Showing posts with label trade. Show all posts
Showing posts with label trade. Show all posts

Friday, December 6, 2013

New meat regulations could spark a trade war with Canada and Mexico and will raise costs

This Label Will Raise the Cost of Your Steak. By Scott George and Randy Spronk
New meat regulations could spark a trade war with Canada and Mexico.
Wall Street Journal, Dec. 5, 2013 6:42 p.m. ET

Right before Thanksgiving, while Congress was on break, federal meat labeling regulations took effect that could result in Americans paying higher prices on everything from beef and pork to apples and maple syrup. While legislators, as part of the continuing farm bill negotiations, are considering a fix to the Country of Origin Labeling (Cool) statute, the regulations implementing it went into effect Nov. 23.

The new Cool rules require more detailed labels on meat derived from animals born outside the United States. Labels must now list the country in which livestock were born, raised and slaughtered. For example, a package of rib-eye steak might be labeled: "Born in Canada, Raised and Slaughtered in the United States."

The previous Cool rules required less detailed labeling, such as "Product of Canada and the United States." Ironically, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the new rules in May in an effort to improve the previous Cool rules, which the World Trade Organization last year ruled discriminated against Canada, Mexico and other U.S. trading partners.

Not surprisingly, Canada and Mexico are also fighting the new, more stringent rules at the WTO. Should the trade organization rule in their favor, our North American neighbors will likely retaliate against U.S. products through tariffs that will limit U.S. exports and kill American jobs. Canada, the second-largest export market for U.S. agricultural products, valued in 2012 at $20.6 billion, already has a preliminary retaliation list that includes fresh pork and beef, bakery goods, rice, apples, wine, maple syrup and furniture.

U.S. cattle ranchers and hog farmers who purchase livestock from Canada or Mexico will be affected by those retaliatory tariffs in a number of ways. Most crucially to those of us in the industry, the duties will prompt U.S. beef and pork exports to fall while American farmers and ranchers who import animals will see significant cost increases.

Alpha 3 Cattle Company in Amarillo, Texas, for example, imports roughly 38,000 feeder cattle a year from Mexico. When the original Cool law took effect in 2009, meat packers, fearing consumers would be less inclined to buy meat labeled "Product of Mexico and the United States" and incurring added costs to label mixed-origin meat, discounted Alpha 3's Mexican-origin animals by $35 a head. That alone cost Alpha 3 more than $1 million.

Under the new Cool regulations, the company expects the discount to be even higher, or for packing plants to stop processing Mexican-born cattle altogether. Why? Because under the new regulations those animals—and the meat from them—now need to be tracked, verified and segregated from U.S.-born cattle. (The 2009 law allowed co-mingling of animals.)

A Michigan hog farmer who gets most of his feeder pigs from Canada, and who took a financial hit when the labeling law took effect in 2009, has been told by the packing plant to which he sends his animals that he'll have a 10-hour window each week to get his Canadian-born hogs to market. That will be nearly impossible to accomplish—it's 32 truckloads—and it will be extremely costly.

That's because the new regulations will force the packing plant to shut down the lines processing U.S.-born hogs and switch to processing Canadian-born ones—which spend five of their six months in the U.S.—so that pork cuts can be tracked, labeled and kept separate. That's a logistical headache and a huge expense for the plant, which will likely pay the hog farmer less for his Canadian-born hogs and charge consumers more for the meat from those animals.

So why is the U.S. risking trade retaliation and prohibitive cost increases on American producers and consumers of meat? Groups that support Cool, such as the U.S. Cattlemen's Association and the Consumer Federation of America, think U.S. consumers will buy American if they see a "Product of the United States" label. But since the 2009 law went into effect, the USDA says there's been little effect on demand for U.S. meat, and that consumers buy primarily based on taste and price. Most Americans know, even if their legislators don't, that all meat products, regardless of their country of origin, must pass the same USDA safety regulations.

When the Cool proposal was first debated in Congress, the U.S. meat industry said it would be a costly program with little if any benefit to consumers. The USDA estimated it would cost $2.5 billion to implement and nearly $212 million annually over 10 years to maintain.

With our North American neighbors set to impose tariffs on dozens of U.S. products, livestock producers and meat packers facing greater costs and American consumers ultimately bearing higher prices, it appears that assessment was an understatement.

Mr. George is a cattleman from Cody, Wyo., and president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Mr. Spronk is a hog farmer from Edgerton, Minn., and president of the National Pork Producers Council.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

BCBS: Supervisory guidance for managing risks associated with the settlement of foreign exchange transactions

BCBS: Supervisory guidance for managing risks associated with the settlement of foreign exchange transactions
February 15 2013

The purpose of this guidance is to provide updated guidance to supervisors and the banks they supervise on approaches to managing the risks associated with the settlement of FX transactions. This guidance expands on, and replaces, the BCBS's Supervisory guidance for managing settlement risk in foreign exchange transactions published in September 2000.

Since the BCBS's Supervisory guidance for managing settlement risk in foreign exchange transactions (2000) was published, the foreign exchange market has made significant strides in reducing the risks associated with the settlement of FX transactions. Substantial FX settlement-related risks remain, however, not least because of the rapid growth in FX trading activities.

The document provides a more comprehensive and detailed view on governance arrangements and the management of principal risk, replacement cost risk and all other FX settlement-related risks. In addition, it promotes the use of payment-versus-payment arrangements, where practicable, to reduce principal risk.

The guidance is organized into seven "guidelines" that address governance, principal risk, replacement cost risk, liquidity risk, operational risk, legal risk, and capital for FX transactions. The key recommendations emphasize the following:
  • A bank should ensure that all FX settlement-related risks are effectively managed and that its practices are consistent with those used for managing other counterparty exposures of similar size and duration.
  • A bank should reduce its principal risk as much as practicable by settling FX transactions through the use of FMIs that provide PVP arrangements. Where PVP settlement is not practicable, a bank should properly identify, measure, control and reduce the size and duration of its remaining principal risk.
  • A bank should ensure that when analysing capital needs, all FX settlement-related risks should be considered, including principal risk and replacement cost risk and that sufficient capital is held against these potential exposures, as appropriate.
  • A bank should use netting arrangements and collateral arrangements to reduce its replacement cost risk and should fully collateralise its mark-to-market exposure on physically settling FX swaps and forwards with counterparties that are financial institutions and systemically important non-financial entities.
An annex to the final guidance provides detailed explanation of FX settlement-related risks and how they arise.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Volatility, rather than abundance per se, drives the "resource curse" paradox

Commodity Price Volatility and the Sources of Growth. By Tiago V. de V. Cavalcanti, Kamiar Mohaddes, and Mehdi Raissi
IMF Working Paper No. 12/12


This paper studies the impact of the level and volatility of the commodity terms of trade on economic growth, as well as on the three main growth channels: total factor productivity, physical capital accumulation, and human capital acquisition. We use the standard system GMM approach as well as a cross-sectionally augmented version of the pooled mean group (CPMG) methodology of Pesaran et al. (1999) for estimation. The latter takes account of cross-country heterogeneity and cross-sectional dependence, while the former controls for biases associated with simultaneity and unobserved country-specific effects. Using both annual data for 1970-2007 and five-year non-overlapping observations, we find that while commodity terms of trade growth enhances real output per capita, volatility exerts a negative impact on economic growth operating mainly through lower accumulation of physical capital. Our results indicate that the negative growth effects of commodity terms of trade volatility offset the positive impact of commodity booms; and export diversification of primary commodity abundant countries contribute to faster growth. Therefore, we argue that volatility, rather than abundance per se, drives the "resource curse" paradox.



Finally, while the resource curse hypothesis predicts a negative effect of commodity booms on long-run growth, our empirical findings (in line with the results reported in Cavalcanti et al.  (2011a) and elsewhere in the literature) show quite the contrary: a higher level of commodity terms of trade significantly raises growth. Therefore, we argue that it is volatility, rather than abundance per se, that drives the "resource curse" paradox. Indeed, our results confirm that the negative growth effects of CTOT volatility offset the positive impact of commodity booms on real GDP per capita.


This paper examined empirically the effects of commodity price booms and terms of trade volatility on GDP per capita growth and its sources using two econometric techniques. First, we employed a system GMM dynamic panel estimator to deal with the problems of simultaneity and omitted variables bias, derived from unobserved country-specific effects.  Second, we created an annual panel dataset to exploit the time-series nature of the data and used a cross-sectionally augmented pooled mean group (PMG) estimator to account for both cross-country heterogeneity and cross-sectional dependence which arise from unobserved common factors. The maintained hypothesis was that commodity terms of trade volatility affects output growth negatively, operating mainly through the capital accumulation channel.  This hypothesis is shown to be largely validated by our time series panel data method, as well as by the system GMM technique used, suggesting the importance of volatility in explaining the under-performance of primary commodity abundant countries.

