Does policy uncertainty reduce economic activity? Insights and evidence from large trade reforms
Kyle Handley, Nuno Limão 23 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.
US, China, WTO, trade, uncertainty, Great Recession, Eurozone crisis
Why buyers matter
Andrew B. Bernard, Andreas Moxnes, Karen-Helene Ulltveit-Moe 15 November 2013
Discussions of international trade often focus on aggregate trade flows, but it is firms that trade, not countries. This column presents evidence from Norwegian export data showing that larger exporters have more customers and greater dispersion in customer size. Moreover, exporters with many customers tend to sell to importers with few suppliers. These stylised facts are captured by a model in which finding a buyer is costly. The model’s prediction that export responses are amplified in destinations with less buyer dispersion is confirmed in the data.
Trade in goods across borders is conducted by firms, from an exporting firm in a source country to an importing firm in a destination country. Firms trade, not countries.
trade, Norway, heterogeneity, assortative matching
Will the WTO Bali conference advance the Doha Round and Asia?
Matthias Helble, Ganeshan Wignaraja 13 November 2013
Intensifying negotiations leading to the December WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali have renewed optimism for concluding the beleaguered Doha Round and boosting Asia’s trade. Agreement in Bali on tariff-quota administration, trade facilitation, and food security would improve the prospects for a Doha deal and WTO credibility. Failure at Bali, however, would spur the rise of mega-regional trade agreements – to the detriment of countries outside these agreements.
Trade negotiators from Asia and elsewhere are locked in intense negotiations to lay the platform for a Doha trade deal at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia, 3–6 December 2013. A new WTO Director-General, a ministerial venue in an influential Asian country, the risk of eroding WTO credibility, and the advent of mega-regional trade agreements have all enthused and motivated trade negotiators. This article assesses what the Bali Ministerial Conference might reasonably deliver, and how this may advance the Doha Round and Asia’s trade.
Global governance International trade
WTO, trade, tariffs, Doha, Asia, trade facilitation, food security, Bali, tariff-quota administration
Competing successfully in a globalising world: Lessons from Lancashire
Nicholas Crafts, Nikolaus Wolf 22 October 2013
Europeans worry about competition from low-wage economies. This column looks at the basis of the success of the 19th-century Lancashire cotton industry faced with a similar situation. The message is that the productivity benefits of a successful agglomeration can underpin both high wages and competitive advantage in world trade. Policymakers can support such agglomerations by easing land-use restrictions, promoting investments in transport, and providing local public goods.
The ‘first globalisation’ of the 19th century – driven by the substantial falls in trade costs associated with the age of steam – saw the ‘First Unbundling’ (Baldwin 2006), in which industrial production and consumption became spatially separated, often by large distances. The period was characterised by the simultaneous processes of industrialisation in Europe and de-industrialisation in Asia (Table 1).
Table 1. Shares of world manufacturing output (%)
Economic history International trade
globalisation, wages, trade, Industrial Revolution, cities, agglomeration, industrialisation, Lancashire, cotton
Doing Business – less icing, more cake!
Thorsten Beck 06 June 2013
The World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’ data collection project is under threat from large nations who score poorly, especially China. This column argues that although there are problems with country rankings, the underlying data is very valuable for empirical researchers. The Doing Business project should continue quantifying different dimensions of the business environment, but reduce its focus on country rankings.
The World Bank Group’s Doing Business data collection and ranking exercise is again in the headlines, allegedly following China’s protest against it being ranked 91. Using the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Doing Business, the World Bank’s new president has formed a commission in October 2012 to assess impact, methodology and effectiveness of the Doing Business project.1 The commission is scheduled to issue its report in the next few days.
