A new trade deal between the EU and Japan



Besides slashing tariffs on cheese and cars, it sends a message to Donald Trump

FREE-TRADE agreements have seemed out of fashion as President Donald Trump has set about scotching some of America’s. But on July 5th Cecilia Malmström, the EU trade commissioner, and Fumio Kishida, the Japanese foreign minister, announced they had achieved consensus on a Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (JEEPA). In front of the cameras, they swapped Japanese Daruma dolls, talismans of perseverance and good luck, and, they hope, of a win-win agreement.

The timing of JEEPA was just as carefully co-ordinated. When negotiations started in 2013, it was neither side’s main priority. But now both want to show that they can fill the vacuum left by America’s withdrawal under Mr Trump from its role as the world’s trade leader. To highlight its political importance, they note that this is the first trade agreement to mention the Paris climate accord, another deal Mr Trump has spurned. Haste is handy: the EU wanted success before Brexit negotiations and national elections swamp its agenda.

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Sudan approves farm imports ban from Egypt

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Sudan’s cabinet has approved a ban on importing agricultural and animal products from Egypt, according to Sudan’s state news agency SUNA.

The cabinet on Tuesday urged the private sector to import products directly from countries of origin, bypassing Egypt. No reason was announced for the move.

Ahmed Abu Zeid, the spokesman for Egypt’s foreign ministry, said Cairo was told the decision was due to “a technical procedure”.

Sudan banned all Egyptian agricultural goods in March.

Foreign firms have been caught in the crossfire. Saudi Arabia’s Savola Group has had to re-route much of its Egypt-based sugar output that it usually sells to Sudan. Savola imports raw Brazilian sugar and refines it in Egypt for export.

“The volumes going there are about 20,000 tonnes a month, but now, unfortunately, this looks like it will be stopped indefinitely,” a source at the company said.

The neighbours have been at odds over issues that include a long-running dispute over land on Egypt’s southern border with Sudan, as well as trade restrictions and burdensome visa requirements that have threatened commercial relations.

Sudan this month accused Egypt of supporting rebels who it says want to topple the government in Khartoum. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi rejected the charge.

Trip cancelled

Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour was due to visit Egypt this week to discuss the trade dispute and other issues, but the trip was postponed for a week, Abu Zeid told Reuters news agency.

Amany al-Taweel, African affairs expert at the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, blamed political and other differences for Sudan’s decision.

Sudan’s economy was shaken by the 2011 secession of the south, which had been its main oil producing region. With 40 million people, Sudan is half the size of Egypt whose population is 92 million. Egypt also has a much bigger industrial base.

Sudan imported about $591m worth of goods from Egypt in 2016, most of which were food items such as vegetables, fruit and biscuits, Ahmed Hamid, a director at Sudan’s ministry of international cooperation, has said.

Fonte: Al Jazeera

Africa is not poor, we are stealing its wealth

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Africa is poor, but we can try to help its people.

It’s a simple statement, repeated through a thousand images, newspaper stories and charity appeals each year, so that it takes on the weight of truth. When we read it, we reinforce assumptions and stories about Africa that we’ve heard throughout our lives. We reconfirm our image of Africa.

Try something different. Africa is rich, but we steal its wealth.

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Bazooka fail: Brussels resorts to desperate measures to rescue Euro

Publicado originalmente em 13/03/2016


The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but it might not be ready for the speed with which the EU is seemingly determined to reach Hades. Brussels may yet fester for years but multiple unresolved crises are unraveling the EU.

On the fiscal front, a touching belief in the ‘magic money tree school of economics’ pervades the deepest recesses of the ‘Euroblob’. Brussels remains a hotbed for the bizarre anachronism that central government delivers growth… Meanwhile, other channels continue to chronicle the real-time demise of Venezuela and wretched poverty of North Korea.

Even as it became clear that EU politicians egging banks to consume as much Eurozone debt as possible was untenable, EU decline was far from assured. However, having foolishly protected banks, the ‘Euroblob’ has endured prolonged continental drift, bereft of coherent leadership. Like all failing empires, a few nations have been subjugated at debt show trials (“pour encourager les autres”) and sentenced to more fiscal penalties, which are simply never going to be repaid.

