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Chinese Usage of Non Tariff Barriers- Symbol of Double Speak on Free Trade

Dr. Sriparna Pathak

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Photo by Athena Lam on Unsplash

China’s rise as an economic powerhouse is often attributed to the comparative advantages it has in terms of cheap labor and manufacturing. However, less recognized are the trade barriers that have been utilized by China for its rise. While tariff barriers have now become an issue of an impending trade war between China and the U.S. and are more visible, Chinese restrictions on imports from other countries by stealth through the application of non tariff barriers often remains invisible. While China openly advocates globalization and the free flow of trade, a closer look at the patterns of trade it has with its top trading partners reveals the tools used by China to ensure that the balance tilts in its favor.

In 2017, China’s top trading partners in terms of export sales were the U.S., Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Germany, India, the Netherlands, the U.K. and Singapore. China incurred the highest trade surpluses with the U.S., amounting to US$ 276.8 billion; Hong Kong, amounting to US$273.6 billion; the Netherlands, amounting to US$56.1 billion; India, amounting to US$51.6 billion and the U.K., amounting to US$34.7 billion. Among the countries that generate the greatest positive balances of trade for China, surpluses with India, the U.S. and Mexico grew at the fastest pace from 2016 to 2017. For all the mentioned countries, there exist tariff as well as non tariff barriers in China, limiting imports from these countries, while Chinese exports to these countries grow continuously.

Tariff and non tariff barriers to trade are the most common measures implemented by countries to manage their exports and imports. For China, tariff barriers include raising taxes, while non tariff barriers are about increasing limits to the volume of goods traded. An example of a trade barrier China frequently uses is that of its low exchange rate, which encourages exports but restricts imports. As far as the less visible non tariff barriers are concerned, different measures are used for different countries trading with China.

In the case of American goods, the Chinese government attempts to manage the export of many primary, intermediate and downstream products by raising or lowering the value added tax (VAT) rebate available upon export. China sometimes reinforces its objectives by imposing or retracting export duties. In 2014, China agreed to improve its VAT rebate system, including by actively studying international best practices, and to deepen communication with the United States on this matter, including regarding its impact on trade. To date, however, China has not made any movement toward the adoption of international best practices. Additionally, the Chinese government uses Quarantine Inspection Permits (QIPs) to keep out American agricultural products, causing costly delays while they sit on the docks. Over and above these, China keeps out genuine exported commodities, while they are pirated in China. This is because of China’s maintenance of restrictions on the right to import and distribute legitimate copyright intensive products, such as music CDs, or movie DVDs for example. This is a painful exacerbation of China’s poor record of IPR protection. These restrictions delay the introduction of the products in to the marker, while creating time and space for infringing individuals and groups to ensure that infringement and patent violations continues to dominate the market in China. Also, as stated by a U.S. government report, Chinese government officials have pressured foreign companies to license their technologies or intellectual property on unfavorable terms! The U.S. attempts at getting China to address these issues have yielded negligent success.

In the case of Indian exports to China, certain oilseeds require as many as 11 certificates stating that they are pest free. Interestingly, 10 of the 11 pests are already present in China! Also, many if the Chinese standards such as the CCC require a certification by Chinese authorities before a product can be put on the Chinese market. The factory has to be inspected at the expense of the exporter, which is a lengthy, costly and cumbersome process, which at the end in most cases leads to no clear cut answer on the certification. This in itself discourages exporters. The sanitary and the phytosanitary certification requirements for items such as seeds, fruit, seafood, and vegetables exceed international standards, and to make matters worse, the international system of arbitration of disputes is not recognized in China. Additionally, difficult registration processes and frequent changes in rules relating to standards and frequent certification requirements hinder Indian exports in sectors such as pharmaceuticals.

The EU, which is also an important trading partner for China faces non tariff barriers. European exporters, similar to Indian exporters face an increasing number of unjustifiable non tariff barriers in the form of product certification, labeling standards, import approval requirements and customs clearance delays. In the telecoms and financial services sector, firms from the EU have been unable to expand significantly because of high capital requirements and extremely complex approval procedures. In the manufacturing sector, China continues to maintain restrictions on some key industries for Europe- such as automobiles, petrochemicals or steel. The delays in the CCC approvals from China also provide counterfeits with a wonderful opportunity to put the fakes of European products on the Chinese market, while the actual EU products continue waiting a CCC approval!

