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.

She Blogged By Night


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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.