Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Corn Politics

. Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Tens of thousands of people have marched through Mexico City in a protest against the rising price of tortillas."

Maybe it is not ethanol, after all, but the Mexican corn monopoly.

Meanwhile, this ethanol windfall might relax the political constraints on reducing agricultural subsidies and make it possible to conclude the Doha Round.

Former USTR on the Doha Round


Charlene Barshefsky, who served as the USTR under the Clinton administration, discusses the prospects for the Doha Round and offers a few criticisms of the WTO process.

The most interesting bit: "If I might quote former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, who now heads the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, what the world ought to do is “save the WTO from Doha” and rounds like it. The biggest risk, in my view, to the WTO is actually not in a failure of Doha. It is in the irrelevance of the WTO as globalization proceeds at breakneck speed, followed only slowly by the WTO. It’s not leading. It does, as I said, provide the baseline, but not the genuine impetus toward globalization. The longer the time-spread between global developments and WTO agreements, the less relevant the WTO will become."

As a corrective, she proposes shifting away from discrete bargaining rounds to a continuous bargaining process in which governments negotiate single sector (single dimension bargaining in the language we used in class). It is not obvious to me how shifting from integrative bargaining to distributive bargaining is more likely to yield results.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Evolution of Global Income Inequality

. Tuesday, January 30, 2007

This is one of the coolest things I have seen in a while. If you prefer, you can watch Professor Rosling lecturing on the same.

Monday, January 29, 2007

"Too Many Concessions"...and Now New Issues Too

. Monday, January 29, 2007

The Financial Times reports that "Peter Mandelson, the EU trade commissioner, was rebuked on Monday by a majority of the bloc’s agriculture ministers for offering big farm tariff cuts as part of renewed push to conclude global trade talks. Mr Mandelson, anxious to kick-start the Doha round of negotiations before US president George W. Bush loses his power to make deals in July, said the EU could offer cuts close to the 54 per cent demanded by developing countries if the US slashed its agricultural subsidies. However, a majority of the EU’s 27 farm ministers in Brussels said Mr Mandelson had offered too many concessions." The French seem particularly unhappy.

Meanwhile, Bush is supposed to make an economic policy speech tomorrow asking Congress to renew Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). "The Democrats appear poised to condition renewal of TPA (or Fast Track) on labor and environmental standards. "Language on such standards as the right to associate and to bargain collectively, prohibitions on child labor and forced labor, and employment nondiscrimination, they say, is likely to be included in any legislation to renew Trade Promotion Authority (TPA)." It seems unlikely that such linkage could be incorporated in Doha.

The Politics of Ethanol (and corn)


Current discussion of ethanol and alternative fuels (invigorated by last week's SOTU) has had me wondering how the push for alternative fuel would fit into existing WTO rules and regulations. Is corn grown for ethanol production an agricultural subsidy? Is a tariff on ethanol a tariff on corn, too? Here are some initial and somewhat rambling thoughts.

1. The U.S. does not grow enough corn to produce the amount of ethanol the Bush proposal requires.
2. Perhaps production subsidies would encourage more corn production? Or high tariffs on imported ethanol would raise the price of ethanol and induce more corn production?
3. If the corn is then used to produce fuel for cars (rather than for humans), is the subsidy technically an agricultural subsidy?
4. Brazil seems eager for the WTO to begin thinking about this issue. No surprise, as Brazil produces ethanol with sugar cane more cheaply than the US can from corn.

More broadly, one might usefully wonder whether current ethanol enthusiasm is driven by broad concerns about energy independence, or whether instead it reflects politics--how can politicians maintain the support of the corn belt as they reduce agricultural subsidies? Mandating ethanol raises the demand for corn, greater demand raises corn prices (and thus farm incomes). Of course, we all pay more for our food. And Americans are not the only ones affected--the great tortilla crisis

Many argue that a tax on gasoline is a more direct approach to the energy dependence/climate change question. But it is much harder to sell politically...

The Doha Round Resumes


Governments agreed to resume trade negotiations. The approach strives to work out specific details on agriculture, NAMA, and services over the next couple of months and then try to pull together a full agreement by April or so.

If you wish to listen to the World Economic Forum WTO panel (see previous post), a podcast is available. They also promise a video, but that would be too much to hope for.

Friday, January 26, 2007

WEF Webcast on the Doha Round

. Friday, January 26, 2007

The WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy will take part in a live webcast entitled "Frozen Trade Talks and the Need for Progress" at the World Economic Forum on 27 January 2007 at 16.45 Central European Time. Which I believe is 10:45 Eastern Standard Time.

Many of the big players will participate:

  • Akira Amari, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan
  • Celso Amorim, Minister of Foreign Relations of Brazil
  • Pascal Lamy, Director-General, World Trade Organization (WTO), Geneva
  • Doris Leuthard, Federal Councillor of Economic Affairs of the Swiss Confederation
  • Peter Mandelson, Commissioner, Trade, European Commission, Brussels
  • Kamal Nath, Minister of Commerce and Industry of India
  • Susan Schwab, US Trade Representative

Thursday, January 25, 2007

World Economic Forum Commences

. Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Times has an interesting article on the invitees to this year's WEF--who's hot (Bono) and who's not (Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt) in the global money-power scene. As Klaus Schwab (the man who started and continues to run the WEF) notes, “We noticed there was undue publicity given to the attendance of those celebrities at the last meeting,” “We have to be careful that we are not hijacked by the celebrity world.”

