Stories written by Supachai Panitchpakdi
Supachai Panitchpakdi, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) .

GLOBAL CRISIS: WOMEN WORKERS WILL BE HIT HARDEST

As the global economic crisis continues to unfold, it is having severe effects on international trade. UNCTAD estimates that merchandise exports from developing countries could decline by 15.5% this year. At the regional level, we expect export growth to shrink by 16.8% in Asia, 12.5% in Africa, and 10% in Latin America.

THE EMERGENCE OF THE SOUTH

A fundamental transformation has taken place in the structure of the world economy. The dominant feature of this transformation is the emergence of the South. Indeed, the global expansion of the past five years has been more broad-based than even before. This has allowed many developing countries to become major players in trade and investment, wrires Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and ex Director-General of the World Trade Organization. Between 1990 and 2006, the real exports of developing countries nearly tripled, while those of developed countries grew by only 75%. Similarly, the share of developing countries in world exports rose from 24% to 37%. During the same period, our data show that the developing countries\' share of all inward foreign direct investment (FDI) doubled, from 18% to 36%; and perhaps more surprising, their share of outward investment tripled, from 5% to 15%. The geographical distribution of skills is also shifting. In 1990, for example, developed countries accounted for 40% of all technical tertiary enrolments globally; 10 years later, that share had dropped to 28%. The unprecedented expansion in South-South economic linkages has been demand-driven. In other words, South-South cooperation has been guided primarily by viable economic factors and not by political considerations, as had been the case in the past. In many cases, demand for South-South business ties increased despite relatively higher tariff barriers imposed by partner countries.

WORLD ECONOMY SEES BOOM IN CREATIVE INDUSTRIES

The world economy has seen an extraordinary expansion in the last five years, and the creative industries are in the forefront as a result of the globalisation and connectivity that have been reshaping the overall pattern of cultural production, consumption, and trade and transforming lifestyles worldwide, writes Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). In this article, the author writes that though developed countries still dominate this market, many developing-country products are already benefiting from the boom of their creative industries. Their exports of creative goods have increased astronomically, from USD 55.9 billion in 1996 to USD 136.2 billion in 2005, or about 140 percent. This rise is attributable primarily to China, which became the world\'s leading exporter of creative goods in 2005. A challenge to be faced, both domestic and systemic, is that most developing countries are not yet able to harness their creative capacities for development. In Africa, for instance, although there is an abundance of creative talents, the creative potential remains underutilised. The continent\'s share in global trade remains less than 1 percent of world exports, despite recent sharp increases. As is the case for other developing regions, this is a reflection of both domestic policy weaknesses and global systemic biases.

BIOFUELS: MORE BENEFITS THAN JUST ENERGY

Many economic, social, and environmental goals could be fulfilled by increased production, use, and international trade of biofuels, writes Supachai Panitchpakdi Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The author writes in this analysis that biofuels could slow global warming and provide an opportunity for developing countries to diversify agricultural production, raise rural incomes, and improve the quality of life. They could also enhance energy security, reduce expenditures on imported fossil energy, and foster other technological developments. But it is also important to consider the possible economic and environmental impacts of biofuels, the compatibility of biofuels with existing fuel delivery infrastructures, and competing uses for arable land. For example, the amount and type of primary energy consumed in producing biofuels - and the related emissions of greenhouse gases - vary enormously. And as long as current technology is used, the fast-growing demand for biofuels will mean devoting an increasing amount of arable and pasture land to the production of energy crops, which implications for food security.

DEVELOPING COUNTRIES MAJOR FORCE IN FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT

The extent and pace of growth of foreign direct investment (FDI) from emerging economies heralds a new role for these countries in international production systems and the world economy as a whole, writes Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). In this article, the author writes that FDI from the South is also opening up new sources of finance, technology, and management know-how, critical ingredients for economic development. From the perspective of developing host economies, FDI from other developing countries presents a potentially broader range of sources of capital, technology, and management skills. South-South FDI has several advantages over North-South investment, including the fact that the technologies and business models of developing-country TNCs often have a lot in common. The emergence of new sources of FDI requires attention from policy makers and investment promoters in countries at all levels of development. In order to maximise the development impact of this it is important for officials and experts from both developing and developed countries to exchange views and share experiences.

OUTLOOK 2006: FIVE THREATS TO GLOBAL PROSPERITY

Though the current state of the global economy is good, there are five areas of concern, writes Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development). In this article, the author writes that the first is the current impasse in the Doha Round talks, which hurts the world\'s poorest most acutely. The second concern is poverty. Globalisation and trade liberalisation have had a mixed impact. Some nations have been even further marginalised as a result, with poverty and income distribution in some cases worsening. The third area of concern is migration, which is sometimes perceived as a threat to jobs and to host societies ill equipped to absorb vast numbers of migrants. The fourth is energy security. The author calls for a well-structured, coordinated system of global economic governance that is beneficial to all countries and would help avoid potentially disastrous global imbalances and also avert distortions in international trade relations.

THE THREAT FROM GLOBAL TRADE IMBALANCES

Despite the relatively favourable evolution of the terms of trade of many developing countries, complacency must be avoided, writes Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). In this article, the author argues that one of the most important challenges for national policy makers and for the international community is to ensure a fair distribution of the revenue arising from primary production and its proper use in financing development. Strengthened macroeconomic policy coordination is also necessary to improve the coherence between the international trading and financial systems. There is a striking asymmetry in existing multilateral arrangements between trade on the one hand, and monetary and financial relations on the other. A global monetary authority like the IMF could play an important role in strengthening the international institutional framework in the monetary and financial area. It would have to focus on international monetary and financial stability. In principle, surveillance could play a significant part in promoting a more stable and reliable system of exchange rates to ensure a predictable trading environment. But in order to fulfil that role, surveillance would need to become more effective and also symmetrical across all countries

DEVELOPMENT MUST REMAIN AT TOP OF GLOBAL AGENDA

These are difficult times -- both for the United Nations, and for the world. It is thus all the more imperative to ensure that development remains at the top of the global agenda, writes Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). There are increasing pressures on developing countries to open their markets, with the promise that this is the key to making the biggest gains. Such promises should not be allowed to disguise the fact that there are still serious trade barriers to the key exports of developing countries as a whole --both tariff and non-tariff barriers-- that need to be addressed. Indeed, a worrying trend is the resort to new forms of protection as tariffs and quantitative restrictions have come down.