Multiple false dawns later, perennial presidential claims that recovery is just around the corner have vanished as the brutal realization dawns: this decline looks permanent. The Eurozone economy today is a withered entity, appreciably smaller than in 2008. Meanwhile, Chinese GDP has more than doubled.

The European Central Bank has married the worst of central banking hubris with traditional EU political practice. Thus ECB boss Mario Draghi talks tough without supportive action. Draghi’s “Super Mario” moniker is absurd; even Donkey Kong could have managed the Eurocrisis better.

Draghi’s core failure was classic Euro-political hubris: threaten loudly and the market will eventually realize your words are hollow. Investors are rightly skeptical of an EU which beggars its citizenry in the pursuit of an Imperial fantasy. Worse still, the EU has implemented vast swathes of new regulations which simply leave bankers and investors bewildered.

Under Draghi, the ECB has behaved like the fiscal equivalent of one of those video games. Somewhere in a European financial centre, Super Mario emerges from a limousine brandishing weapons of increasing complexity and claims nothing will stop him from using it to blow a hole in the recessionary forces encircling Europe.

Thus an arsenal – bazookas have been a particular fetish – are displayed, then quietly set back in the trunk of the limousine which screeches off to yet more speaking engagements…

Euro crisis monetary action has played out akin to an unsuspecting individual chancing upon a comatose body. Enthusiasm has given way to anxiety and a vestige of panic as more advanced treatments have singularly failed to ameliorate the patient’s condition.

Fiscally, interest rates have gone negative (the ECB charges banks who entrust (sic?) it with your money). Instead of lending to the real economy, all parties concerned are just panicking – particularly Europe’s savers, sacrificed on the altar of the Euro.

So, provided you ignore any humane response and turn fiscal logic on its head, ECB policy is pretty easy to understand. However, waving a bazooka in a bank and threatening customers if they don’t shop vigorously is, well, somewhat counterproductive.

The ECB is now spending 80 billion Euros ($90 billion) per month buying government and corporate bonds (with a Euro-protectionist twist, only EU company debt is eligible, further discouraging foreign investors).

In other words… Faced with a drought-ridden football field, the ECB is indiscriminately spraying the sun-baked soil with liquidity, creating a sodden muddy mess, not a luscious green pitch ready for a new season.

Markets like confidence. The ECB’s announcement of a 20 billion Euro per month increase last week was greeted as great news for a split second until investors realized… this move was nothing more than desperation!

Thus, the ECB is now spending monthly to bail out banks it ought never to have rescued in the first place, the same amount as has been budgeted for the entire EU innovation centerpiece Horizon 2020 mega-research programme over 7 years.

Cheer up, the worst is yet to come…

Fonte: RT

More on the political trilemma of the global economy

Publicado originalmente em: 11/03/2016


Martin Sandbu of the Financial Times has a very thoughtful discussion of my globalization trilemma, as it applies to Brexit among other things. Sandbu argues that “thinking critically about Rodrik’s trilemma should lead us to more optimistic conclusions.”

I largely agree with Sandbu’s points, but I thought it would be useful to state some of my reactions in the interest of clarifying the issues. Here are Sandbu’s main points and my take on them.

“First, if anything it is more dilemma than trilemma (as is the more famous macroeconomic trilemma Rodrik takes his inspiration from). Consider this: if economic integration limits a national democracy’s room for manoeuvre, does it limit a national dictatorship’s opportunities any less?”

I think Sandbu’s point is true for some dictatorships, but not all. Today the prevailing worry of progressives is that an oligarchy of financiers, investors, and skilled professionals has captured the polity and is using globalization as a way of imposing its policy priorities. What globalization does for these groups is actually to expand their political opportunities, rather than constrain them. In effect, globalization becomes an instrument for narrowing the scope of what governments can do (in taxation, spending, and regulation) so as to advance the interests of this particular oligarchy.

The defining feature of a democracy is that the electorate can decide on their own path and future, even when it may conflict what a narrowly based, internationally mobile elite want – and that is what hyper-globalization restricts.