While the resource curse hypothesis postulates a negative effect of resource abundance (proxied by commodity booms) on output growth, the empirical results presented in this paper show the contrary: commodity terms of trade growth seems to have affected primary-product exporters positively. Since the negative impact of CTOT volatility on GDP per capita is larger than the growth-enhancing effects of commodity booms, we argue that volatility, rather than abundance per se, drives the resource curse paradox.

An important contribution of our paper was to stress the importance of the overall negative impact of CTOT volatility on economic growth, and to investigate the channels through which this effect operates. We illustrated that commodity price uncertainty mainly lowers the accumulation of physical capital. The GMM results also implied that CTOT volatility adversely affects human capital formation. However, this latter effect was not robust when we used an alternate GARCH methodology to calculate CTOT volatility. Therefore, an important research and policy agenda is to determine how countries can offset the negative effects of commodity price uncertainty on physical and human capital investment.

Another notable aspect of our results was to show the asymmetric effects of commodity terms of trade volatility on GDP per capita growth in the two country groups considered. While CTOT instability created a significant negative effect on output growth in the sample of 62 primary product exporters, in the case of the remaining 56 countries (or even in the full sample of 118 countries) the same pattern was not observed. One explanation for this observation is that the latter group of countries, with more diversified export structure, were better able to insure against price volatility than a sample of primary product exporters.  Finally, we offered some empirical evidence on growth-enhancing effects of export diversification, especially for countries whose GDP is highly dependent on revenues from just a handful of primary products.

The empirical results presented here have strong policy implications. Improvements in the conduct of macroeconomic policy, better management of resource income volatility through sovereign wealth funds (SWF) as well as stabilization funds, a suitable exchange rate regime, and export diversification can all have beneficial growth effects. Moreover, recent academic research has placed emphasis on institutional reform. By establishing the right institutions, one can ensure the proper conduct of macroeconomic policy and better use of resource income revenues, thereby increasing the potential for growth. We await better data on institutional quality to test this hypothesis. Clearly, fully articulated structural models are needed to properly investigate the channels through which the negative growth effects of volatility could be attenuated. This remains an important challenge for future research.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Assessing Systemic Trade Interconnectedness - An Empirical Approach

Assessing Systemic Trade Interconnectedness - An Empirical Approach. By Luca Errico & Alexander Massara

Summary: The paper focuses on systemically important jurisdictions in the global trade network, complementing recent IMF work on systemically important financial sectors. Using the IMF’s Direction of Trade Statistics (DOTS) database and network analysis, the paper develops a framework for ranking jurisdictions based on trade size and trade interconnectedness indicators using data for 2000 and 2010. The results show a near perfect overlap between the top 25 systemically important trade and financial jurisdictions, suggesting that these ought to be the focus of risk-based surveillance on cross-border spillovers and contagion. In addition, a number of extensions to the approach are developed that can provide a better understanding of trade dynamics at the bilateral, regional, and global levels.


The paper has laid out our approach for assessing systemic trade interconnectedness using network analysis and the IMF’s DOTS database. Our results uncover several stylized facts offering additional insights into the changing patterns of global trade over the decade 2000-2010.  We also have shown possible applications of our approach to gain a better understanding of trade dynamics across world regions and the overlapping of trade and financial sectors of systemic importance in the top 25 jurisdictions. Our approach lends itself easily to a wide range of analytical exercises addressing specific global trade issues, as well as global (trade and financial) interconnectedness issues.

The use of DOTS has lent robustness to our analysis by providing uniform data for 169 jurisdictions representing almost 100 percent of total world trade in both the year 2000 and the year 2010. Additionally, the quarterly updating of DOTS makes it possible to recalibrate our findings to track global trade developments on a timely basis.

From a policy perspective, jurisdictions hosting both systemic trade and financial sectors would seem to be the natural focus of risk-based surveillance on cross-border spillovers and contagion.  The analysis underscores that these jurisdictions display the strongest inter-sectoral interconnectedness to the global economy. As such, they have the highest potential for transmitting disturbances to other jurisdictions or to systemic stability via either the trade or financial channel or indeed both channels simultaneously. These jurisdictions would thus seem to warrant particular attention and further analysis on the risks associated with their activities, especially when carried out through systemically important financial institutions and nonfinancial corporations.

You can order a print copy here or ask us for a PDF copy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Gulf economies of the Middle East are forming partnerships with other emerging markets, redefining the ancient trade routes

The New Web of World Trade, by Joe Saddi, Karim Sabbagh, and Richard Shediac
The Gulf economies of the Middle East are forming partnerships with other emerging markets, redefining the ancient trade routes that once linked East and West.

When King Abdullah bin Saud, the current ruler of Saudi Arabia, came to power in August 2005, he wasted little time in demonstrating his vision for the country’s future. His first official overseas visit, in January 2006, was not to U.S. president George W. Bush, U.K. prime minister Tony Blair, or German chancellor Angela Merkel — but to Chinese president Hu Jintao.

The meeting reflected both countries’ desire to forge closer economic ties. Before King Abdullah went on to other emerging markets, including India, Malaysia, and Pakistan, he and President Hu signed an agreement of cooperation in oil, natural gas, and minerals. This agreement built on existing relationships between the countries’ national energy companies, Saudi Aramco and Sinopec, which had formed a partnership in 2005 to construct a US$5 billion oil refinery in eastern China’s Fujian province. In 2011, they signed a memorandum of understanding to build a refinery in Yanbu, on the west coast of Saudi Arabia. Sinopec is also engaged in a joint venture with Saudi Arabia’s petrochemicals giant SABIC; in 2010, they began producing various petrochemical products in a $3 billion complex in the city of Tianjin in northeast China, and have recently announced that they will build a $1 billion–plus facility there to produce plastics.

The rise of emerging markets in the global economy has sparked a great deal of discussion, particularly in the wake of the worldwide financial crisis. The implications are often framed in terms of the potential impact on the economies of the U.S. and Europe — for instance, business leaders discuss whether emerging nations’ consumers might be interested in purchasing American products, or whether European telecom operators can counter stagnation in their own markets by investing in new mobile networks in Asia.

But a closer look reveals a separate trend that could shift the economic focus away from the West. Emerging markets are building deep, well-traveled networks among themselves in a way that harks back to the original “silk road,” the network of trade routes between East Asia, the Middle East, and southern Europe, some dating to prehistoric times and others to the reign of Alexander the Great. Most of these routes were central to world commerce until about 1400 AD, when European ships began to dominate international trade.

Today’s new web of world trade is broader and more diverse than the old silk road. It is a network among emerging markets all over the world, including China, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa. It is a path not just for expanded trade in goods, but for short-term and long-term investment and the transfer of technological and managerial innovation in all directions. Witness, for example, China’s investments in Africa, where the construction of roads, railways, and communications infrastructure provides revenue to China’s state-owned enterprises and also facilitates China’s access to the continent’s natural resources and its consumers. Or consider the fact that in 2009, China surpassed the U.S. to become Brazil’s primary trading partner; bilateral trade between the two countries grew more than 600 percent between 2003 and 2010, from $8 billion to $56 billion. Also in 2009, the Korea Electric Power Corporation, a state-owned South Korean firm, won a $40 billion contract to build nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), beating out French and U.S. companies that had bid on the opportunity. And in 2010, Russia and Qatar announced that they would work together to develop gas fields on Russia’s Yamal Peninsula.

Such developments remain largely separate activities in the global economy, but taken together, they are early evidence of a pattern that public-sector and private-sector leaders in every part of the world should take into consideration.

An Important Stop on the Road

The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE — represent one regional powerhouse whose relationships with emerging peers can offer valuable insights into the way such alliances are forming. In the last five years, ties between the GCC and the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) as well as the “Next 11” countries (Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Turkey, and Vietnam) have expanded strongly. (See map.) The speed with which the new silk road is being constructed between the GCC and these other rapidly emerging economies is a clear indicator of the GCC’s rising importance. Even the recent unrest in the Middle East, which included a few of the GCC nations, has not impeded the Gulf’s global ambitions.


The GCC is also noteworthy because of its traditionally strong relationships with the U.S. and Europe. The Gulf nations have to maintain their relationships with these large but relatively stable economies while fostering new relationships with the high-growth economies in emerging markets. This balancing act could lead to a new set of policies and ambitions in the region, with significant implications for companies that hope to enter this market, and for the nations (which include the U.S., China, Japan, and most of Europe) that compete for the GCC’s oil and gas resources and have a vested interest in ensuring that regional security issues do not destabilize global oil prices.

