Monthly Archives: April 2009

Thailand’s spiral

Sad, brief economic history:

“One of the reasons Thailand has failed to flourish as once predicted is that its growth was built on weaker foundations than supposed.” Extract from David Pilling in the Financial Times (subscription)

But is there such a thing as ‘weak’ or ‘strong’ foundations for macroeconomic growth?

The facts on flu

Most pandemics just aren’t what they’re cracked up to be.

Sandy Szwarc has published a fascinating dissection of the panic over Mexican ‘swine’ flu. She points out that if you check national health data, you’ll find that influenza kills about the same number of people in pandemic and in non-pandemic years.

“In fact, most of us have lived through a flu pandemic and never even realized it. The Hong Kong flu pandemic in 1968-69, for example, killed an estimated 33,800 Americans. That sounds like a lot, but it’s about the same number of Americans who die from the flu in a typical year.” Extract from Junkfood Science

ADB’s Not-So-Capital Idea

“Why give the development bank more money?” Extract from Wall St Journal (Asia)

The WSJ argues the Asian Development Bank doesn’t need a massive re-capitalization (Australia’s contribution: $276 million) and lends too much to economies that aren’t in need of aid-supported credit.

Peru jumps the China FTA queue

This news makes the delay in agreement between Australia and China on an FTA look even more peculiar.

” China and Peru on Tuesday signed a free trade agreement, state media here said, as Beijing continues to seek new markets and reserves of raw materials to fuel its economy… China has become mineral-rich Peru’s second largest trading partner after the United States. Peru is a major producer of lead, zinc, copper, tin and gold.” Extract from AFP (Yahoo)

Why is Australia slipping down the queue? On my calculation, based on the WTO database of regional trade agreements, this is the eleventh FTA that China has signed since it agreed, in 2004, to start negotiations with us. Finishing ahead of us: ASEAN (twice), New Zealand, Pakistan, a group of South Asian economies and now Peru (as well as Hong Kong and Macao that are special cases).

Our free-trade agreement with China was always going to be difficult to pull off.

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Was the Pirate Bay judgement biassed?

A Swedish Court’s conviction of the principals in Pirate Bay, a bit-torrent site that facilitated sharing of copyright material may be only the first step in a significant case on digital copyright abuse.

The decision will likely have no impact on the sharing of copyright material. There are hundreds of torrent aggregators and probably thousands of different ways to disguise the sharing of digital files. The Pirate Bay case is interesting mainly for its legal findings that broaden the responsibility of what are, in effect, search engines for the illegal actions of their users.

But the decision could be seriously tainted by what looks like bias on the part of the Judge and the investigating police.

Quibble over ‘slippage’ on protection

Meanwhile in Geneva… the WTO delegations have been debating whether the Secretariat’s second report on protectionist measures (issued a month ago) showed ‘significant slippage’ in Member governments’ commitment to hold the line, or not.

The U.S. ambassador disagreed with the proposition that Member governments had begun to default on their promises.

“We understand the danger of an incremental build-up of restrictions but do not think that the facts bear out the suggestion in the introduction of the report that ‘there has been significant slippage’ since the beginning of the year,” said Peter Allgeier, the US ambassador to the WTO, adding that he thought the phrase ‘some slippage’ was more appropriate.

While the Doha Round remains out of reach they have nothing better to do than to argue this sort of stuff. The Hong Kong delegation (possibly as a proxy for you-know-who) has been attempting to get Members’ agreement to a temporary, ‘binding’ standstill declaration on top of their regular WTO obligations. A WTO version of the G20 pledge.

Last I heard that idea had also fallen foul of the delegations’ quibbling over terms.

For the philological turophile the indispensable Bradshaw of the Future provides a derivation of ‘quibble‘ that covers every quiddity.