World Trade: Good News and Bad News
Jagdish Bhagwati is University Professor, Economics and Law, at Columbia University and Senior Fellow in International Economics atthe Council on Foreign Relations, New York. His bestselling book, In Defense of Globalization (Oxford) has been published in German translation by Pantheon/Random House in 2008, with a Preface byJoschka Fischer.
Trade today reminds me of the story about the man who asks God whether his virtuous life has guaranteed that he will go to heaven. God replies: “I have good news and bad news foryou. The good news is that you are indeed going to heaven. The bad news is that you are going there tomorrow.” As we contemplate the future of world trade, which was devastated in the immediateaftermath of the twin crises on Wall Street and on Main Street, we have good and bad news concerning the prospects for a robust, open world economy. Trade Volumes: Good News There was much concern becausetrade volume had collapsed faster than world income. Did this imply that protectionism was breaking out? Were we backing into the 1930s with their spread of protectionism that accentuated thedevastation caused by the Great Crash of 1929? Not really. The main proximate reason was instead that world trade had been growing faster than world income in the previous quarter of a century. So, if we wentinto reverse, trade would fall faster than income. But why was trade growing faster than income? The principal reason was that production was getting internationalized, with multinationals oftenshipping products in different stages of assembly around the world. This was a trend facilitated by the progressive dismantling of trade barriers, of course. But it also meant that the measured value oftrade to GNP would rise immensely because of the fact that trade is measured by sales. i.,e. by gross value, whereas GNP is the
measure of “value added” . Thus, a “basic” unfinished car would...
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