“Second, we should beware of conflating economic integration with technocracy. Rodrik does not do this, but most of the British debate does, with the blame heaped (by all sides, it must be said) on Brussels bureaucrats.”

Indeed, but in practice, globalization is used to impose a particular technocratic set of rules serving the interests of particular groups. That it need not do so is a valid point for globalization in general, as long as don’t take it as far as hyper-globalization (see below).

“But let us focus here on whether — as Rodrik and so many others assert — that there is necessarily a loss of democracy when the rules are set internationally while most democratic institutions remain nationally rooted. … There are reasons to doubt that assertion. One is that the scope for national action is larger than is often claimed — even in the supposedly strongest golden straitjacket of them all, Europe’s common currency. … But most importantly, because negotiating rules together is an exercise of national self-determination, not its abrogation.”

With regard to the first objection, it is useful to distinguish between globalization and hyper-globalization. The political trilemma applies full-blown to the latter. As long as we are not trying to eliminate every transaction cost to international trade and investment, there are multiple models of globalization one can imagine, leaving plenty of space for countries to devise their own social and economic arrangements. Sandbu provides the example of non-discrimination in trade versus deeper integration. The closer we get to the latter, the less room countries do have.

The second point, that negotiating global rules is an exercise of national self-determination, requires longer discussion. The point is correct as stated, but I would add that the fact that an international rule is negotiated and accepted by a democratically elected government does not inherently make that rule democratically legitimate.

The optimistic argument has been best formulated by the political scientists Bob Keohane, Steve Macedo and Andy Moravcsik. They point there are various ways in which global rules can enhance democracy — a process that they call “democracy enhancing multilateralism.” Democracies have various mechanisms for restricting the autonomy or the policy space of decision makers. For example, democratically elected parliaments often delegate power to independent or quasi-independent autonomous bodies. Central banks are often independent and there are various other kinds of checks and balances in constitutional democracies. Similarly, global rules can make it easier for national democracies to attain the goals that they pursue even if they entail some restrictions in terms of autonomy. Keohane at al. discuss three specific mechanisms: global rules can enhance democracy by offsetting factions, protecting minority rights, or by enhancing the quality of democratic deliberation.

However, just because globalization can enhance democracy does not mean that it always does so. In fact there are many ways in which global governance works in quite the opposite way from that described by Keohane et al. Anti-dumping rules, for example, augment protectionist interests. Rules on intellectual property rights and copyrights have privileged pharmaceuticals companies and Disney against the general interest. Similarly, there are many ways in which globalization actually harms rather than enhances the quality of democratic deliberation. For example, preferential or multilateral trade agreements are often simply voted up or down in national parliaments with little discussion, simply because they are international agreements. Globalization-enhancing global rules and democracy-enhancing global rules may have some overlap; but they are not one and the same thing.

More broadly, international commitments can be used to tie the hands of governments in both democratically legitimate and illegitimate ways. External discipline can be sought in two different kinds of settings–one of which is much more defensible on the traditional democratic delegation grounds than the other.

Consider first the case where the government faces a “time-inconsistency” problem. It would like to commit to free trade or to fiscal balance, but realizes that over time it will give in to pressure and deviate from what is its optimal policy ex ante. So it chooses to tie its hands through external discipline. This way, when protectionists and big spenders show up at its door, the government says: “sorry, the WTO or the IMF will not let me do it.” Everyone is better off, save for the lobbyists and special interests. This is the good kind of delegation and external discipline.

Now consider the second kind. Here, the government fears not its future self, but its future opponents: the opposition party (or parties). The latter may have different views on economic policy, and if victorious in the next election, may well choose to shift course. Now when the incumbent government enters an international agreement, it does so to tie the hands of its opponents. From an ex-ante welfare standpoint, this strategy has much less to recommend itself. The future government may have better or worse ideas about government policy, and it is not clear that restricting its policy space is a win-win outcome. This kind of external discipline has much less democratic legitimacy because, once again, it privileges one set of interests against others.

The bottom line is that I am somewhat less optimistic than Sandbu on the democratic implications of globalization. But let me stress again that the constraints really bind in the presence of a hyper-globalization/deep-integration model (a la Eurozone). For more limited models of globalization, there are considerably more degrees of freedom.

