Monthly Archives: March 2010

World Opera season programs


For opera devo­tees, fans, ‘trag­ics’ … etc., but main­ly for myself, I’ve devel­oped a syn­thet­ic RSS feed of news about Sea­son events, tick­ets and sub­scrip­tions for Opera hous­es around the world that you can find near the bot­tom of this page.

I’ve used Yahoo Pipes and Yahoo’s YQL—an SQL-type query lan­guage for Yahoo search databases—to search for new sea­son announce­ments from the world’s opera hous­es and man­gled the results into an RSS for­mat. The links in the feed jump to the announce­ment pages for each Opera house.

Hope you enjoy it. Please let me know.

The limits of WTO litigation

Good sense from a for­mer Chair of the WTO Appel­late Body.

It is in the best inter­est of both coun­tries to con­tin­ue nego­ti­at­ing on the cur­ren­cy issue rather than resort­ing to lit­i­ga­tion at the WTO. On this issue espe­cial­ly, lit­i­ga­tion should be the last resort.” Extract from James Bac­chus in the WSJ

Alhougth I’m sure a lot of trade law geeks like me would like to see Arti­cle XV lit­i­gat­ed, nev­er­the­less … just to see what it means.

Rotten ideas about the renminbi

The prospect of a U.S.-China clash over cur­ren­cy con­trols next month when the U.S. Trea­sury Sec­re­tary is sup­posed to pro­nounce on China’s ‘cur­ren­cy manip­u­la­tion’ has prompt­ed hyper­bol­ic fears (Mar­tin Wolf, in the FT says he “won­ders whether the open glob­al econ­o­my is going to sur­vive…”!) and at least two fee­ble plans.

One is from the IMF, which wants a new mandate—although it admits that’s not real­ly necessary—to under­take explic­it mul­ti­lat­er­al sur­veil­lance of Sys­temic Sta­bil­i­ty (i.e. imbal­ances in exter­nal accounts). But the Fund does a bad job of jus­ti­fy­ing its claim for a new role. The Con­clu­sions (on page 12) of the cur­rent pro­pos­al from the Fund man­age­ment offer no bet­ter rea­son that that it wants to feel impor­tant as the man­ag­er of a new ‘peer review’ process. Ho hum!

A much worse idea comes from Arvind Sub­ra­ma­ni­am in today’s Finan­cial Times. He wants the WTO not only to engage in sur­veil­lance but also to enforce the ‘right’ val­ue for cur­ren­cies.

The World Trade Organ­i­sa­tion is a nat­ur­al forum for devel­op­ing new mul­ti­lat­er­al rules. First, under­val­ued exchange rates are de fac­to pro­tec­tion­ist trade poli­cies because they are a com­bi­na­tion of export sub­si­dies and import tar­iffs…:”

Even if we accept that there is an equiv­a­lence between cur­ren­cy man­age­ment and trade mea­sures, we have to ask so what? You’d imag­ine, wouldn’t you, that a trade econ­o­mist would recall that, in WTO, nei­ther of these trade instru­ments is nec­es­sar­i­ly “pro­tec­tion­ist” and that nei­ther is ille­gal (or even dep­re­cat­ed)! This is not much of an argu­ment for WTO inter­ven­tion.

Sec­ond, the WTO has a bet­ter record on enforce­ment of rules. Its dis­pute set­tle­ment sys­tem, although not per­fect, has been rea­son­ably effec­tive in allow­ing mem­bers to ini­ti­ate and set­tle disputes…What is need­ed is a new rule in the WTO pro­scrib­ing under­val­ued exchange rates.

Uh-huh. But does Prof. Sub­ra­ma­ni­am recall what is need­ed to add a ‘rule’ to the WTO? If not ‘con­sen­sus’ (or ‘explic­it con­sen­sus’ in the Doha nego­ti­at­ing man­date), then a very strong qual­i­fied major­i­ty (⅔ of Mem­bers accord­ing to Arti­cle X of the Marakesh Agree­ment). Fur­ther­more, a new rule adopt­ed by a major­i­ty vote applies only to Mem­bers that accept it; unless a fur­ther anoth­er strong major­i­ty (¾ of Mem­bers) decides to expel any Mem­ber that does not accept the new rule.

