreme enthusiasm. The latter has been centre-stage with the US–Africa Summit hosted in Washington DC from 4–6 August 2014, with the participation of top political and business leaders. My coauthors Todd Johnson and Shlomi Kramer and I have tried to take a sober assessment of Africa’s progress and prospects, looking beyond the current hype and the inevitable frustration that doing business in the region still generates (Annunziata et al. 2014).
development, growth, Africa, human capital, trade, innovation, infrastructure, commodity boom
Why the US and EU are failing to set information free
Susan Ariel Aaronson 14 July 2014
The internet promotes educational, technological, and scientific progress, but governments sometimes choose to control the flow of information for national security reasons, or to protect privacy or intellectual property. This column highlights the use of trade rules to regulate the flow of information, and describes how the EU, the US, and their negotiating partners have been unable to find common ground on these issues. Trade agreements have yet to set information free, and may in fact be making it less free.
Tim Berners-Lee, the architect of the World Wide Web, taught us that the internet we have is a function of the choices we (users, companies, policymakers, etc.) make about information flows. For example, in 1995, Berners-Lee chose not to patent his work on the World Wide Web because he feared patenting it could limit its universality and openness. He continues to advocate this. In March 2014, he called for an online bill of rights and created a new organisation to ensure that the web would remain the “web we want” – open, free, and neutral.
EU policies Global governance International trade
US, EU, WTO, information technology, trade, technology, internet, Human rights, national security, Information, free trade agreements, data protection, privacy
Sourcing foreign inputs to improve firm performance
Maria Bas, Vanessa Strauss-Kahn 14 July 2014
The rise of trade in intermediate inputs is well documented, but its role in shaping domestic economies is not yet completely understood. This column presents evidence from French firms on the effects of importing intermediate inputs. Firms importing more varieties of intermediate inputs increased their productivity and exported more varieties. Foreign inputs from the most advanced economies have the strongest effect on firm productivity, but imported inputs from all countries help raise the number of export varieties.
Should trade policy fight or promote imports of intermediate inputs? While several studies have shown the recent increase in imports of intermediate goods, their role in shaping domestic economies is not yet completely understood. Following the work of Feenstra and Hanson (1996), a large literature focuses on the impact of imported intermediate inputs on employment and inequality. It concludes that, like outsourcing, imported intermediate inputs have a role (although limited) in explaining job losses and wage reductions.
employment, productivity, wages, Inequality, trade, exports, outsourcing, imports, global value chains, Intermediate inputs
Connecting Brazil to the world
Patricia Ellen, Jaana Remes 12 July 2014
Brazil has grown rapidly and reduced poverty over the past decade, but it has grown more slowly than other emerging economies and its income per capita remains relatively low by global standards. This column points out that sectors of the Brazilian economy that have been opened up to international competition have outperformed those that remain heavily protected. Deeper integration into global markets and value chains could provide competitive pressures that would improve Brazil’s productivity and living standards.
Despite a decade of rapid growth and falling poverty rates, Brazil has failed to match the global average for income growth – let alone to achieve the kind of impressive gains posted by other rapidly transforming emerging economies. As of 2012, Brazil had become the world’s seventh-largest economy, but it ranked only 95th in the world for gross national income per capita (IHS Economics and Country Risk data). To raise household living standards, Brazil needs to find a new formula for accelerating productivity growth.
Development International trade Productivity and Innovation
development, growth, productivity, globalisation, MERCOSUR, trade, openness, Brazil, global value chains
Mega-regionals and the mega-mess: A way out
Jayant Menon 09 June 2014
With the rise of mega-regional trade agreements, the world trade system resembles a jigsaw puzzle. This column discusses the difficulties involved in consolidating free trade agreements at the regional level, and argues that piecing together the blocs around the world will be even more challenging. A potential way forward is to return to the most widely used modality of trade liberalisation – unilateral actions – but this time involving the multilateralisation of preferences rather than unreciprocated reductions in tariff rates.