By analyzing the dynamics behind the growth of the GCC’s alliances with other emerging countries, GCC leaders can see where there could be potholes in the new silk road and what reforms will be necessary to avoid them. At the same time, the companies and governments of Europe and the U.S. can develop a better understanding of what they will need to do to ensure that their own opportunities in the GCC are not lost in the years to come. The primary drivers of the relationships between the GCC and the BRICs and Next 11 countries are trade, people, and capital; equally important, though more difficult to track with data, is the exchange of knowledge and technology.

1. More than oil. The top item on the strategic agenda for every GCC country is to diversify its economy and thus decrease its dependence on oil. Despite significant efforts, achieving this goal has so far proven challenging: Oil and gas accounted for 38 percent of GDP in the GCC in 2000, 42 percent in 2005, and 39 percent in 2010. The governments in the region are eager to continue investing their oil revenues in knowledge-intensive industries that will create jobs for local populations, and they will cultivate trade partners that help them.

This is one major reason that 19.4 percent of the GCC’s trade flows now involve the BRIC countries, compared with just 8.9 percent involving NAFTA countries. And GCC trade flows with BRIC countries are also more diverse than those with the United States. For example, Saudi Arabia’s exports to the U.S. still revolve around oil, whereas its exports to BRIC countries include chemicals, plastics, and minerals. The UAE’s exports to China, similarly, are split among a range of products, led by plastics (28 percent), electronic equipment (15 percent), and vehicles (9 percent).

The GCC’s non-oil exports to the Next 11 countries are also on the rise. Such exports (including chemicals, plastics, and aluminum) from the GCC to Vietnam, Indonesia, and Turkey are still quite small in absolute terms, just $11.6 billion in 2008. However, they increased by 389 percent between 2001 and 2008, an indication of things to come.

In future years, GCC companies will be looking to expand in a number of directions that will affect their exports. They will build manufacturing bases, as well as act as importers and resellers for automobiles and other advanced manufacturing products; they will also continue developing expertise in critical areas such as water desalination and complex infrastructure and construction projects, and may begin looking outside the region for destinations for those services. Trade partners that support the GCC’s economic goals will find themselves in favorable positions.

2. Rich in talent. As goods and services flow across the borders of the GCC and other emerging markets, so do people. Air arrivals in the GCC from China more than tripled between 2005 and 2009; arrivals from India, which historically has had deep ties to the GCC, increased by 35 percent. Arrivals from Turkey, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Iran are on the rise as well: The GCC saw 2.2 million visitors arrive from Egypt in 2009, compared with 1 million in 2005. During the same period, the number of visitors from Pakistan increased from 769,000 to 1.4 million.

The most significant aspect of this change is the skill level of many of the people entering the GCC. No longer do executives come from the West and laborers from the East; instead, skilled individuals from emerging markets are deepening their impact in the GCC with influential positions in the region’s financial, energy, transportation, and public sectors. India, in particular, has a large community of professional expats in the region, stretching back several decades.

Because GCC countries do not publish data on the types of jobs that expats come to the GCC to perform, this trend is difficult to quantify; we are discussing it here primarily on the basis of our own extensive experience and observations. One indicator of the size and status of the Asian expat population, though, is the fact that this group’s private wealth (for which data is available) is now equal to or greater than private wealth among Western expats, and private wealth among Arab expats from outside the GCC is rapidly catching up. In Saudi Arabia, for example, Asian expats held $46 billion in private wealth in 2009, compared with $41 billion for Western expats and $21 billion for Arab expats. In the UAE, Asian expats also led the pack at $27 billion, followed by $20 billion for Western expats and $17 billion for Arab expats.

As countries that are poor in resources but rich in talent send their people to the GCC, they not only further the GCC’s own growth aspirations; they also put their expats in a strong position to encourage and maintain the GCC’s relationships with their countries of origin.

3. New sources of capital. GCC nations have long been investors in other countries — primarily in the U.S. and Europe — via their sovereign wealth funds and other state-owned entities. Although Western countries are still the primary recipients of GCC investments, accounting for 71 percent of capital outflow from the GCC between 2003 and 2008, they are slowly losing share to other Middle East countries and Asia. In light of the strong role that GCC governments play in determining the direction of their countries’ capital investments, this trend could accelerate if GCC governments decide that other emerging markets are a better strategic destination — both economically and politically — for their riyals, dirhams, and dinars.

To some degree, of course, all governments play a role in their national economy. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, most governments’ roles are larger than they used to be, thanks to bailouts of critical industries in Western countries. But major emerging economies such as China, Russia, Brazil, and Mexico, and the countries of the GCC, among others, are active proponents of “state capitalism” — defined most recently by political risk expert Ian Bremmer as a system in which governments direct state-owned companies, private companies, and sovereign wealth funds in ways that will maximize the state’s resources and power. (See “Surviving State Capitalism,” by Art Kleiner, s+b, Summer 2010.) These countries approach state capitalism not as a last resort in times of crisis but as a sensible policy for protecting national interests while still encouraging economic growth.

For decades, the prevailing view in Western capitalist societies has been that this model cannot succeed — that the bureaucratic nature of government agencies could never compete against a nimble free market. And certainly, some state-owned enterprises in the GCC have stumbled, such as the real estate companies in Abu Dhabi and Dubai that required bailouts. In recent years, however, the track record of some state-supported sectors in the GCC shows that the issue is not quite so black and white. The state-owned airlines in the UAE and Qatar — Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways — have quickly achieved global prominence. In fact, some European carriers (many of which used to be state-owned themselves) complain that it is unfair to have to compete against airlines with the power, and perhaps the economic support, of the state behind them. Thanks to strategic global investments, the size of the GCC’s sovereign wealth funds has nearly tripled in the last decade; they now hold approximately $1.1 trillion, compared with just $321 billion in 2000. And the GCC’s oil companies — the original source of the region’s wealth — are renegotiating their contracts with the foreign oil companies operating within the countries’ borders in ways that give them greater control over national resources while still allowing them to exploit the foreign oil companies’ technology and expertise.

4. Getting connected. As GCC countries seek to branch out and build relationships with other emerging markets, they have found one point of entry in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector. Like many other developing nations, they have recognized the importance of building knowledge economies to accelerate their development, and have made infrastructure investments and policy changes accordingly. Their rankings on the World Economic Forum’s Networked Readiness Index, which measures “the degree of preparation of a nation or community to participate in and benefit from ICT developments,” reflect their efforts: The UAE moved from number 28 on the list in 2005 to number 24 in 2010 (out of 138 nations on the list that year); Qatar jumped from number 40 to number 25 during the same period; and Saudi Arabia, which made its debut on the list in 2007, improved from number 48 in that year to number 33 in 2010.

In making these advances, GCC countries have frequently looked to their counterparts among other emerging nations, many of which have similar initiatives under way. As a result, the nations of the Gulf and their partners in other emerging markets have collaborated to boost their ICT development in ways that they might not have been able to do alone.

Shared infrastructure, for instance, has been crucial. The new silk road runs underwater, in the form of submarine cables that connect the GCC to countries including India, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, Pakistan, South Africa, Nigeria, and Sri Lanka. Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE have provided equipment for GCC telecom networks; Huawei has even gone beyond infrastructure to invest in talent in the GCC, sponsoring an academic chair in information technology and communication at the UAE’s Higher Colleges of Technology.

Telecom operators, too, are looking to emerging markets to drive their business. Since the GCC deregulated its own national telecom markets in the 1990s, local operators have been on an acquisition spree, expanding their international footprint from 28 markets in 2005 to 44 markets today. These new outposts are mostly in emerging markets, spanning Indonesia, South Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa region, and sub-Saharan Africa. These investments run the other way, too, as companies like India’s Bharti consider investments in the GCC. For emerging markets to play any significant role in the global economy of the 21st century, they will need to invest in ICT infrastructure and talent. Pooling their resources to do so can advance them more effectively.

Global Relationships for the 21st Century

The bonds between the GCC countries and the BRIC and Next 11 nations are growing stronger — a development that Western countries to date have viewed with trepidation, fearing that a zero-sum game will leave them cut off from increasingly significant consumer markets and sources of natural resources, goods, and services. But in an interconnected world, unexploited opportunities await players all over the globe.

