Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Trade in the backyard

The Russian Federation has traditionally been Ukraine's largest trading partner. The free market has been emerging but with it a drastic fall in the GDP in the first 10 years of its independence from the Soviet Union, then experienced rapid growth from 2000 until 2008. However Ukraine was greatly affected by the economic crisis of 2008 and as a result a 15.1% decrease in Ukraine's GDP took place over 2008 and 2009.

Ukraine is relatively rich in natural resources, particularly in mineral deposits. Although oil and natural gas reserves in the country are largely exhausted, it has other important energy sources, such as coal, hydroelectricity and nuclear fuel raw materials.

According to the Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013 "the country’s most important challenge is the needed overhaul of its institutional framework, which cannot be relied on because it suffers from red tape, lack of transparency, and favoritism"

Although the majority of trade come from Russia, they are not keen to allow the Ukraine to slip too far towards european free trade. Russia has deep cultural and political ties with the Ukraine, and to allow unfettered free trade will Europe will see a drift into the West’s sphere of influence.

Russia joined the World Trade Organisation in 2012, but it is less interested in strengthening the multilateral trading system than in building its own regional trade block. Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a foreign-policy journal, notes that with America trying to conclude sweeping trade agreements with its neighbours in the Pacific Rim and with Europe, “the whole structure of world trade is changing towards a more fragmented system. That’s why Russia is trying to build something of its own.”

What Russia is truing to do, either through force or might is set up its own regional trade agreements (RTA). One of the more recent ones being gas with China. Arvind Subramanian of the Peterson Institute for International Economics calls the rise of ever larger RTAs an “existential threat” and gives warning that “multilateral trade as we have known it will progressively become history.”

The debate about whether RTAs help or hurt the multilateral trading system has gone on for decades. Supporters argued that wherever two countries entered into an RTA, they would create incentives for others to join or to negotiate their own RTA. Trade barriers around the world would fall, one by one, and political support for multilateral deals would increase. Detractors claimed that once inside an RTA, countries would discriminate against outsiders and lose interest in multilateral liberalisation, undermining the authority of the WTO. They would divert as much trade as they created and introduce big distortions.

With the balance of trade comes the balance of political power. Brazil, Russia, India and China (the BRICs) see themselves as countries still poor enough to need protection for their industries while the rich ones lower their own barriers, especially to agriculture. But the rich world increasingly views the BRICs as full-fledged economic competitors whose state capitalism is incompatible with a free and open global economy.

“For too long, much of the economic force and sacrifice in Geneva to produce global trade agreements has come at the expense of the US and EU,” says Ron Kirk, who was Mr Obama’s first trade negotiator. “We have been lectured over and over by our colleagues from the emerging markets that they have the economic heft and prestige to demand a seat at the table. And we agree.” But that, he says, means they too need to make sacrifices by opening up further to America and Europe.

Emerging markets often want protection not just from rich countries but from each other, particularly from China. The battle for the South China sea at the moment is a shining example of this. Roberto Giannetti da Fonseca, an official with FIESP, Brazil’s largest industrial association, ran a trading company in the 1980s that sold Brazilian manufactured products to China. He struggled to find anything worth buying from China, often settling for arts and crafts. “I could not imagine that 20 years later they’d be invading Brazil with hundreds of products and we’d be crying that we cannot compete.” His organisation is a vocal critic of China’s mercantilist practices and has urged the Brazilian government to negotiate free-trade agreements with North America and Europe.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a proposed expansion of the 2005 Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPSEP or P4), a trade agreement among Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore. It seeks to manage trade, promote growth, and regionally integrate the economies of the Asia-Pacific region.The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a trade agreement that is presently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. According to the ECU it aims at removing trade barriers in a wide range of economic sectors to make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the EU and the US.

Trade liberalisation is now proceeding along two different tracks. One, preferred by America, goes “behind the border”, focusing on things such as harmonising safety, health and technical standards, currencies, national treatment of foreign investors, the protection of intellectual property, services such as telecommunications, and enforcement of labour and environmental protection. The other, preferred by China, concentrates on reducing tariffs—outside sensitive sectors.

In practice, this means America is most likely to strike deals with countries at a similar stage of economic development, such as the European Union and Japan, or with developing countries willing to meet rich-world standards in exchange for market access, such as Mexico and Chile. America’s comprehensive free-trade deal with South Korea is the model for the TPP.

China, by contrast, has pursued a variety of bilateral deals with its neighbours, mostly in the hope of persuading them “that it sought a peaceful rise as an emerging superpower”, says Chin Leng Lim, a trade-law expert at Hong Kong University. China’s free-trade agreements are numerous but shallow, often leaving out sensitive sectors and subjects. Its agreement with the Association of South-East Asian Nations, for example, allows signatories to classify 400-500 tariff categories as sensitive and thus eligible for slower tariff reduction.

Regional trade liberalisation is better than no liberalisation at all, yet it interferes with globalisation in several damaging ways. By excluding sensitive sectors or imposing onerous rules of origin, it complicates life for multinational companies whose supply chains cross multiple borders.

FTAs by status: Total Asia (cumulative), selected years ( 

Trade pacts are frequently politically contentious since they may change economic customs and deepen interdependence with trade partners. Increasing efficiency through "free trade" is a common goal. For the most part, governments are supportive of further trade agreements.

There have been however some concerns expressed by the WTO. According to Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the WTO, the proliferation of RTA “ breeding concern — concern about incoherence, confusion, exponential increase of costs for business, unpredictability and even unfairness in trade relations.” The position of the WTO is that while the typical trade agreements are useful to a degree, it is much more beneficial to focus on global agreements in the WTO framework such as the negotiations of the current Doha round.

The anti-globalization movement opposes such agreements almost by definition, but some groups normally allied within that movement, e.g. green parties, seek fair trade or safe trade provisions that moderate what they perceive to be the ill effects of globalization.

The Uruguay round in the 1990s is thought to have produced a gain of 0.5-1.3%. Even the TPP will boost participants’ output by only 0.5%, much the same as Doha would, reckons one study by Peter Petri of Brandeis University and Michael Plummer of Johns Hopkins.

In theory, a successful TPP or TTIP could become a magnet for other countries, eventually achieving multilateral trade liberalisation by default. In practice that seems unlikely. China’s and Russia’s interventionism and attachment to state capitalism are difficult to reconcile with the “behind-the-border” liberalisation America and Europe are seeking. And having had no say in designing the pacts, China and Russia may be reluctant to join later.

The decline of multilateralism may not make much difference to big countries able to negotiate regional agreements on their own terms. Small countries without such leverage may be harder hit. But the marginalisation of the WTO as a deterrent to protectionism would hurt everyone. And increasingly such protectionism is taking on new forms that are hard to deal with.

TPP Counties Status and Date

For extended analysis head to

Mine planning and mine analysis tips please head to

For discounted gopro, tips on how to get the cheapest, product comparisons, and travel accessories head to 

Computer repairs, computer upgrades and Web design in Perth head to