While China treats the EU as an important export market, and seeks to gain significantly from trade and investment; it also keeps its comparative advantages through making usage if various protective measures- be it tariff or non tariff. The usage of non tariff barriers is more appealing given the fact that they are more complex and more invisible in nature. The story is the same for all of China’s major trading partners. As compared to other countries, China is the most creative as well as active in the usage of non tariff barriers and this can be attributed to the fragile nature of its growth which has been modeled on exports; which the government desperately seeks to protect. The usage of non tariff barriers are signs of China’s self centered trade policies in juxtaposition to its official calls for globalization and free trade.

Dr. Sriparna Pathak is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, Nowgong College, Assam. Prior to this, she was an assistant professor at the Centre for South and Southeast Asian Studies, Gauhati University. She is also a Fellow at the South Asia Democratic Forum, Brussels. Previously she was a consultant in the Policy Planning and Research Division of the Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi. She received her PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and has spent two years in Beijing as an advanced research scholar on a joint scholarship from the Indian Ministry of Human Resources Development and the China Scholarship Council. She frequently writes on China's foreign policy, India-China relations and Chinese domestic economy. Her twitter handle is @Sriparnapathak and she can be reached at sriparnapathak[at]gmail.com

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Economy

Global Migration Can Be a Potent Tool in the Fight to End Poverty Across the World

MD Staff

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Global migration has lifted millions out of poverty and boosted economic growth, a new World Bank report finds. But destination countries risk losing out in the global competition for talent and leaving large gaps in their labor markets by failing to implement policies that address labor market forces and manage short-run economic tensions.

Large and persistent differences in wages across the globe are the main drivers of economic migration from low- to high-income countries, according to Moving for Prosperity: Global Migration and Labor Markets. Migrants often triple their wages after moving to a new country, helping millions of migrants and their relatives at home escape poverty. Destination countries often benefit as migrants fill critical roles, from advancing the technological frontier in Silicon Valley to building skyscrapers in the Middle East.

Despite the lure of higher wages, rates of migrants as a share of the global population have remained mostly unchanged for more than five decades, even as global trade and investment flows have expanded exponentially during this time. Between 1960 and 2015, the share of migrants in the global population has fluctuated narrowly between 2.5 and 3.5 percent, with national borders, distance, culture, and language acting as strong deterrents.

Highlights of key findings from the report include:

-Migration flows are highly concentrated by location and occupation. Currently, the top 10 destination countries account for 60 percent of around 250 million international migrants in the world.

-Surprisingly, concentration levels increase with skill levels. The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia are home to almost two-thirds of migrants with tertiary education. At the very peak of talent, an astonishing 85 percent of all immigrant Nobel Science Prize winners are in the United States.

-Education levels of women are rapidly increasing, especially in developing countries, but opportunities for career growth remain limited. As a result, college educated women from low and middle-income countries are the fastest growing group among immigrants to high-income countries.

“The number of international migrants continues to remain fairly modest, but migrants often arrive in waves and cluster around the same locations and types of jobs,” said Shantayanan Devarajan, World Bank Senior Director for Development Economics and acting Chief Economist. “Better policies can manage these transitions in a way that guarantees long-term benefits for both citizens and migrants.”

The report recommends various policy measures to ensure the benefits of migration are shared by host and immigrant communities for generations to come. Key among them:

-Effective migration policies must work with rather than against labor market forces. For example, where there is large unmet demand for seasonal work, temporary migration programs, like those in Canada or Australia, could address labor market shortages while discouraging permanent undocumented migration.

-Quotas should be replaced with market based mechanisms to manage migration flows. Such tools can pay for the cost of government assistance to support dislocated workers. In addition, the most pressing needs of the labor market can be met by matching migrant workers with employers that need them the most.

-Creating a pathway to permanent residency for migrants with higher-skills and permanent jobs creates incentives for them to fully integrate in the labor markets and make economic and social contributions to the destination country.