The fact that these emerging alliances are still in their infancy means that companies and governments in the U.S. and Europe can act now to formulate a response. In doing so, they will need to recognize that the weakening of their own economies during the financial crisis has undermined their historical advantages in the GCC region and has enhanced the appeal of fast-rising emerging markets. To succeed, then, developed economies will need to capitalize on the strengths that their emerging competitors cannot yet match. For example, the U.S. and Europe are still world leaders in terms of building the capabilities and infrastructure that are crucial for innovation, and they have a history of helping GCC countries develop these assets as well. Many of the region’s oil companies relied heavily on contributions from their international partners in their early years, exchanging access to oil resources for foreign talent and technology. This trend continues today: For instance, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, has formed a partnership with U.S.-based Cisco Systems to create a regional Cisco Networking Academy, which is intended to ensure that the university’s students are prepared to succeed in the digital economy. Companies in developed countries can also build on their extensive global supply chains to easily integrate new partners — whether as suppliers or as customers.

For their part, as the nations of the GCC look around the world to develop their network of relationships, they will find many opportunities with partners in both developed and developing nations. In order for these relationships to have the greatest impact in the GCC, the Gulf nations must seek the investors and trade partners that can help them address their pressing priorities: the creation of new jobs, competition that will spur their own national champions to greater success, and investment in their physical and educational infrastructure.

Gulf nations have begun building these relationships already, and in doing so their economies have become much less insulated than they were in the 1970s and 1980s. However, to increase their appeal to international partners, GCC countries will need to continue making progress on the internal reforms that are under way. Of the six nations in the GCC, only Saudi Arabia ranks in the top 20 countries in the 2010 World Bank Doing Business report, at number 11; Bahrain comes in at number 28, the UAE at number 40, and Qatar at number 50. They need to reduce the amount of red tape required to start or invest in a business, provide more transparency in business fundamentals, and invite more private-sector investment in industries that still have substantial government involvement. They should also expand their overall talent base by making it more appealing for foreigners who have critical skills to live in the region, while simultaneously developing their own people and ensuring that they have the right capabilities to build critical sectors such as energy, education, and communications.

GCC countries will also need to keep pushing forward on economic integration within the region, which will bolster their presence on the world stage. The countries of the GCC have much more clout as an economic bloc than as six separate entities, and they must continue to implement policies that reflect this perspective. A recent Booz & Company study assessed the progress of the GCC toward regional integration on a number of measures using a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 indicating “major setback to the goal” and 5 representing “accomplishment or near completion of the goal.” When all measures were taken into account, the study found that the GCC had achieved an overall score of just 2.9 out of 5. The Gulf nations must redouble efforts toward the creation of a monetary union, improve the coordination of customs and border policy, promote greater intra-regional investment, fulfill joint infrastructure commitments, and increase collective efforts in research and development. If the GCC can become a stronger economic bloc, the entire region will become a less risky, more attractive proposition for investment.

The GCC is at a critical juncture as it determines the parameters of its relationships with partners both old and new, Western and Eastern. But there’s no doubt that the new silk road can be a path toward future prosperity for the GCC countries, building trade and creating wealth as powerfully in the 21st century as the old silk road did in ages past.

Author Profiles:

    Joe Saddi is the chairman of the board of directors of Booz & Company and the managing director of the firm’s business in the Middle East. His work covers multifunctional assignments in the oil, gas, mining, water, steel, automotive, consumer goods, and petrochemical sectors.
    Karim Sabbagh is a Booz & Company senior partner based in Dubai. He leads the firm’s work for global communications, media, and technology clients. He is a member of the firm’s Marketing Advisory Council and the chairman of the Ideation Center, the firm’s think tank in the Middle East.
    Richard Shediac is a senior partner with Booz & Company based in Abu Dhabi, where he leads the firm’s Middle East work for public-sector and healthcare clients. He has led and participated in strategy, operations improvement, and organization projects in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.
    Also contributing to this article were Booz & Company principal Mazen Ramsay Najjar, Ideation Center director Hatem A. Samman, and s+b contributing editor Melissa Master Cavanaugh.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The negatives of a stronger Chinese currency—higher prices and lower exports for the U.S.—offset the positives.

The Yin and Yang of Yuan Appreciation. By RAY C. FAIR
The negatives of a stronger Chinese currency—higher prices and lower exports for the U.S.—offset the positives.WSJ, Jun 01, 2010

China is under increasing U.S. pressure to allow its currency to appreciate. Many argue that a yuan appreciation would result in more American jobs. Late last year New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said his "back-of-the-envelope" calculation suggested that if there is no appreciation, then over the next several years what he calls "Chinese mercantilism" "may end up reducing U.S. employment by around 1.4 million jobs."

But that's by no means a foregone conclusion. The question of what a Chinese appreciation of the yuan would do to the world economy is complicated. There are many economic links among countries, and they need to be accounted for in analyzing the effects of exchange-rate changes. The standard link that has been stressed in the media is that if the yuan appreciates, Chinese export prices rise in dollars and the U.S. substitutes away from now more expensive Chinese exports to now relatively cheaper American-produced goods. This is good for U.S. output and employment—U.S. jobs are created.

A second link is that China may buy more U.S.-produced goods because they are now cheaper relative to Chinese-produced goods. (The yuan price of U.S. produced goods is lower because a given number of yuan buys more dollars than before.) This is also good for U.S. output and employment.

A third link is that China's output is lower because it is exporting less. With a less robust economy, China imports less, some of which are imports from America. So from this link U.S. exports are lower, which is bad for U.S. output and employment. The second link is a relative price link—China substitutes towards U.S.-produced goods. The third link is an income link—China contracts and buys fewer imports. Which link is larger is an empirical question.

A fourth link is what I will call a U.S. price link. Import prices on Chinese goods are higher. When shoppers go to Wal-Mart they will find higher prices on Chinese-produced goods. This may lead some U.S. firms to raise their own prices since Chinese price competition is now less. So prices in the U.S. will rise. An increase in U.S. prices leads to a fall in real wealth and usually a fall in real wages, since nominal wages usually adjust slowly to increasing prices. This is bad for U.S. consumption demand and thus for U.S. output and employment. In addition, the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates in response to the increase in prices (although probably not much in the present climate), which decreases consumption and investment demand.

Other issues that matter when analyzing the effects of a yuan appreciation against the dollar are what the euro, pound and yen do relative to the dollar, what the monetary authorities in other countries do, and how closely tied countries are to each other regarding trade. One needs a multi-country model to take into account all these effects. I have such a model and have used it to analyze the effects on the world economy of a Chinese yuan appreciation against the dollar. It turns out that the two positive links mentioned above are roughly offset by the two negative links—the net effect on U.S. output and employment is small. The net effect is in fact slightly negative, but given the margin of uncertainty the bottom line is roughly no net effect at all.

It thus seems to be the case, at least from the properties of my model, that the two negative links mentioned above are larger than many people realize. Chinese output is down enough to have a nontrivial effect on Chinese imports. In addition, the negative effects from the increase in U.S. prices are nontrivial. It seems unlikely that there will be a large increase in U.S. jobs if the yuan does in fact appreciate, contrary to what many think.

Mr. Fair is a professor of economics at Yale University.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Madness of Cotton - The feds want U.S. taxpayers to subsidize Brazilian farmers

The Madness of Cotton. WSJ Editorial
The feds want U.S. taxpayers to subsidize Brazilian farmers
WSJ, May 21, 2010

U.S. cotton farmers took in almost $2.3 billion dollars in government subsidies in 2009, and the top 10% of the recipients got 70% of the cash. Now Uncle Sam is getting ready to ask taxpayers to foot the bill for another $147.3 million a year for a new round of cotton payments, this time to Brazilian growers.

We realize that in today's Washington this is a rounding error. But the reason for the new payments to foreign farmers deserves attention. If it becomes a habit, it is unlikely to end with cotton.

Here's the problem: The World Trade Organization has ruled that subsidies to American cotton growers under the 2008 farm bill are a violation of U.S. trading commitments. The U.S. lost its final appeal in the case in August 2009 and the WTO gave Brazil the right to retaliate.

Brazil responded by drafting a retaliation list threatening tariffs on more than 100 U.S. exports, including autos, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, electronics, textiles, wheat, fruits, nuts and cotton. The exports are valued at about $1 billion a year, and the tariffs would go as high as 100%. Brazil is also considering sanctions against U.S. intellectual property, including compulsory licensing in pharmaceuticals, music and software.

The Obama Administration appreciates the damage this retaliation would cause, so in April it sent Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro to negotiate. She came back with a promise from Brazil to postpone the sanctions for 60 days while it considers a U.S. offer to—get this—let American taxpayers subsidize Brazilian cotton growers.

