In his inaugural speech as the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo communicated a vision of prosperity for his country based on a tradition of maritime trade. Indonesia, he said, is to become a sea-going trading power once again. With a new Ministry of Maritime Affairs and a US $6 billion investment in maritime infrastructure, he’s putting his proverbial money where his mouth is. While this seems like an obvious path for archipelagic Indonesia to take, there are very important reasons why this signals a profound shift in the strategic thinking of the country from an internal threat perception to an external one. Although some analysts believe Jokowi’s pronouncement is code for abandonment of Indonesia’s non-alignment policy, it is likely his words had nothing to do with external actors and everything to do with growing confidence in Indonesia’s democracy to effectively address its historically troubled internal security.
SEOUL – North Korea’s system is failing. The country is facing severe energy constraints, and its economy has been stagnating since 1990, with annual per capita income, estimated at $1,800, amounting to slightly more than 5% of South Korea’s. Meanwhile, a food shortage has left 24 million North Koreans suffering from starvation, and more than 25 of every 1,000 infants die each year, compared to four in South Korea. In order to survive, the world’s most centralized and closed economy will have to open up.
A more dynamic and prosperous North Korea – together with peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula – would serve the interests not only of North Korea itself, but also of neighboring countries and the broader international community. After all, North Korea’s sudden collapse or a military conflict on the peninsula would undermine regional security, while burdening neighboring countries with millions of refugees and hundreds of billions of dollars in reconstruction costs.
The launching of the EU-US trade and investment agreement negotiations could be the best news coming out of the West for a very long time. If there is something for which the EU leaders will wait anxiously in President Obama‘s State of the Union address in early February, it is a green light for the process to begin. Given the depth of the eurozone crisis, the widespread understanding has been that it is the US who will be giving Europe a much-needed boost of confidence and morale. In reality, however, President Obama has higher political and economic stakes in getting the round started. It is not without a reason that his economic policy advisor speaks of sealing the deal on „one tank of gas“.
An important reason is that the US trade policy is in tatters and urgently needs to be revived in the current presidential term. The domestic political consensus has moved anti-trade almost to the point of no-return. The Democrats are ready to crucify anybody who says trade is good for the country. The Republicans are more open but in their perception there are free riders such as China who are abusing the system and need to be punished. Hence the threat of naming China a currency manipulator which was key part of Mitt Romney’s armoury in the presidentials.
Deep down Luzius Wasescha is a multilateralist. Until July 2012, Wasescha led the Swiss delegation to the WTO in Geneva, where he was widely respected for his negotiation skills. Ultimately, he is probably not happy about the Doha Round being deadlocked and would prefer a multilateral trade agreement to the proliferation of bilateral accords that have been concluded recently.
Yet, in part, Wasescha is also responsible for the stalemate at the WTO – in his capacity as Switzerland’s representative. As the former speaker of the G10, a group of agriculturally protectionist countries, he fought against a substantive reduction in tariffs on agricultural imports. Those tariffs are part of the conflict at the WTO between developed and developing countries that is holding up the Doha Round.
These are the kind of questions Global Trade Alert addresses. The project was launched today by a network of economic research organizations, coordinated by Simon J Evenett, Professor at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, and Programme Co-Director at the Centre for Economic Policy Research.
“Global Trade Alert provides real-time information on state measures taken during the current global downturn that are likely to affect foreign commerce. It goes beyond other monitoring initiatives by identifying the trading partners likely to be harmed by these measures.”
Do you know of any policy measure affecting international trade? You can report it on Global Trade Alert.