Fonte: Dani Rodrik´s weblog


Encontro da CEPAL propõe ações para reduzir impacto do comércio internacional na mudança climática


A Comissão Econômica para a América Latina e o Caribe (CEPAL) deu início, nesta segunda-feira (14), ao VII Seminário Internacional anual da agência sobre “pegadas ecológicas”, em Santiago, no Chile. O evento reuniu 15 especialistas da região de atuação da CEPAL e também da Europa com o objetivo de debater as consequências do comércio internacional para as mudanças climáticas.

De acordo com o secretário executivo adjunto da CEPAL, Antonio Prado, os debates ao longo do encontro são “especialmente relevantes para a América Latina e o Caribe, uma vez que alguns de seus principais mercados de exportação se encontram a uma grande distância e, portanto, as emissões associadas ao transporte desses produtos podem ser consideráveis”. Para o dirigente, são necessários mecanismos precisos para quantificar as emissões de gases do efeito estufa vinculadas ao comércio internacional.

Prado destacou que a região não está alheia às mudanças climáticas provocadas por atividades poluentes. Nações caribenhas e centro-americanas já têm sofrido as consequências da crise ambiental com particular intensidade, segundo o secretário.

“Estes impactos são sentidos com maior intensidade nos países em desenvolvimento, que estão menos preparados para se adaptarem a este fenômeno e que experimentam situações como secas persistentes, eventos meteorológicos extremos, o degelo de seus glaciares, a erosão costeira e a acidificação dos oceanos. Tudo isso ameaça sua segurança alimentar e os esforços para erradicar a pobreza e alcançar o desenvolvimento sustentável”, disse.

De acordo com o dirigente, o seminário deverá contribuir para a busca por instrumentos eficazes, que podem reduzir as emissões associadas ao comércio de mercadorias sem, no entanto, recair no “protecionismo verde”.

Fonte: ONU BR

A geopolítica chinesa da ferrovia: dependência e integração

O que está posto para o setor metroferroviário nos acordos com a China é a reafirmação da nossa condição de dependência, com poucas indicações de investimento nesta indústria e o atrelamento da economia brasileira à sua “vocacional” matriz exportadora de commodities.

Há anos a China tenta se estabelecer como uma potência política e econômica na América do Sul. A recente visita de uma delegação econômica chinesa, liderada pelo primeiro ministro Li Keqiang, é a mostra de que eles estão dispostos a capturar o imaginário desenvolvimentista que tem pairado sobre a região nos últimos dez anos. A carteira dos possíveis investimentos é grande e apenas no Brasil foram fechados 35 acordos, com ênfase em infraestrutura.

Com os projetos que foram postos à mesa, a China busca a defesa de seus interesses de expansão econômica e política na região, enquanto os países que recebem os chineses passam por um momento de turbulência econômica, vendo com muito bons olhos os investimentos estrangeiros.

No Brasil, a vinda dos chineses com investimentos para o modal ferroviário foi bastante celebrada em diferentes nichos do governo, tendo como filão principal a intenção de construir uma Ferrovia Transcontinental, ligando o Oceano Atlântico ao Pacífico.

A ferrovia é projetada no território brasileiro para partir de Porto de Açú, no litoral do Rio de Janeiro, e chegar até Boqueirão da Esperança, no estado do Acre, com aproximadamente 4400 Km de extensão. A ligação com o Pacífico é prevista para ser feita no Peru, fato que gerou bastante descontentamento entre os bolivianos, exacerbando as tensões existentes entre os dois países.

O interesse brasileiro quanto à parceria com os chineses no setor metroferroviário objetiva viabilizar economicamente a construção da Ferrovia de Integração Centro-Oeste (FICO), que integraria a Ferrovia Transcontinental.

A ferrovia visa a ligar a região Centro-Norte do País aos principais portos nacionais por meio da Ferrovia Norte-Sul, partindo da cidade de Uruaçú-GO até Vilhena-RO, com 1638 Km de extensão. A conclusão dessa ferrovia daria um salto de qualidade no escoamento da crescente produção de soja na região.