That's right. Rather than reduce the U.S. subsidies to American cotton farmers that are the cause of the trade fight, the Administration is proposing that U.S. taxpayers also compensate Brazilian cotton farmers for the harm done by the U.S. subsidies. Thus the absurd U.S. cotton program would dip into the Commodity Credit Corporation to pay what is a bribe to Brazil so it won't retaliate.

Talk about taxpayer double jeopardy. As Senator Richard Lugar (R., Ind.) said recently, the commodity credit program was established to assist U.S. agriculture, "not to pay restitution to foreign farmers who won a trade complaint against a U.S. farm subsidy program."

Mr. Lugar wants the subsidies to U.S. farmers cut by the amount that will have to be sent to Brazil. He adds that a better option would be to take on the trade-distortions of the cotton program. "I am prepared to introduce legislation to achieve these immediate reforms," he wrote in an April 30 letter to President Obama.

This is probably tilting at political windmills, since Mr. Obama has shown no appetite for trade promotion, much less confronting a cotton lobby supported by such Democrats as Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln. But we're glad to see that at least Mr. Lugar is willing to call out the absurdity of U.S. taxpayers subsidizing foreign farmers to satisfy the greed of a few American cotton growers.

Friday, April 23, 2010

China and the US, Two Energy Giants: A Contrast In Approach

Two Energy Giants: A contrast in approach
IER, Apr 22, 2010

China’s economy is growing with dizzying speed, and the government is fueling the growth with plentiful energy. In fact, China’s electrification program and its ability to secure future oil supplies are second to none. By contrast, the U.S. economy is growing more slowly and its energy strategy is limiting that growth. The United States has slowed its electrification, adding only select forms of generating capacity, and has taken steps to reduce its flexibility in securing safe oil supplies.

China Setting Records: China Oil Demand, Coal Production and Vehicle Sales Up in 2010

During January, February, and March of this year, China was again setting records with huge year-over-year increases in oil demand.  In February, China’s oil demand rose 19.4 percent over a year earlier, the second fastest rise on record. According to Reuters, China is the world’s second largest oil user (second to the United States) and consumed 8.65 million barrels of oil per day in February, an increase of 9.4 percent or 604,000 barrels per day over January’s consumption.[i] Oil imports were up 13.8 percent in March over February, reaching 4.95 million barrels per day, according to preliminary data from China’s General Administration of Customs.[ii] In part, these large oil increases are fueling China’s passenger car fleet. New passenger car sales rose 55 percent in February from a year earlier, following a 116 percent increase in January, most likely aided by the extension of government incentives to boost purchases of smaller vehicles and spur rural demand for cars.  [iii]

China has spent nearly $200 billion on oil deals during the past few years, joining with more than 19 countries —including Russia, Turkmenistan, Kuwait, Yemen, Libya, Angola, Venezuela and Brazil— and paying for exploration, production, infrastructure construction, as well as “loans for energy” deals.[iv] Recently, China’s Sinopec International Petroleum Exploration and Production Company agreed to buy, for $4.65 billion, the 9 percent interest that ConocoPhillips holds in Syncrude,[v] a Canadian business involved in the production of oil sands (an asphalt-like heavy oil).[vi] Approval from the Canadian and Chinese governments is expected in the third quarter of this year.

Along with China’s Canadian oil pursuits, long thought to be a safe and secure supply for U.S. oil demand, the state-owned China Development Bank has promised to lend $20 billion to Venezuela to build new power plants, highways, and other projects, which will be repaid with Venezuelan crude oil. Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has long complained about the United States’ standing as the largest buyer of Venezuelan oil, and so he is more than pleased to offer his country’s oil to China instead.[vii] Both the Canadian crude and the Venezuelan crude are heavy oils, and the United States owns most of the refineries that can process heavy crude oils. So, to prepare itself for future heavy oil supplies, China has approved plans for construction of such a refinery. As the United States loses neighboring oil supplies to China, one wonders how the U.S. will meet future oil demand, especially as the Obama Administration has been slow to open new offshore areas to oil development (claiming further study is needed) but speedy at advocating climate legislation and a low-carbon fuel standard, both policies aimed at reducing the demand for fossil fuels without providing comparable energy substitutes.

china oil demand

Oil resources are not the only target on China’s energy wish-list. It also plans to increase its consumption of natural gas; last year, its liquefied natural gas imports rose by two-thirds, to 5.53 million tons or 7.7 billion cubic meters.[viii] China also continues to consume large quantities of its primary fuel, coal, in its industrial and electric generation sectors. According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, the country’s coal output grew more than 28 percent, to well over 751 million tons in the first quarter of 2010. A report by China’s National Coal Association estimates China’s total coal production capacity exceeds 3.6 billion tons.[ix] This is in sharp contrast to coal mining in the United States, where the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a new policy aimed at curbing mountain top removal mining[x] and is scrutinizing surface coal mine permits.  EPA is revoking or blocking Clean Water Act permits for mountain top mining citing irreversible damage to the environment. Some of the permits were awarded years ago.[xi]

Seventy percent of China’s energy comes from coal,[xii] the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel. China already consumes more than twice the coal as  the United States, and by 2030, China is expected to consume 3.7 times as much coal.[xiii] As a result, China emits more carbon dioxide than any other country in the world including the United States, and by 2030, it is expected to release 82 percent more carbon dioxide emissions than the United States.[xiv]

china co2 emissions

China’s Race to Electrification; U.S. Stagnation

Between 2004 and 2008, China added 346 gigawatts of generating capacity, of which 272 gigawatts were conventional thermal power (mostly coal) and 66 gigawatts were hydroelectric power. This compares to a total installed US hydroelectric capacity of 77 gigawatts.  China is estimated to have added an additional 85 gigawatts in 2009, reaching a total of 874 gigawatts,[xv] about 15 percent less than the total capacity in the United States. Of the 85 gigawatts added in 2009, 51 gigawatts were conventional thermal, again mostly coal, 25 gigawatts were hydroelectric, and 9 gigawatts were wind power.[xvi] Many of China’s wind turbines were funded by the U.N.’s Clean Development Mechanism,   under which wealthy countries fund projects in developing countries and receive carbon credits so long as those projects would not have been accomplished otherwise.[xvii]

In contrast, the United States added only 47 gigawatts of generating capacity from 2004 to 2008 (14 percent of the capacity China added), of which 26 gigawatts were natural gas-fired units and 18 gigawatts were wind turbines. New coal-fired capacity additions are practically non-existent in the United States primarily owing to objections regarding emissions of carbon dioxide. Coal-fired projects in the United States have either been cancelled or delayed because of permitting problems, reviews and re-reviews by EPA and resulting financing problems. While the United States has more coal than any other country in the world, with over 200 years of reserves at current usage rates, coal’s share of new U.S. generating markets has been replaced by natural gas and renewable units that are  more politically in vogue.

china electricity generating capacity
us electricity generating capacity

China’s Economic Growth and Export Market

China’s economy, the second-largest in the world in terms of purchasing power, is currently about half the size of the U.S. gross domestic product. According to China’s central bank, the country’s economy grew at an annual rate of 10.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009,[xviii] a rate almost twice the U.S. rate of 5.6 percent for the same time period.[xix] And in the first quarter of 2010, China’s economy grew by 11.9 percent. Forecasters predict that China’s economy will exceed that of the United States in 10 to 15 years.[xx]

China became the world’s largest exporter last year, edging out Germany and the United States. Despite a decline in total world trade, China’s exports fell less than those of other big powers. A report by the World Trade Organization calculates that the total value of merchandise exports fell by 23 percent in 2009. Among the top ten exporters, Japan’s shipments were the worst affected, falling by 26 percent. Because China’s exports fell by only 16 percent, it is now the single largest exporter. The World Trade Organization expects trade to rebound by nearly 10 percent this year.[xxi]

leading exporters world

Lessons to Be Learned

Many environmentalists and politicians seem to believe that China is winning the green energy race, but nothing could be further from reality.[xxii] China is in a race for energy—all forms of energy—to fuel its growing economy. The size and scope of its investments in conventional forms of energy dwarf their commitment to “green energy.” It is providing loans around the world to invest in future oil projects, and it cares not that the oil is less than the lightest and sweetest. Canadian oil sands and Venezuelan heavy crude are perfectly fine. China is building a coal-fired generating plant each and every week on average, and increasing its coal mining capacity to fuel them. This belies any stated concerns about increasing their carbon dioxide emissions, already the highest of any country in the world. China is building wind turbines too, but if wealthy countries are willing to pay—why not? It matters not at all that the transmission capacity is not yet there to operate almost a third of these wind turbines. And China’s large-scale hydroelectric projects are engineering feats par excellence, built regardless of environmental concerns.
China is ensuring energy supplies will be available to fuel its growing economy. The United States should take note.