“We have to implement policies to address the short term distributional impact of migration flows in order to prevent draconian migration restrictions that would end up hurting everyone,” said Asli Demirguc-Kunt, Director of Research at the World Bank.

The report argues that migration will be a fundamental feature of the world for the foreseeable future due to continued income and opportunity gaps, differences in demographic profiles, and the rising aspirations of the world’s poor and vulnerable.

“The public debate over migration would benefit from recognizing data and research,” said Caglar Ozden, Lead Economist and the lead author of the report. “What this report tries to bring to the debate is rigorous, relevant analysis to support informed policy making.”

Moving for Prosperity: Global Migration and Labor Markets is the latest in a series of Policy Research Reports that comprehensively review the latest research and data on current development issues. The new report presents the key facts, research, and data on global migration gathered from the World Bank, U.N., academia, and many other partners.

You can read the full report and accompanying datasets, based on extensive existing literature.

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Sweden well ahead in digital transformation yet has more to do

MD Staff

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Sweden’s efforts to embrace the shift to digital have been a key driver of economic growth in recent years, yet more needs to be done to get remote areas of the country online, bring digital technology to small firms, upgrade skills and meet security and privacy challenges, according to a new OECD report.

OECD Reviews of Digital Transformation: Going Digital in Sweden finds Sweden is among the top OECD countries in deploying digital technology across households and business, with widespread Internet use across the country and narrower digital divides by age, education, income and firm size than most countries. The availability, quality and affordability of high-speed Internet in Sweden is among the best in the OECD.

Sweden’s economy has the highest share of value added coming from information and communication (ICT) technologies of OECD countries and is among the top ten exporters of ICT services. Use of digital technologies has helped Swedish firms to integrate into global value chains in manufacturing and move up the value chain to focus on high value-added services like product design and marketing. Sweden is also a leader in the Internet of things.

While Sweden is on a solid path to reach its goal of having 98% of households and firms connected to 1 gigabit per second Internet by 2025, it should now focus on enhancing co-ordination among national, regional and local broadband deployment strategies and  expanding networks in sparsely populated areas. The use of digital technologies by people with lower levels of income or education could be further increased. Sweden also lags other countries in opening up government data to citizens.

On the business side, while digital tools are widely used in Swedish firms, most are slow to seize opportunities to analyse big data. There is also a limited supply of advanced ICT skills in the Swedish workforce. The report also notes that as an international hub of scientific and technological leadership, Sweden should strengthen its policy priorities and publicly funded programmes for digital innovation.

Concerns about digital security are higher among Swedish people than in many other OECD countries. The government should promote a clear vision of digital security risk management as an economic and social responsibility of all and provide stronger policy leadership.

The report is the first in a new series of OECD reviews that will analyse development of the digital economy, review policies and make recommendations to improve performance as part of the Organisation’s Going Digital project.

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Finding Jobs in South Africa: Two Actionable Ideas that Work

MD Staff

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Recent studies show that better job search planning and including a reference letter from former employers, significantly increases responses from potential employers in South Africa.

The World Bank’s Africa Gender Innovation Lab and Jobs Group, in collaboration with researchers from Middlebury College, Stellenbosch University and University of Cape Town, conducted several experiments investigating the roles of skills certificates, referral letters, and providing better information about workers in the labor market.

One experiment involved the design and testing of an action-planning tool to promote greater job search intensity. The tool layered on top of a 90-minute career-counseling workshop offered by the government of South Africa helped unemployed youth follow through on their job search intentions and adopt a more efficient and effective search strategy. Improved search strategy led to job seekers receiving 24% more responses from employers and 30% more job offers. Five to 12 weeks after the workshop and action planning, these job seekers were 26% more likely to be employed.

A second experiment, tested the impact of reference letters from former employers. Including a reference letter in a job application increased the likelihood of getting a response to an application (by 60%). Interestingly, reference letters may be even more important for women job seekers. Women with better reference letters were more likely to receive responses from employers and interview requests (the same was not true for men). Women who received reference letter templates were approximately 50% more likely to be employed with employment rates doubled for those who used the letters.

World Bank

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