A partir de Vilhena-RO, tudo é incerto para os chineses e eles têm noção disso, a ponto de ainda estarem firmando acordos para estudos básicos sobre a viabilidade da construção da ferrovia em território peruano.

Os acordos entre Brasil e China provocaram agitações no mercado metroferroviário brasileiro, seja pela possibilidade de construção de ferrovias para melhor integração do mercado de commodities entre os dois países, seja pelos acordos comerciais para a compra de material ferroviário a preços mais acessíveis, abrindo o setor para as indústrias chinesas.

O mercado ferroviário chinês é um dos mais ativos do mundo: boa parte dos trilhos comprados para nossos projetos ferroviários é proveniente da China, ao passo que somos um país com recursos minerais e industriais para a produção nacional dos mesmos.

A indústria metroferroviária nacional avalia com bastante preocupação a entrada dos chineses no mercado brasileiro. Os precedentes não são bons, vide o caso dos contratos chineses junto à Argentina, que abriu seu mercado para a participação dos chineses sem a preocupação de resguardar a indústria nacional, gerando demissões e quebras no setor na competição com o material rodante chinês.

No Brasil já existiram conflitos desse tipo, principalmente nas licitações de metrôs e trens urbanos financiados pelo Banco Mundial, que não exige em seus contratos de financiamento a compra de trens nacionais. Tanto o Consórcio Via Quatro do metrô de São Paulo quanto a Super Via, no Rio de Janeiro, tiveram seus projetos financiados pelo banco e compraram material rodante de outros países, tal como Coreia do Sul e China, respectivamente, deixando as fabricantes nacionais de lado.

É necessário dizer que, no Brasil, em momentos de crescimento econômico, ocorre a expansão das ferrovias, mas, quando a situação econômica se deteriora, os investimentos minguam e o que foi investido começa a se deteriorar. Foi assim no período do café, na estatização na década de 1950 e nas concessões da década de 1990: há uma histórica falta de recursos para o modal.

Por exemplo, o momento vivido pelo setor metroferroviário no Brasil hoje não é dos melhores: o ajuste fiscal atinge em cheio os projetos de infraestrutura de transportes, sendo os investimentos em ferrovias bastante prejudicados, a ponto de impelir o Ministério da Fazenda a retirar do horizonte próximo a implementação do novo marco regulatório do setor, que visava a dar maior competitividade ao modal.

O atual modelo de concessão é vertical, em que não há competição entre as concessionárias para o uso das diferentes malhas do País, tendo como consequência o encarecimento do frete ferroviário. A regulação do modal também é frágil, faltando fiscalização satisfatória por parte da Agência Nacional de Transporte Terrestre (ANTT) nos contratos de concessão. O quadro para a iniciativa privada também não é favorável: apenas no mês de maio, foram registradas cerca de 100 demissões nas concessionárias ferroviárias.

Em 1967, Albert Hirshman escreveu um interessante ensaio sobre projetos de desenvolvimento, no qual desenvolveu a ideia de que grandes projetos devem ter algumas de suas características não reveladas para sua realização, tal como o preço a ser pago pelo empreendimento e seus respectivos impactos socioambientais.

O caso da ferrovia transcontinental é um desses projetos desenvolvimentistas com poucas informações a seu respeito: poucos estudos de impacto socioambiental, indefinições quanto ao traçado e custo imprevisível são algumas das marcas do projeto. As informações disponíveis não autorizam o anúncio de um empreendimento desse tamanho para a região. Então o que está em jogo no anúncio da Ferrovia Transcontinental?

O que está posto para o setor metroferroviário nos acordos firmados com a China é a reafirmação da nossa condição de dependência, com poucas indicações de investimento na indústria metroferroviária e o atrelamento da economia brasileira à sua “vocacional” matriz exportadora de commodities, veio central da expansão do modal ferroviário brasileiro nos últimos anos.

Assim, a entrada dos chineses no mercado metroferroviário brasileiro deve ser vista com cautela, a fim de que não terminemos liquidando o setor mais uma vez, entregando-o a interesses pouco preocupados com a solução de nossos gargalos de infraestrutura de transportes

Fonte: Brasil Debate