[i] Reuters, China oil demand rise second fastest, inventories drag, March 22, 2010, [ii] Reuters, Oil falls as demand, inventories weigh, April 12, 2010,
[iii] Reuters, China oil demand rise second fastest, inventories drag, March 22, 2010,
[iv] Politico, To compete with China, U.S. must tap natural gas, April 13, 2010,
[v] Reuters, China bags oil sands stake, not finished yet, April 13, 2010, and
[vi] Syncrude,
[vii] The Wall Street Journal, China’s $20 Billion Bolsters Chavez, April 18, 2010,
[viii] Reuters, China bags oil sands stake, not finished yet, April 13, 2010,
[ix] China Daily, China’s coal output up 28.1% in Q1, April 15, 2010,
[x] Environmental protection Agency, New Releases, EPA issues comprehensive guidance to protect Appalachian communities from harmful environmental impacts of mountaintop mining, April 1, 2010,!OpenDocument
[xi] Associated Press, Arch Coal sues EPA over veto of W.Va. mine permit, April 2, 2010,
[xii] Energy Information Administration, China,
[xiii] Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2009,
[xiv] Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2009,
[xvi] China’s power generation goes greener with total capacity up 10%, January 7, 2010,
[xviii] Politico, To compete with China, U.S. must tap natural gas, April 13, 2010,
[xx] Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2009,
[xxi] China overtakes Germany to become the biggest exporter of all, March 31, 2010,

Thursday, October 15, 2009

US Support for the Arms Trade Treaty

Arms Control and International Security: U.S. Support for the Arms Trade Treaty. By Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State
Washington, DC, October 14, 2009

Conventional arms transfers are a crucial national security concern for the United States, and we have always supported effective action to control the international transfer of arms.

The United States is prepared to work hard for a strong international standard in this area by seizing the opportunity presented by the Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations. As long as that Conference operates under the rule of consensus decision-making needed to ensure that all countries can be held to standards that will actually improve the global situation by denying arms to those who would abuse them, the United States will actively support the negotiations. Consensus is needed to ensure the widest possible support for the Treaty and to avoid loopholes in the Treaty that can be exploited by those wishing to export arms irresponsibly.

On a national basis, the United States has in place an extensive and rigorous system of controls that most agree is the “gold standard” of export controls for arms transfers. On a bilateral basis, the United States regularly engages other states to raise their standards and to prohibit the transfer or transshipment of capabilities to rogue states, terrorist groups, and groups seeking to unsettle regions. Multilaterally, we have consistently supported high international standards, and the Arms Trade Treaty initiative presents us with the opportunity to promote the same high standards for the entire international community that the United States and other responsible arms exporters already have in place to ensure that weaponry is transferred for legitimate purposes.

The United States is committed to actively pursuing a strong and robust treaty that contains the highest possible, legally binding standards for the international transfer of conventional weapons. We look forward to this negotiation as the continuation of the process that began in the UN with the 2008 UN Group of Governmental Experts on the ATT and continued with the 2009 UN Open-Ended Working Group on ATT.

PRN: 2009/1022

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Libertarian: protectionist policies hurting low-income Americans

Obama's protectionist policies hurting low-income Americans. By Daniel Griswold
Washington Times, Sep 30, 2009

President Obama and the other Group of 20 leaders delivered their obligatory warning against protectionism at last week's summit in Pittsburgh. But at home the U.S. president continues to conduct his own trade war, not only against imports from China and other developing countries, but against the most vulnerable of American consumers.

America's highest remaining trade barriers are aimed at products mostly grown and made by poor people abroad and disproportionately consumed by poor people at home. While industrial goods and luxury products typically enter under low or zero tariffs, the U.S. government imposes duties of 30 percent or more on food and lower-end clothing and shoes - staple goods that loom large in the budgets of poor families.

To win favor with organized labor and other opponents of trade liberalization, Mr. Obama has either defended or actually raised barriers on precisely those products of most interest to poor households.

The tariff the president imposed on Chinese tires earlier this month was heavily biased against low-income American families. The affected tires typically cost $50 to $60 each, as compared with the unaffected tires that sell for $200 each. The result of the tariff will be an increase in lower-end tire prices of 20 percent to 30 percent. Low-income families struggling to keep their cars on the road will be forced to postpone replacing old and worn tires, putting their families at greater risk.

The "cash for clunkers" program the president championed, while not a trade measure, betrays the same indifference to markets that serve the poor. The program forced the disposal of the 700,000 cars and light trucks that were traded in, reducing supply and raising prices of used vehicles for families that cannot afford to buy new. Because of this president's policies, low-income drivers will find it more difficult to buy a car and to keep it running safely. The president's policy appears to be to let the rich drive their new, subsidized hybrid cars while the poor walk or take a bus.

Mr. Obama also displays no concern for the anti-poor nature of tariffs on food and clothing. As a senator and presidential candidate, he embraced the 2008 farm bill, which subsidizes farmers whose average incomes and wealth are higher than the typical non-farm family. The farm bill imposes anti-competitive tariffs and quotas on imported sugar, milk and cheese - a food tax that falls disproportionately hard on the poor, who spend a larger share of their budgets on food.

This summer, a group of sugar-using industries asked the Obama administration to relax quotas on imported sugar to avoid potential domestic shortages in the face of globally high prices. The administration refused, not only placing jobs at risk in the confectionery and food-processing sectors, but also forcing working families to continue paying higher prices than they should for candy, breakfast cereals, bakery goods and other sugar-containing products.

When he was running for president, Mr. Obama explicitly endorsed higher prices for T-shirts for every American family to save jobs in the small and declining apparel sector. At a debate before union members in Chicago in August 2007, he said, "People don't want a cheaper T-shirt if they're losing a job in the process. They would rather have the job and pay a little bit more for a T-shirt."

The future president ignored the fact that every poor family must buy those shirts to keep themselves clothed, yet only one-third of 1 percent of American workers make clothing or textiles of any kind. A wealthy politician or TV commentator need not care about the price of a T-shirt or other everyday consumer items, but millions of poor and middle-class American families do care.

A few liberal Democrats still care, too. Edward Gresser of the Democratic Leadership Council has done more than anyone to expose the unfair, anti-poor bias of the U.S. tariff code.
In his 2007 book "Freedom From Want: American Liberalism and the Global Economy," he calculated that a single mother earning $15,000 a year as a maid in a hotel will forfeit about a week's worth of her annual pay to the U.S. tariff system, while the hotel's $100,000-a-year manager will give up only two or three hours of pay.

The $25 billion in revenue raised each year from import duties represent by far the most regressive tax the federal government imposes. Yet the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress have refused to move forward with trade agreements that would lower trade taxes that fall most heavily on the poor. By supporting the farm bill, but not new trade agreements, the president has embraced the status quo rather than change.

This is the status quo that so many "progressives" in America, from Public Citizen to the AFL-CIO, are expending millions of dollars to defend. They reflexively oppose any trade agreements that would reduce those regressive tariffs. In contrast to what he says on the public stage, Mr. Obama so far has taken their side in the trade debate at the expense of poor American families struggling to keep their cars on the road, shirts in the closet and food on the table.

Daniel Griswold is director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute and author of a new book, "Mad About Trade: Why Main Street America Should Embrace Globalization" (Washington: Cato Institute, 2009).

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A new database tracks emerging threats to trade

Protectionism Exposed. By CHAD P. BOWN
A new database tracks emerging threats to trade.
WSJ, Aug 06, 2009

In May, the United States slapped new tariffs on steel pipe imports from China. In June, China imposed new barriers on U.S. and European Union exports of adipic acid, an industrial chemical used to make nylon and polyester resin. In July, the EU also decided to restrict imports of steel pipe from China.

The important question now is, do these events foreshadow spiraling protectionism and tit-for-tat retaliation that threaten a global trade war? Or is trade policy always like this, and we’re just noticing more now, given the global slowdown and heightened fears of Smoot-Hawley-style protectionism?

A new set of data on protectionism can help answer that question. The World Bank’s newly updated Global Antidumping Database, which I help organize, displays in almost real time emerging trends in this form of protectionism in more than 20 of the largest economies in the World Trade Organization. Some of the numbers are worrying.

The count of newly imposed protectionist policies like antidumping duties and other “safeguard” measures increased by 31% in the first half of 2009 relative to the same period one year ago, which itself is not an alarming number. But many governments take more than a year to make final decisions on such policies after receiving the initial request for protection from a domestic industry. The fact that industry requests for new import restrictions were 34% higher in 2008 relative to 2007 is a worrying trend even though 2007 saw a historical low in such requests. And with the recession continuing, requests for new import restrictions were 19% higher in the first half of 2009 relative to 2008.