THE INTERNATIONALISATION OF R&D

Global Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows increased in 2004, following three years of decline, as reported in the World Investment Report 2005, writes Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference onTrade and Development (UNCTAD). In this article the author writes of a new trend in the global economy that could be considered one such \"new form\" of Foreign Direct Investment -- namely, the internationalisation of research and development (R&D). Some developing countries in Asia and transition economies are now attracting highly-advanced R&D activities. And this trend appears to be on the upswing. More than half of the world\'s top R&D spenders already conduct R&D activities in China, India, and Singapore. And what do developing countries in particular stand to gain from this sort of investment? It opens the door to the transfer of the actual process of technology creation and enables them to engage in important technological learning. In addition, it creates new job opportunities for local engineers and scientists, helping to mitigate the risk of \"brain drain\".

THE ROAD TO DEVELOPMENT PASSES THROUGH TRADE AND SO THE WTO

Only the WTO can improve global rules for the conduct of trade, which is so necessary to complement development and poverty-reduction strategies, writes Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of the World Trade Organisation. The WTO\'s Doha Development Agenda is a single undertaking which we will not be able to conclude unless we make progress across the board, the author writes in this analysis. We cannot afford to wait for results in agriculture before making further advances in tariffs on industrial products, services, rules, and the other areas. With respect to agriculture, while far-reaching commitments were agreed on domestic support, export competition, and market access, there remain a number of gaps to be filled and thorny issues to be resolved. On export competition, despite the important commitment to eliminating export subsidies, we still need to fix an end date. With respect to domestic support,the actual level of commitments still needs to be carefully negotiated. On market access, we still need to negotiate the actual percentage of reductions. We also need to establish which products can be designated \"sensitive\" and \"special\" and agree on disciplines to ensure that flexibility in this area is not used to circumvent market access commitments. The road ahead could still be a rough one. The DDA is still behind schedule and every new delay weakens its credibility and value. We need to approach our work over the coming months with a sense of urgency and determination.

WTO DOHA ROUND AT CRUCIAL JUNCTURE

The Doha Development Agenda of the WTO is at a crucial juncture: by the end of July we need to secure a framework package for agriculture and industrial products and an accord which better defines how we address cotton subsidies and the so-called Singapore Issues (investment, competition, transparency in government procurement, and trade facilitation), writes Supachai Panitchpakdi, Director-general of the World Trade Organisation. In this article, the author writes that if governments and their constituents lose faith in the ability of the Doha Development Agenda to deliver results we will see a growing imbalance between multilateral and bilateral deal-making. This could shake the foundations of non-discrimination and transparency upon which the multilateral trading system is built. Common ground must be found, and quickly. International business and the global trade machine will certainly not wait for us to move. Discriminatory market access arrangements will become commonplace and the law of the jungle will prevail. The losers every time will be the poorer, developing countries.

MAKE IT OR BREAK IT TIME FOR LATEST WTO NEGOTIATIONS

2004 is a crucial year for the Doha negotiations of the World Trade Organisation and the multilateral trading system in general, writes Supachai Panitchpakdi, Director-General of the World Trade Organization. In this article, the author writes that since the beginning of this year, starting with the instrumental efforts by US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, we have witnessed a number of very important initiatives and inputs to help move the process forward. I personally saw a much- needed new level of political commitment at important ministerial gatherings such as the Paris Ministerial Conference of the OECD and the Less Developed Countries (LDC) Ministerial Conference in Senegal. WTO Members are showing a remarkable sense of political urgency and realism, combined with the willingness to negotiate substance, and they are determined to reach framework agreements by July. The WTO and the multilateral system are under pressure again to deliver results. I have consistently argued that if governments and their constituents lose faith in the ability of the Doha negotiations to deliver results, we can expect to see a growing imbalance between multilateral and bilateral deal-making, widening the gap between stronger and weaker countries. The foundations upon which the multilateral trading system is built -- non-discrimination and transparency -- are at stake here. These core principles make the international trading environment more predictable and less complex. If we don\'t make sufficient progress in these negotiations and conclude them successfully, it is the poorest countries that will lose the most.

THE DOHA DEVELOPMENT AGENDA: CHALLENGES AHEAD

Multilateralism is the only sustainable way to secure our global future, writes Supachai Panitchpakdi, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation. At Doha in November 2001, in a climate of dangerous international uncertainty, WTO members showed the determination to make multilateralism work. What the world needs today is a reaffirmation of this choice of multilateralism over unilateralism. In this article for IPS, the author writes that trade liberalisation is a powerful ally of sustainable development. Improving market access for products of particular interest to developing countries, such as agriculture goods and textiles, will make a huge difference to the lives of millions. We should also remember that trade is not a zero-sum game. Developed countries also stand to gain from trade liberalisation in these areas. For instance, agricultural support in developed countries, which comes close to USD 1 billion every day, represents a significant cost to developed country tax payers and consumers. In the WTO, developed country members have committed themselves to respond to the concerns of developing countries, but more could be done.

« Previous Page