Why the US struggles against Japan in TPP negotiations

US Trade Representative Michael Froman speaks to reporters while Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari looks on during a press conference at the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Ministerial Meeting in Singapore, 20 May 2014. Trade ministers from 12 nations completed a two-day Ministerial meeting in Singapore targeted at creating a 12-nation trade pact in the Asian-Pacific region. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

Real progress in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations has stalled until Japan and the United States reach some kind of basic trade agreement — which is still elusive even after numerous rounds of talks. The United States has been pressuring Japan to make concessions in key areas such as agriculture.

It is well known that current TPP negotiations are running on two separate tracks: the plurilateral track in which all 12 countries are participating and the bilateral track which amounts to a series of bilateral deals being negotiated on the side. Read more…

Moving Modi beyond Gujarat

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the nation in his first Independence Day speech from the Red Fort in New Delhi. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Rajiv Kumar, CPR

With the Modi government less than 3 months old, it is surely too early to make any assessments. But high expectations and his track record have generated an impatience for results even among Modi’s supporters. News trickles out mentioning an indefatigable prime minister driving from the front, changing the tenor and temper of the entire bureaucracy.
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India is not the bad guy, but it can do better

Indian daily-wage labourers load 50 kilo sacks of wheat onto a truck at a grain distribution point on the outskirts of Amritsar 16 May 2013. On 5 August 2014, India defended its decision to scuttle a landmark worldwide trade deal, saying it needed to take a tough stand at the WTO to ensure the survival of its impoverished farmers. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Rajiv Kumar, Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research

India’s recent veto of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), agreed at the Bali Ministerial last year, raises several points that speak to its commitment to the multilateral system, the need for agricultural reform and India’s place in the world. Read more…

After joining the WTO, what’s next for Laos?

Author: Buavanh Vilavong, ANU

Earlier this year Laos celebrated the first anniversary of its WTO membership. Laos’ accession to the WTO has been less talked about than that of its neighbours China and Vietnam, who joined the organisation in 2001 and 2007, respectively. This is partly due to Laos being a small, landlocked economy whose accession would not be expected to make a big impact on international trade.

But Laos’ clout is more than may first appear. Read more…

Rethinking the global trade regime

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets with US Secretary of State John Kerry on 1 August 2014. Both leaders have clearly stated their positions after India refused to sign the Trade Facilitation Protocol. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

India’s dropping a bombshell on the conclusion of the WTO agreement on trade facilitation negotiated in Bali last December — which promised to streamline customs and other procedures that impose heavy costs on doing business across national borders — is the latest symptom of a sick multilateral trade regime. Reducing the costs of international transactions in this way would seem like a no-brainer to the thoughtful citizen of any country. Read more…

It’s time to update our thinking on trade

A farmer speaks on his mobile in Bihar, India. As a laptop or smart phone is now typically made in 15 to 20 countries, old-style trade thinking can cause confusion and bad policy. (Photo: Flickr/IMWIC).

Author: William H. Overholt, Fung Global Institute

Our institutions for governing world trade and our thinking about world trade date back to a simpler era. Without a radical rethink, we risk the gradual decay of our most valuable international institutions, loss of extraordinary opportunities to improve global living standards and possibly the sidelining of the West in developing modern institutions. Read more…

G20 must shape a new world trade regime

The G20 meeting at the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings 11 April 2014 at the IMF Headquarters in Washington, DC. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Mari Pangestu and David Nellor, Indonesia

Over the past decade global trade and investment discussions have moved far away from the formal global trade regime. The multilateral system has been mired in the Doha Development Round — defined by a single undertaking and a fixed agenda that is increasingly out-of-date. In the meantime, most countries have devoted their energies to regional trade and investment discussions. Read more…

Deepening India’s export basket

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang waves at the media in front of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his ceremonial reception in New Delhi last year. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Keya Chaturvedi, NUS

As India elects a new government in the summer of 2014, many analysts have vociferously discussed the incumbent government’s domestic economic management. Yet less attention has been paid to India’s external economic engagement. Read more…

The principles for governing international trade

US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speak at a joint conference after holding their summit meeting in Tokyo on 24 April 2014. Obama failed to reach a conclusion or agreement with Abe on the TPP. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The success of President Obama’s swing through Japan on his Asia trip last week, he is supposed to have told Prime Minister Abe in The Hague recently, would be measured by whether it delivered a satisfactory conclusion to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations between Washington and Tokyo. On that metric, the trip was an abject failure. There was no conclusion or agreement. Read more…

Beyond Bali: imperatives for reforming India’s food security system

Farmers cut paddy in a field in Baruipur village, about 20 kilometers south of Kolkata, India. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Raghbendra Jha, ANU

India agreed to an interim ‘peace clause’ on its food subsidy policies at the ninth ministerial conference of the WTO held in Bali in December 2013. While the Indian media largely heralded this decision as a triumph for India’s food security policy, a closer inspection of what was actually agreed to shows that this optimism could be misplaced. Read more…

Revive multilateralism or fail global development

Indonesia's Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan, WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo applaud during the closing ceremony after success with final agreement of the WTO conference in Nusa Dua, on Indonesian resort island of Bali on 7 December 2013.  (Photo: AAP)

Author: William H. Overholt, Fung Global Institute and Harvard University

The success of the December Bali WTO negotiations shows that, although prolonged and stressful, multilateral negotiations can succeed.

Trade facilitation has advanced. Politically sensitive advanced countries’ support for farmers and emerging countries’ concerns about food security have been managed. After many years in the doldrums, the renewed possibility of success means that multilateral negotiations deserve to be revived. Read more…

Taking the middle road to capital account liberalisation in China

A Chinese clerk counts notes at a bank in Xuchang city, in the central Chinese province of Henan. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Daili Wang, Peking University

Evidence suggests that China’s capital account liberalisation has accelerated in recent years. At the release of the 12th Five-Year Plan two years ago, it was stated that China will ‘gradually achieve convertibility of the renminbi under capital accounts’. More recently, the adjourned Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee was more aggressive, stating that China will ‘accelerate interest rate liberalisation and capital-account convertibility’. Read more…

China and the future of Asia Pacific trade

US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a bilateral meeting at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California, on 7 June, 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The backbone of stability and amity in Asia and the Pacific is an open economic system, which has encouraged deep trade and investment interdependence within the region, and the United States security umbrella that provides reassurance to US allies and partners as well as those, like China, outside the alliance framework against a resurgence of military or political adventurism. Read more…

Averting economic cold war

US President Barack Obama presents Chinese President Xi Jinping with a gift of an inscribed redwood park bench at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California, 8 June, 2013. (Photo: White House/Pete Souza).

Author: Yiping Huang, Peking University and ANU

When the first G20 summit was held at the end of 2008 in Washington DC, many believed that the time had finally come for developed and developing countries to work together to reconfigure the international economic architecture. Some even suggested that the US and China formally adopt the G2 mechanism to jointly manage global affairs. Read more…