This suggests a wave of new protectionist measures may be on the way. While leaders of the Group of 20 large economies unanimously pledged not to resort to protectionism at a Washington summit last November and reaffirmed this in London in April, virtually all of them have slipped at least a little bit.

Nor is it just the U.S., EU and China: Since the beginning of 2008, Indian companies alone are responsible for roughly 25% of all requests for new trade barriers, attacking a range of imports that include steel, DVDs, yarn, tires and a variety of industrial chemicals. While it is too early to know the final resolution of these new investigations, Indian policy makers have imposed at least preliminary barriers on more than 20 different products being investigated.

The burden of this protectionism is not uniformly distributed among exporting countries. In the first half of this year, China’s exporters were specifically named in more than 75% of these economies’ newly initiated investigations. In the second quarter, China’s exporters were targeted in all 17 of the cases in which new trade barriers were imposed around the world.

Despite all this bad news, there is a silver lining. The fact that countries may be resorting to antidumping actions and safeguards in lieu of other protectionist policies, such as across-the-board tariff increases or a proliferation of “Buy-America”-type provisions in national stimulus packages, is a partial sign of the strength and resilience of the rules-based WTO system. It is important to have a reliable trading system that allows for the transparency necessary to clearly see the new trade barriers, because industry demands for protectionism are somewhat inevitable in a recession.

That’s encouraging because “little” acts of protectionism could add up to a big problem. Having accurate data on the extent of the problem is important, but the only solution is for policy makers to recognize the dangers of the path they’re headed down.

Mr. Bown, an economics professor at Brandeis University and fellow at the Brookings Institution, is author of “Self-Enforcing Trade: Developing Countries and WTO Dispute Settlement” (Brookings Press, 2009).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Germany and the U.K. resist France and the U.S. on green tariffs

Resisting Green Tariffs. WSJ Editorial
Germany and the U.K. resist France and the U.S. on green tariffs.
WSJ, Jul 28, 2009

One of the most dangerous but least reported undercurrents of the global-warming movement is trade protectionism. Now some politicians in Europe are beginning to push back, and we’re delighted to see it.

A carbon tariff has been popular on the intellectual left for some time, as a way to sell heavy new energy taxes to Western voters worried that their jobs will get shipped to countries that don’t also punish carbon use. The U.S. House of Representatives wrote a tariff provision into its recent cap-and-tax bill, rolling over the muted objections of President Obama. Coming from the world’s largest economy and ostensible free-trade leader, the bill is an invitation to the world’s protectionists to camouflage their self-interest in claims of green virtue.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy—a mercantalist in the best of times—escalated the threat last month by suggesting import duties to “level the playing field” with countries that oppose binding greenhouse-gas targets at December’s United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen. Just what a world trying to rebound from recession needs: beggar-thy-neighbor environmentalism.

Now other leaders are beginning to recognize and speak up about the peril. With typical British understatement, U.K. Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband said Saturday his government was “skeptical” about the French proposal for carbon tariffs. Germany’s Deputy Environment Minister Matthias Machnig was even more forthright on Friday, branding the exercise as “eco-imperialism” for attempting to punish countries that don’t follow these green dictates. “We are closing our markets for their products, and I don’t think this is a very helpful signal for the international negotiations,” he added. Both statements are notable coming as they do from parties on the political left.

Berlin’s criticism is especially important. Germany has been at the forefront of Europe’s eco-movement from the start, enriching the French language with such words as “le Waldsterben,” a German compound meaning “forest death.” The idea of the man-made destruction of Europe’s trees was the great green scare of the 1970s and 1980s. The forests are still with us, and scientists now believe that the tree decline was as much due to natural phenomena as to “acid rain.” That episode is a lesson in the need for skepticism about proposals that would do tangible economic harm in the heat of environmental manias.

A climate tariff would be damaging even on its own green terms. To the extent it reduced global trade, carbon protectionism would slow the rise in income that we know from the last half century has been crucial to antipollution progress. The richer people are, the more of their income they are willing to devote to cleaner air and water. Several hundred million people have risen from poverty in the last generation thanks to expanding trade, and the world doesn’t need a reversal thanks to old-fashioned protectionism dressed in green drag.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

DLC: More Growth, Less Gridlock: Toward a New Trade Agenda

More Growth, Less Gridlock: Toward a New Trade Agenda. By Edward Gresser
DLC Policy Report, July 20, 2009

Editor's Note: The full text of this report is available in PDF format.

Executive Summary

Trade policy has made little progress over the last decade. Since 2000, the U.S. has reached no major multilateral trade agreement and has left its own trade regime static. The WTO's Doha Round has been stalled for years, and in the Bush era trade debates devolved into a series of emotional arguments over a free-trade agreement program that touches only a small fraction of America's trade and has had little impact on growth, employment or national security.

President Obama has a chance for a fresh start, and in most ways his global-economy policy has in most ways started out very well. The administration has taken a strong line against the revival of protectionism, which, as history has taught us, would otherwise pose a threat to recovery from the financial crisis. Policymakers have worked with Congress to ease public anxieties through a major expansion of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), and the White House has embraced an ambitious Strategic and Economic Dialogue with China on macroeconomics, climate change and security policy. Focus is now turning toward legislation that would upgrade the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) inspection systems.

Trade liberalization has been slower to show progress. This reflects the fact that the trade agenda Obama inherited contributes much less than trade policy could to his new administration's main economic and foreign policy goals.

Over the next year, the administration needs first to clear the decks, and then shift the trade agenda to one that directly supports its top objectives: recovery from crisis, improved relations with the world generally and Muslim states in particular, and developing new, high-tech sources for America's future growth, innovation and high-wage employment. As the Obama administration works to pull the nation out of its economic crisis, trade policy should accordingly work to spur growth by promoting innovative new industries and clean technologies at home, and by supporting the globe's poorest citizens and reconciliation with the Muslim world.

Today's agenda has three big problems:

Archaic Tariffs: First, the U.S. trade regime contains archaic tariffs that fail to protect jobs, but are very effective at obstructing growth and job creation in poor countries and large majority-Muslim states. In so doing, the incumbent tariff regime conflicts with America's development and security goals. To date, the administration has not proposed any major overhaul.

Stalled Free Trade Agreements: Second, the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) program that has dominated trade debate for the last decade is delivering only modest results for the U.S. and poor results for our partners, while creating intense discord. The FTA program's effectiveness seems to be waning anyway, as companies value the flexibility of global supply chains more than the tariff benefits they receive through compliance with FTA rules of origin.

The Doha Hurdle: Third, the intense focus on agriculture in the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO), though a good idea in its own right, has not led to multilateral trade progress on farm trade reform, but has nevertheless blocked potential progress on larger industrial sectors.

The administration and its chief trade negotiator, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, face a daunting challenge in clearing the decks of the agenda they inherited. Over the next year, Kirk should work to pass the remaining three free trade agreements (with Panama, Korea and Colombia) and then shelve efforts to promote additional FTAs for the time being. Meanwhile negotiators should make a major effort to conclude the Doha Round.

Once the decks are cleared, the administration should center trade policy on a new agenda that does more for American economic and national security. This new agenda would include:

Tariff Reform: Providing broad tariff waivers for the low-income countries and large majority-Muslim states now excluded from the FTA network and other, more ambitious preference programs.

Broad, Sectoral Agreements: Concluding WTO "sectoral" agreements among the world's major economies (though not necessarily all WTO members) covering goods and services in the big new industries likely to be the sources of growth, innovation and job creation for the United States in the next decade, including information and media industries, health technology and services, clean energy and environmental technologies.

Regional Initiatives: Promoting regional initiatives with Europe and Asia, which should be focused not on existing disputes or regulatory issues, but on issues likely to emerge in the next decade: the treatment of nanotechnology, biotechnology, privacy and other technologically driven issues. Additionally, or alternatively, the Obama administration should work to rationalize the existing fragmented FTA networks in Latin America and the Pacific.

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Ed Gresser is a Senior Fellow and Director of the DLC's Global Economy Project.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

China's War for Ore - Business is being reshaped around the world

China's War for Ore. By HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR.
Business is being reshaped around the world.
WSJ, Jul 15, 2009

China was miffed by the outcome of what we last year called the corporate "deal of the century." But shareholder interests prevailed. How often will that be said in the future?

Politics, that ugly dynamic when mixed with business, was already back in play last week as Rio Tinto, an Australian mining giant at the heart of the controversy, saw four of its Chinese executives arrested in Shanghai on spying charges.