Jagdish Bhagwati (1991) famously described the maze of overlapping free trade agreements (FTAs) as akin to a ‘spaghetti bowl’. Several decades later, with the rise of mega-regionals like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the fragmentation of the world trade system more closely resembles a jigsaw puzzle. How do we solve this mess? One approach being pursued is to consolidate bilateral FTAs into regional blocs, and then to try and link the blocs up globally – or at least hope that they will eventually.
Global governance International trade
WTO, trade liberalisation, trade, reciprocity, free trade agreements, Trans-Pacific Partnership, multilateralisation of preferences, mega-regionals, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership
Migrant networks and trade: The Vietnamese boat people as a natural experiment
Christopher Parsons, Pierre-Louis Vézina 23 May 2014
Immigrants potentially foster international trade by reducing trade costs. This column uses the exodus of the Vietnamese boat people to the US as a natural experiment to provide evidence of such a pro-trade effect. An exogenous allocation of Vietnamese migrants across the US in 1975 was followed by a 20-year trade embargo. Following the lifting of sanctions in 1994, the share of US exports going to Vietnam was higher and more diversified in the states with larger Vietnamese populations.
Immigrants potentially foster international trade by reducing trade costs. Such frictions are quantitatively large, especially for poor countries (Anderson and van Wincoop 2004), and recent research has singled out information costs in particular as inhibiting trade flows (Chaney 2011, Allen 2012, Steinwender 2013). Immigrants may lower such frictions through their knowledge of their home country's language, regulations, market opportunities, and informal institutions.
International trade Migration
trade, migrant networks, Vietnam, US exports
Gross trade accounting: A transparent method to discover global value chain-related information behind official trade data: Part 2
Zhi Wang, Shang-Jin Wei, Kunfu Zhu 16 April 2014
One common measure of trade linked international production networks is the so-called VAX ratio, i.e. the ratio of value-added exports to gross exports. This column argues that this measure is not well-behaved at the sector, bilateral, or bilateral sector level, and does not capture important features of international production sharing. A new gross trade accounting framework is proposed that can better track countries’ movements up and down global value chains.
competitiveness, globalisation, trade, comparative advantage, global value chains, global supply chain, statistics
Gross trade accounting: A transparent method to discover global value chain-related information behind official trade data: Part 1
Zhi Wang, Shang-Jin Wei, Kunfu Zhu 07 April 2014
The growth of international trade in intermediate inputs means that standard trade statistics can give a misleading picture of the real patterns of production behind world trade. This column introduces an accounting framework that decomposes traditional trade flows into components that better reflect the underlying location of the value addition linked to exports.
Production segmentation across national borders has become an important feature of the world economy. With the rapid increase in intermediate trade flows, trade economists and policymakers have reached a near consensus that official trade statistics based on gross terms are deficient, often hiding the extent of global value chains. There is also widespread recognition among the official international statistics agencies that fragmentation of global production requires a new approach to measure trade, in particular the need to measure trade in value-added.
globalisation, trade, global value chains, global supply chain, statistics
Sustainable growth requires a long-term focus
Pascal Lamy, Ian Goldin 28 March 2014
Excessive short-termism is always a problem for policy, but the Global Crisis has brought it sharply into focus. This column introduces a report that discusses how a shift to longer-term solutions is necessary and possible. A key message is that businesses as well as governments need to take a longer-term view. The report identifies ways to overcome the current impasse in key economic, climate, trade, security, and other negotiations.
Just when we thought high-frequency trading couldn’t get any faster, a US communications company is developing a high-speed laser network between the New Jersey data centres of the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ stock exchange, to shave an additional few nanoseconds off high-frequency trading times.
Environment Financial markets Global crisis International trade
growth, climate change, trade, environment, corporate governance, global crisis, high-frequency trading, short-termism, mark-to-market accounting