Now think for a sec­ond or two what sort of mess a pro­pos­al to penal­ize per­sis­tent trade sur­plus­es would cre­ate in WTO. Remem­ber, we’re talk­ing about an Orga­ni­za­tion that—for the present at least—can’t decide which way is up (in the Doha round), let alone what con­sti­tutes an “under­val­ued exchange rate”

Imag­ine, too, that hor­ri­ble wran­gle end­ing up in a major­i­ty vote on the new rule, which will inevitably be aimed at Chi­na and pos­si­bly Ger­many. But will also poten­tial­ly hit a lot of oth­ers; Thai­land and Viet­nam, for exam­ple. What we have here is a recipe for a hecatomb of the WTO.

The IMF would con­tin­ue to be the sole forum for broad exchange rate sur­veil­lance. But in those rare instances of sub­stan­tial and per­sis­tent under­val­u­a­tion, we envis­age a more effec­tive delin­eation of respon­si­bil­i­ty, with the IMF con­tin­u­ing to play a tech­ni­cal role in assess­ing when a country’s exchange rate was under­val­ued, and the WTO assum­ing the enforce­ment role.” Extract from / Com­ment / Opin­ion — The weak ren­min­bi is not just America’s prob­lem

Fat chance! Even if the IMF could actu­al­ly dis­cov­er the ‘cor­rect’ inter­na­tion­al price of a cur­ren­cy, the WTO would break if tasked with enforc­ing it.

A call for evidence-based policy


Many social, edu­ca­tion­al and eco­nom­ic poli­cies are the mod­ern equiv­a­lent of Dr Spock’s advice that babies should sleep face down: well-mean­ing, author­i­ta­tive – and wrong. No doubt it would be awk­ward to see the wis­dom of experts punc­tured and the pet poli­cies of politi­cians dis­cred­it­ed on a reg­u­lar basis. But if politi­cians real­ly cared about those they rep­re­sent, they would insist on more ran­domised tri­als and more sys­tem­at­ic reviews of what works.” Extract from / Com­ment / Opin­ion — Polit­i­cal ideas need prop­er test­ing

See also Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty Com­mis­sion Chair­man Gary Banks’ detailed sug­ges­tions.

Offensive teenagers

Offenders By Age And Sex

Accord­ing to the Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics more than 1 in 12 teenage males com­mits an offense that comes to police notice.

Motor vehicle subsidies wasted on Ford

Carr and Rudd sign the IOU

Ford Aus­tralia made just over a quar­ter (60,000) of all the cars made in Aus­tralia last year and less than one-fifth of all the new cars+light trucks reg­is­tered in Aus­tralia in 2009 (a total of 302,400: see the ABS Motor Vehi­cle Cen­sus)

Ford is not going to be a prof­it cen­ter for its glob­al par­ent any time soon.

‘As soon as choic­es have to be made, Ford is the next Mit­subishi,’ said John Wormald, prin­ci­pal of inter­na­tion­al con­sul­tant Autopo­lis, refer­ring to the Japan­ese company’s deci­sion to shut down its Ade­laide fac­to­ry two years ago.

Mr Wormald, who is in Aus­tralia to advise the Vic­to­ri­an gov­ern­ment, said the replace­ment for the Fal­con, due in about five years, could be import­ed cheap­ly and the car­mak­er did not need its Mel­bourne plant. ‘Ford isn’t short of assem­bly capac­i­ty in oth­er places,’ he said. ‘Where’s the plan to inte­grate Aus­tralia?’ ” Extract from Ford will be next car­mak­er to quit Aus­tralia | The Aus­tralian

Wormald con­firmed what every­one except Kevin Rudd and Kim Carr has under­stood for decades about the Aus­tralian car indus­try. Refer­ring to the mas­sive $6 bil­lion bribes extend­ed by the Rudd gov­ern­ment (includ­ing $13 mil­lion to prop up Ford’s Gee­long fac­to­ry), he said

Sub­si­dies were doomed to fail because the indus­try lacked a vision for the future and Ford was most vul­ner­a­ble because it was iso­lat­ed from its parent’s glob­al oper­a­tions.

Jobs and Exports in the NICS


Exports = jobs in the NICS. Data from the IMF World Eco­nom­ic Out­look data­base