In criticizing the ‘free trade delusion’, UNCTAD’s 2018 Trade and Development Report
proposes an alternative to both reactionary nationalism, recently revived by President Trump, and the corporate cosmopolitanism of neoliberal multilateral discourse in recent decades by revisiting the Havana Charter
on its 70th anniversary.
On 24 October 1945, the world’s most inclusive multilateral institution, the United Nations, was born to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, ... reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, … establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” (UN Charter: Preamble).
Economic inequality – involving both income and wealth concentration – has risen in nearly all world regions since the 1980s. Gross economic inequalities moderated for much of the 20th century, especially after World War Two until the 1970s, but has now reached levels never before seen in human history.
Of the ten fastest growing economies since 1960, eight are in East Asia. Two main competing explanations claimed to explain this regional concentration of catch up growth since the late 20th century, often referred to as the East Asian miracle.
Although initially obscured by The Economist, among others, the sudden and unprecedented increase in Russian adult male mortality during 1992-1994 is no longer denied. Instead, the debate is now over why?
Having advocated ‘shock therapy’, a ‘big bang’, ‘sudden’ or rapid post-Soviet transition, Jeffrey Sachs and others have claimed that the sudden collapse in Russian adult male life expectancy was due to a sudden increase in alcohol consumption, playing into popular foreign images of vodka-binging Russian men.
A new United Nations report warns that the potential benefits to developing countries of digital technologies are likely to be lost to a small number of successful first movers who have established digital monopolies.
Infrastructure investment is necessary, but hardly sufficient to enable developing countries to transform their economies to achieve sustainable prosperity, according to this year’s UNCTAD Trade and Development Report: Power, Platforms and the Free Trade Delusion
(TDR 2018), released in late September.
The world economy remains tepid and unstable a decade after the 2008 financial crisis, while growing trade conflicts are symptoms of deeper economic malaise, according to a new United Nations publication.
Trade liberalization, a key dimension of recent globalization, has failed to promote broad structural transformation in developing countries and has instead contributed to increased worldwide inequality, a new United Nations report shows.
George Soros, Bill Gates and other pundits have been predicting another financial crisis. In their recent book, Revolution Required: The Ticking Bombs of the G7 Model
, Peter Dittus and Herve Hamoun, former senior officials of the Bank of International Settlements, warned of ‘ticking time bombs’ in the global financial system waiting to explode, mainly due to the policies of major developed countries.
In 2009, the world economy contracted by -2.2%. Growth in all developing countries declined from around 8% in 2007 to 2.6% in 2009 as the developed world contracted by -3.8% in 2009. The collapse of the Lehmann Brothers investment bank in September 2008 symbolized the US financial crisis that triggered the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
Several arguments have been advanced to justify privatization since the 1980s. Privatization has been advocated as an easy means to:
1. Reduce the government’s financial and administrative burden, particularly by undertaking and maintaining services and infrastructure;
2. Promote competition, improve efficiency and increase productivity in providing public services;
3. Stimulate private entrepreneurship and investment to accelerate economic growth;
4. Help reduce the public sector’s presence and size, with its monopolistic tendencies and bureaucratic support.
Protracted economic stagnation in rich countries continues to threaten the development prospects of poorer countries. Globalization and economic liberalization over the last few decades have integrated developing countries into the world economy, but now that very integration is becoming a threat as developing countries are shackled by the knock-on effects of the rich world’s troubles.
Historically, the private sector has been unable or unwilling to affordably provide needed services. Hence, meeting such needs could not be left to the market or private interests. Thus, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) emerged, often under colonial rule, due to such ‘market failure’ as the private sector could not meet the needs of colonial capitalist expansion.
Ten years ago, deteriorating confidence in the value of US sub-prime mortgages threatened a liquidity crisis. The US Federal Reserve injected considerable capital into the market, but could not prevent the 2008-2009 global financial crisis (GFC).
The 2008 meltdown exposed the extent of finance-led international economic integration, with countries more vulnerable to financial contagion and related policy ‘spillovers’ exacerbating real economic volatility. It also revealed some vulnerabilities of the post-Second World War (WW2) US-centred international financial ‘architecture’ – the Bretton Woods system – modified after its breakdown in the early 1970s.
Economic divergence among countries and regions was never pre-ordained. According to the late cliometrician Angus Madison and other economic historians, the great divergence between the global North and South, between developed and developing countries, began around five centuries ago, from the beginning of the European, particularly Iberian colonial conquests.
The United States has had the world’s largest trade deficit for almost half a century. In 2017, the US trade deficit in goods and services was $566 billion; without services, the merchandise account deficit was $810 billion.
Agriculture is critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO
) notes, ‘From ending poverty and hunger to responding to climate change and sustaining our natural resources, food and agriculture lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.’
After largely failing to provide 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income (GNI) in aid to developing countries for almost half a century since making the commitment, donor countries have recently promoted blended finance (BF) as a solution to the financing for development challenge. Blending refers to combining public development funds (in the form of grants, technical assistance or interest indemnification) with loans from private lenders.
At Davos in January, US President Donald Trump warned that the US “will no longer turn a blind eye to unfair economic practices” of others, interpreted by many as declaring world trade war. Before the US mid-term elections in November, Washington is expected to focus on others’ alleged “massive intellectual property theft, industrial subsidies and pervasive state-led economic planning” pointing to China without always naming names. With the Republican Party already united behind his tax bill, Trump senses an opportunity to finally unite the party behind him and to continue his campaign for re-election in 2020.
US President Donald Trump’s recent announcement of steep tariffs on steel and aluminium imports seems to have shocked US allies, even though these were among his 2016 election promises. The European Union (EU), Australia and Canada reacted sharply, in contrast to the more restrained response from China, the main target of earlier actions.