On a more serious note, if you want to follow the WEF in detail, check out the Davos Conversation for more detail than you can possibly digest.

Tar Heels in the NY Times


In case you missed it...Maybe once they will highlight our academic strengths?

My favorite part...

Eight miles to the northeast, on the manicured campus of Duke University, an incongruous tent city called Krzyzewskiville was functioning one day early this month as impromptu housing for aspirants waiting in line for the limited number of free student tickets, which aren’t given out until game days...This line, for the game with North Carolina scheduled for Feb. 7, had formed on Jan. 2. Wearing a blue Duke ski cap and wrapped in a blanket, Ms. Stansbury sat in a lawn chair at the front of the line. She planned to switch off with friends and go to class and to Duke’s other home basketball games — the Duke student government has an elaborate list of rules for holding a place in line — but she expected to ride it out. “It’s part of the Duke experience,” she said cheerfully. I bet it's not her$46,000. Go Duke.

And the challenge:
“There’s more energy here than anywhere in the country,” Scott Eren, a sophomore political science major from Durham, said through deep-blue lips. In addition to blue face paint, he wore devil’s horns.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bibliography Software

. Tuesday, January 23, 2007

To follow up on our discussion this morning about bibliographic software.

UNC Library supports and has courses for Endnote. They assert that Endnote is available via Oasis on the citrix server, but I could not log in to check this (This is my problem, not a tech problem: I have not used my asnt1 domain user name and password for years--and apparently the onyen isn't).

UNC Library supports an alternative program called Refworks. This program resides on a server somewhere, but is offered at zero cost to UNC students, faculty, and staff. The library also appears to offer some training (next session is February 12), and the online help seems useful.

JabRef is one other free alternative. I have never used it and thus can neither recommend nor discourage you from doing so. Thanks Justin for bringing this option to my attention.

I strongly encourage you to adopt some bibliographic software--especially if you are thinking about writing an honors' thesis.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Trade and Jobs

. Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Economist (might be gated) has a nice discussion of trade's impact on workers in the US and EU. They highlight an important difference in how trade shapes employment in the two economies: "In America, where labour markets are flexible, the impact (of trade) is felt on wages more than employment. In Europe fewer trade-displaced workers find new jobs quickly, but those who do take less of a pay cut. One study suggests that, during the 1980s-90s, 65% of manufacturing workers in America who lost their jobs to freer trade were employed two years later, but most took a pay cut. A quarter suffered pay losses of more than 30%. In Europe during the 1990s, in contrast, less than 60% of workers in the same situation had found a new job, but only 7% saw their pay fall more than 30%."

Any one who took POLI 401 last fall care to explain why?

It's Not Just the Advanced Industrialized Countries


While it is common to characterize world trade in agriculture as agricultural protectionists in the North hurting farmers in the South, the situation is more complex. Many farmers in the South also want to retain protection. The Economist (this may require a subscription) highlights the plight of Indian cotton farmers; South Korean rice farmers stymie current US-South Korean free trade area negotiations.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Global Position Taking

. Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Negotiations are set to resume in ten days on the sidelines of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The US and EU are "committed" to concluding the round; private sector groups are pressuring governments to reach agreement.

But the question of who will make the concessions necessary to conclude the round remains open. Lamy is warning African governments to not push too hard; the French remain reluctant to compromise on agriculture, much to the displeasure of their EU partners.

The WTO versus Regionalism?


"The world faces the prospect of 400 preferential trade agreements by 2010 and the challenge of ensuring they contribute to the health of world trade, [WTO] Director-General Pascal Lamy told the Confederation of Indian Industries in Bangalore on 17 January 2007."

Lamy's speech points to the broader consequences for the international trade system if governments are unable to conclude successfully the Doha Round.

Summer Research Institute at Maryland


The University of Maryland has a "wonderful summer research opportunity for undergraduate students at the University of Maryland - College Park (see attached announcement). This program is geared at rising juniors and seniors who are interested in pursuing graduate studies in political science. All students are eligible; however, we highly encourage those from underrepresented populations (i.e. African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders) to apply."

"[They] expect 10-12 scholars to participate in the upcoming eight-week experience (from June 3 - July 28, 2007). Events and activities will include lab and research experiences, didactic science lectures, professional development, mentoring, and networking. Accepted students will be provided round-trip airfare, meals, room and board and a $2,700 stipend. The application deadline is February 9, 2007."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The 150th Member

. Thursday, January 11, 2007

Vietnam became the 150th member of the WTO today.

The End Game?


Rumblings suggest a resurrection of WTO negotiations.

  • The U.S. and EU assert optimism about resumption.
  • The Japanese are committed to "fresh impetus"
  • ASEAN (now meeting in the Philippines) will push for resumption.
  • African governments seem to be moving in the same direction.
But then, some remain reluctant...

International Political Economy at the University of North Carolina: January 2007




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