Development Frontiers of economic research
trade, Doing Business
The transatlantic trade talks and economic policy research: Time to re-tool
Simon J Evenett, Robert M. Stern 21 March 2013
The US and the EU have announced their intentions to launch trade talks – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. This column argues that this should not be thought of as a standard tariff-lowering deal with a few extras thrown in for good measure. Rather, we don’t really know what it will do because trade economists have failed to develop the necessary tools for understanding its impact. It is time for policy analysts to re-tool.
“And tonight, I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union – because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs”.
With these 38 words, in his State of the Union speech on 13 February 2013, President Obama launched the mother of all bilateral trade negotiations. It seems trade reform is expected to deliver where macroeconomic policy has failed.
US, EU, trade, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
Growth dynamics and policy choices facing Indonesia
Ganeshan Wignaraja 21 February 2013
Until 2012, the past decade saw Indonesia’s growth maintain a respectable momentum. This column argues that recent hints of political dirigisme presents Indonesia with a stark development choice. Policymakers can continue their tightening of political control – staving off the trade effects of a global crisis in the run up to elections next year – or they can orient the economy outward, with complementary policies to sustain long-term growth.
Growth slowed in Indonesia in 2012, indicating that the global financial crisis and economic slowdown had indeed had an effect on ASEAN’s biggest economy. Indonesia grew at 6.2% in 2012, down slightly from 6.5% in 2011. Overall, this remains a respectable figure. Bear in mind that Indonesia's annual average growth in the previous decade was below 6% (see Figure 1). Developing Asia as a whole grew at 6.1% in 2012.
Development Politics and economics
trade, natural resources, East Asia, state capitalism
‘No gain without pain’: Antidumping protection hurts exports
Hylke Vandenbussche, Jozef Konings 30 January 2013
The rise of international production sharing – ‘global value chains’ – has transformed international commerce and pushed economists into new territory. This column argues that there is evidence to suggest that old-fashioned protection can have an unexpected negative effect on firms that are part of a global value chain. In an increasingly globalised world, exporters’ success seems to positively depend on the free entry of imports rather than the other way round.
Protection is often viewed as a powerful instrument to help domestic firms to raise their sales at the expense of foreign importers. But this view is now being challenged by recent research showing that the effects of protection really depend on the international orientation of the firms i.e. whether they are exporters or not. Protected firms that are well integrated in global value chains may actually lose sales whenever the imports of inputs are subject to protection.
France, EU, trade, tariffs, protectionism, global value chains
Exchange-rate volatility is a problem for trade … especially when financial development is low
Jérôme Héricourt, Sandra Poncet 19 January 2013
The increasing volatility of exchange rates after the fall of the Bretton Woods agreements has been a constant source of concern for both policymakers and academics. Does exchange-rate risk dangerously increase transaction costs and reduce gains to international trade? This column uses recent research to argue that there is indeed a negative impact of exchange-rate volatility on firms’ exporting behaviour, magnified for financially vulnerable firms and dampened by financial development. Thus, emerging countries should be careful when relaxing their exchange-rate regime.
The increasing volatility of exchange rates after the fall of the Bretton Woods agreements has been a constant source of concern for both policymakers and academics. Developed countries fought hard in the 1980s to limit US dollar fluctuation (one thinks of the Plaza and Louvre’s agreements, respectively in 1985 and 1987), and some European countries took an even more radical decision by giving up their national currency for the euro in 1999.
Exchange rates International trade
China, trade, exchange-rate volatility
Moving to Greenland in the face of global warming
Klaus Desmet, Esteban Rossi-Hansberg 16 January 2013
There are two ways to deal with climate change: mitigation and adaptation. This column argues that in order to adapt, we need to take another look at an age-old coping mechanism: migration. Indeed, if overall hotter temperatures lower productivity in hot regions but raise productivity in what are currently cooler regions, the negative economic effects of climate change are likely to stem from frictions preventing the movement of people and goods. Without these frictions, adapting to climate change becomes that much easier. Climate change policy ought to aim at alleviating mobility frictions.
If populations don’t move, global warming is likely to have disastrous consequences.
climate change, trade, migration