China says the busts are not retribution for the cancelled deal between Rio and a state-owned company, which received angry press in China. Instead, the arrests supposedly arise from skullduggery by Rio officials during fraught annual ore-price negotiations with mainland steelmakers. But the distinction may be irrelevant. Ore has become a major neuralgic concern for China. It sees its dependence on imported supply as strategically risky. It fears that its massive attempts to "stimulate" domestic job growth are being drained off as fatter profits for Australian mining companies.

When the intrigue is unraveled, moreover, don't be surprised if the arrests are partly aimed at corralling the mainland's own restive steelmakers, many of whom have not cooperated in Beijing's ore strategy but have been striking their own spot market deals at higher prices.

But let's step back. Rio has been wrongfooted over and over lately amid the zigzagging of the world's monetary conditions, whose chaos is now disastrously reshaping business-government relations globally (think the Obama administration's ownership of most of the Detroit auto industry).

When China was booming, Rio played coy in the face of a merger bid from fellow miner BHP Billiton 18 months ago, acknowledging the "industrial logic" of the deal but insisting the offering price was "several ballparks" short of fair value.

Oops. With the collapse of Lehman and the global meltdown, ore prices plummeted and BHP withdrew its bid. Suddenly, Rio needed its own debt bailout and turned to a company on the cash-rich mainland, state-owned Chinalco. Beijing was doubly pleased by the $19.5 billion Chinalco deal. Not only was China getting ownership of Australian ore assets at a bargain price, but the deal also killed off any chance of a BHP merger, seen on the mainland as an Aussie plot to gouge China.

Oops. The Chinalco proposal ran into a buzzsaw of nationalist opposition in Australia. And while a government review board dragged its feet, the delay allowed Ben Bernanke to rev up the monetary engine and China to launch its own massive stimulus. Ore prices recovered. A BHP joint venture was back on the table. In a jilting worthy of a Judy Blume novel, Rio last month dumped its Chinese savior and leapt into bed with its erstwhile Australian suitor.

Now the Chinese naturally see dirty politics at work, but the deal was actually scuttled by Rio's shareholders, who rightly saw more upside in BHP's offer. Yet it's also true the Chinalco bid would likely eventually have been torpedoed by the Australian government. Polls were running strongly against selling the country's mineral patrimony to a company ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. Australia Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who prides himself on being an old China hand, must have been overjoyed when this icky chalice was taken from his lips by Rio's shareholders

Yet the politics have only turned ickier since the Rio arrests. And Beijing has other cards up its sleeve. It can take its opposition to the BHP-Rio deal to Europe's trustbusters, who voiced qualms about their earlier proposed tie-up. China also can make use of its own new anti-monopoly law, which has already been used to punish the U.S. for blocking an oil deal. Earlier this year, Chinese regulators nixed Coca-Cola's purchase of a local juicemaker on "competition" grounds that antitrust lawyers considered ludicrous.

More disturbing, China has upped its ore purchases in recent weeks even as mainland growth seems to be slowing, suggesting an effort to lay in a stockpile for a longer showdown against Rio-BHP.

If the Rio arrests mark the beginning of a Chinese war to remake the global ore market more to China's liking, Beijing might want to think again. Its clumsy attempt to make computer makers instruments of Internet censorship was not exactly confidence-inspiring. Ensuring nobody wants to do a business deal with China for fear of being charged with a death penalty crime hardly improves the case. Then there's the epic civil disorder in Xinjiang.

The final casualty may be China's overblown reputation for macroeconomic competence, on which so many hopes for global recovery depend. There are already signs its stimulus efforts are running off the rails. The world might appreciate a signal right now that China's government actually knows what it's doing.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Developing Countries Need Trade

Developing Countries Need Trade. By Pascal Lamy
WSJ, Jul 06, 2009

"History tells us that no poor country has ever become wealthy without trade. Moreover, many developing country success stories -- Singapore, South Korea, Chile, China and Malaysia, to name only a few -- have, in recent decades, seen their national incomes grow by a percentage point or more per year as a result of open trade policies than would have been the case had they remained closed. The extra funds generated during this period have enabled them to respond to the crisis with stimulus packages that have prevented the crisis from turning into a protracted recession with its inevitable human costs."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Federal President's attitude on free trade with Latin America

A Welcome Shift. By Jaime Daremblum
Obama appears to be moving in the right direction on free trade with Latin America.
The Weekly Standard, May 07, 2009 12:00:00 AM

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

WSJ Editorial Page: Diplomacy with Iran has no chance without tougher energy sanctions

Pain Iran Can Believe In. WSJ Editorial
Diplomacy has no chance without tougher energy sanctions.
WSJ, Mar 25, 2009

As a general rule, economic sanctions are a poor foreign policy instrument: hard to enforce (think Burma), prone to corruption (think Oil for Food), rarely effective (think Cuba). But in the case of Iran, let's make an exception.

We say this after five years of futile diplomatic efforts -- spearheaded by the Europeans and backed by the Bush Administration -- to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear programs and comply with binding U.N. Security Council resolutions. Now the only thing standing between the mullahs and a bomb is either punitive sanctions or a military strike, probably Israeli, which could engulf the Middle East in a regional war. Which option do you prefer?

So here's a fact: Despite being a leading oil exporter, Iran imports roughly 40% of its gasoline because it lacks adequate domestic refining capacity. Any cut-off in supply would do immediate damage to the fragile Iranian economy and could bring about social unrest, as happened in 2007 after the regime imposed gasoline rations. Here's another fact: Iran is supplied with gasoline by a mere handful of foreign companies, all of which do substantial business in the United States.

Final fact: There is a growing bipartisan consensus in favor of gasoline sanctions. As candidate Barack Obama put it in the second Presidential debate last October, "If we can prevent [Iran] from importing the gasoline they need and the refined petroleum products, that starts changing their cost-benefit analysis [about the advantages of a nuclear arsenal], that starts putting the squeeze on them."

Well, amen to that. So it's too bad that as President, Mr. Obama is now putting tougher sanctions off indefinitely in favor of pushing the rock of diplomacy up the mountain once again. He's likely to be strung along like George W. Bush and the Europeans were, allowing the mullahs to get closer to a bomb. Diplomacy will have no chance without the threat of sticks, so Congress could help by passing two significant pieces of legislation affecting Iran's energy supply.

One of them, an amendment to the Senate omnibus appropriations bill from Arizona Republican Jon Kyl, would forbid federal funds from going to companies involved in Iran's energy industry. On the House side, Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Rob Andrews sponsored complementary legislation in 2007 that would have expanded the Iran Sanctions Act to companies selling refined petroleum to Iran. The value of this latter legislation is partly symbolic, since no company has ever actually been sanctioned under the Iran Sanctions Act. But symbolism can also have its practical uses: The mere existence of the act has helped persuade a number of energy multinationals, such as France's Total, to stop investing in Iran.

As for the Kyl Amendment, it takes aim at companies like the Swiss-Dutch oil trading firm Vitol, currently Iran's largest supplier, which has a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy to help fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Vitol, which in 2007 pleaded guilty to grand larceny charges in New York state court for its role in Oil for Food, is also building a $100 million fuel-storage facility in Florida. Just by the way.

The good news is that Iran's suppliers are starting to get the message. Until recently, Indian giant Reliance Industries provided Iran with as much as 25% of its gasoline imports, even as it was building a giant refinery in India with over $500 million in loan guarantees from the U.S. Export-Import Bank. In December the guarantees came to the attention of Mr. Kirk and Democrats Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, who wrote a letter of protest to Ex-Im Bank President James Lambright. The letter later leaked to the Indian press, and, last month, Reliance did not supply Iran, according to the International Oil Daily.

Reliance's departure will likely not affect Iran's gasoline imports, since other suppliers can pick up the slack. But the number of firms willing to incur legal or reputational risks to supply Iran is limited, especially given the relatively small size of its domestic market. Would-be suppliers could also work through proxies, but again this raises costs and risks both for them and Iran, where the economy is already under severe strain from the collapse of oil prices and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's inflationary economic policies.

Critics of gasoline sanctions argue that they amount to a game of whack-a-mole, and to some extent that's true. But the goal of the sanctions isn't to create an airtight regime so much as to sharply raise the costs to Iran for pursuing its nuclear programs. "This is no silver bullet but it may be silver shrapnel," says Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that has brought the idea of gasoline sanctions to political attention.

With Iran now fast approaching the nuclear threshold, an Administration that doesn't want bullets to fly needs more than diplomacy. The only way Iran's regime is going to stop its nuclear program is if it feels some pain it can believe in.