Monthly Archives: July 2008

Insiders advise against car subsidies

Fighting over the remaining ten-percent tariff is pointless in the current—and medium-term—market conditions. The strong exchange rate, the strength of our terms-of-trade vis-a-vis manufactures and the remarkable competitiveness of China makes an import tax of five or even ten percent utterly irrelevant.

The real economic debate is over the size of the proposed subsidies to capital that the Labour government is considering. Why on earth…? There can hardly be a stronger example of throwing good money after bad.

Doha round autopsy

An OpEd piece commissioned by the Australian Financial Review for today’s paper

The collapse of the Doha Round negotiations

logo of the Doha roundThere’s no joy in having predicted this outcome.

As explained (at some length) in my earlier post, I don’t believe that the draft agreement on the table represented anything like the ‘substantial improvement’ in global markets that was the goal of the Doha Declaration that launched the talks in 2001. There were too many status exceptions, category exceptions, and opportunities for manipulation.

But the repeated collapse of these negotiations is a blow to confidence in the ability of the global community and leadership to manage global commons like the world trading system and, for that matter, the global environment and climate (assuming the latter is a manageable commons).

The world community last agreed to open goods and services markets on the basis of compromises struck at the end of the 1980s. The centers of world wealth, economic and trade growth and even population growth have moved far since then. The management of global commons needs to move, too

Devices such as WTO’s ‘single undertaking’—that saw one huge set of complex rules applied in a monolithic way to all economies—no longer bridge the real differences in interests that, for the present and for some years to come, will affect agreements between the worlds largest economies. Giant, poor, ’emerging’ economies such as China, India and Indonesia are making choices that cannot be accommodated in the framework WTO built in the 1980s.

We can no longer go on pretending that with further ‘tweaking’ of exceptions and concessions we can make their obligations and needs fit into the collaborative management framework. The framework is valuable; but it must change or it will continue to seize up—as it has this week—and be abandoned.

Its time to reengineer the processes of WTO.

Spencer’s ‘smoking gun’

Dr. Roy Spencer, former NASA climate researcher, now managing the satellite temperature data collection at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, claims to have found a ‘smoking gun’signal on climate sensitivity

[W]e now have new satellite evidence which strongly suggests that…the real climate system appears to be dominated by negative feedbacks’—instead of the positive feedbacks…

Monckton’s litany

Christopher, Viscount Monkton of Brenchley, is a good scholar and a fine writer. This clever recital pulls no punches but you may feel like responding ‘amen’ (at least you might…if you were a ‘dissenter’)

CSIRO’s (ab)use of intellectual property

SheepRoad.jpgThe private abuse of copyright is considered in some industry—and even official—quarters as an epidemic wave of criminal behavior. The evidence for this view is very dubious. But there is another form of copyright abuse that also has a debilitating impact on our economy and our society. That is the claim that governments sometimes make that they are unable to maintain open and accountable standards of decision-making because they must protect some intellectual property or other. This is often arrant nonsense and an excuse to shirk responsibility. But worse, it abuses the copyright system whose objective above all is to balance the public interest in the creation and dissemination of knowledge against the rights of the creator and owner.

The CSIRO has told David Stockwell, a mathematician and climate scientist, that it cannot release temperature and soil-moisture data behind its report to Government on the multi-billion dollar ‘Exceptional Circumstances’ drought-relief subsidy program “due to restrictions on Intellectual Property“. David Stockwell believes, with some reason, that an examination of the data would show that the conclusions drawn in the report are wrong and that the Prime Minister has been misled in his belief that the CSIRO has found a cause for alarm about future drought patterns in Australia.

Here is what the Prime Minister said, last weekend, about the significance of the CSIRO report:

Improving the WTO’s trade framework

Bruce Bloingen from the University of Oregon provides some details of a monograph for CEPR and the Kiel Institute that looks like an important entry in a growing literature on improving the efficiency of WTO processes and global trade governance. Contributions from some top analysts including Patrick Messerlin, Alan Deardorff and Robert Stern, Philippa Dee and Chris Findlay.

“The Doha Round is stagnant, which does not bode well for trade liberalisation in the near future and possibly for the World Trade Organization in the long run… chapters in this volume identify a number of important long-run trends that the WTO and its members must simply come to grips with before meaningful progress can be made.”  extract from: Vox EU

Andrew Stoler, Director of the Adelaide Institute for International Trade (and former Deputy Director-General WTO) and I have just embarked on a similar project with specific focus on finding a better way to reach agreements on agricultural markets. More soon.