Risk, resilience and recalibration in global value chains

By Adnan Seric, Michael Windisch, UNIDO, Holger Görg, Wan-Hsin Liu, Kiel Institute for the World Economy 1

Figure 1Number of new trade policy interventions implemented each year. Note: Reporting lag-adjusted statistics. Source: Global Trade Alert

COVID-19 supply chain disruptions provide an unprecedented opportunity to examine the resilience of global value chains. Data on trade flows and manufacturing output over the course of the pandemic suggest that the supply chain disruptions of early 2020 were of a temporary nature, and that extended global value chains currently interlinking many firms and economies seem to be resilient to trade and economic shocks at least to some extent.

Escalating geopolitical tensions and trade restrictions

Geopolitical tensions have risen, in a race to address the need for self-sufficiency—especially with regard to economic dependence on China—exemplified by the escalation in trade interventions in the lead-up to early December 2020. Close to 1,800 new restrictive interventions have been imposed in 2020 – over one and a half times the number in each of the two previous years, when the China-US trade dispute and a new wave of protectionism intensified (Figure 1)2. The adoption of discriminatory trade interventions outpaced liberalisations, despite the increase in new trade-liberalising measures during this period and the lifting of some emergency trade restrictions.

Amid rising US-China trade tensions in 2018-19, China already faced a particularly high increase in trade restrictions relative to other countries, which further intensified during the COVID-19 crisis. (Figure 2)

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Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership: why should it involve the excluded LDCs?

By Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD)

The world’s largest trading bloc, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), was signed in November 2020, counting 15 Asian member countries. Should the excluded countries, more specifically the low income and least developed countries (LDCs) of Asia, be worried about this development?

In recent years, the number of regional trading arrangements of various types, dealing with trade in goods or services or both, has been on the rise. 305 regional trade arrangements are already in force and the World Trade Organisation has been notified of another 496 currently under negotiation. However, the RCEP stands out for several reasons. The ten original members of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (Brunei, Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia, Singapore, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam) have now joined hands with five of the six countries with which ASEAN had bilateral free trade areas – China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. India opted out at the last moment, but the door has been kept open.

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Reforming industrial subsidies usage through the WTO: process proposals

By Professor Peter Draper, Executive Director and Dr Naoise McDonagh, Lecturer, Institute for International Trade, The University of Adelaide

The distorting effects of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and industrial subsidies on global market competition has become a topic of increasing importance for many World Trade Organization (WTO) members in recent years. There is growing pressure from key actors for WTO reform. The U.S., EU and Japan have jointly outlined a reform agenda for the WTO’s Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM)1 , focusing on market distorting effects of state capitalism. China has offered a different reform agenda that seeks greater recognition of the role of subsidies in pursuing legitimate social and development goals, as outlined in a recent WTO communication. Subsidy usage is therefore a key development issue.

A lack of reform may lead to growing use of subsidies by developed and advanced developing countries with deep pockets in ways that ultimately widen the economic gap between countries. This is because many developing economies will not have the capacity to leverage subsidies to build their industrial bases.

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Lessons from LDCs’ responses to COVID-19: From crisis to opportunities?

By Ratnakar Adhikari, Executive Director, Enhanced Integrated Framework


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide. This blog is also a part of a thread looking more specifically at the impacts and responses to the COVID-19 crisis in Least Developed Countries (LDCs)


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June 2020 : Staff members outside the Republican Hospital for Covid-19 Patients in Taiz, Yemen. Photo: Akramalrasny / Shutterstock.

Many least developed countries (LDCs) have not yet seen large numbers of COVID-19 cases – though there are notable exceptions such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sudan.

Yet, all LDCs are confronting severe economic disruptions – and a major fiscal squeeze – from the global demand shock, supply chain disruptions and, significantly reduced income from tourism and remittances. Domestic lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus present unique challenges in countries with high poverty rates in which large sections of the workforce are informally employed.

At the same time, crises can come with opportunities for positive change, and the present crisis might offer this for LDCs, to undertake much-needed reforms that would place them on firmer footing as economic recovery takes hold. A few LDCs have done just that, examples of which are below. Continue reading

Trading to avoid falling behind in the COVID-19 crisis: Lessons from Central America to boost prosperity

 By Rodrigo Méndez Maddaleno, Economist at Chief Economist Office, Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI)


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Panama City, Panama – container vessel leaving the Panama Canal. Photo: Shutterstock

If what and where you export matters, Central American countries need to upgrade the quality of their exports, produce new ones and dive into new markets.

Central American countries are open to international trade. Trade in the region represents 67% of GDP, more than the world’s average of 51%. Average tariff rates for the region have also shown a consistent decline since 2005 going from 7% to 5%. However, the region’s economic performance has not reflected this, with an average GDP per capita growth of around 2.5% in the 2000s, which means that income doubles approximately every 30 years. So why has there not been an economic take-off? What is missing in the region when it comes to trade and economic policy in general? These questions are even more relevant today, as COVID-19 and the global crisis are affecting the region and its major trading partners.

To address this, it is important to analyse several aspects of Central American trade, such as export composition, main destination markets, and discuss what the region can do to improve its situation and boost economic growth and prosperity. Continue reading

Driving Africa’s industrialisation on the back of COVID-19

By Toyin Abiodun, Industry and Trade Advisor, Rwanda, Maudo Jallow, Industry and Trade Analyst, Ghana and Jonathan Said, Head of Inclusive Economic Growth, Africa, Tony Blair Institute


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Photo courtesy of the Tony Blair Institute

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Africa imports a net of $232 billion worth of manufactured goods every year, while it exports a net of $174 billion worth of raw commodities. Although Africa’s economy grew on average by 5.5% per year over the past fifteen years,  manufacturing has remained a fixed share – still accounting for only 10 per cent of GDP.

The impact COVID-19 is having on global supply chains and on global trade, and the immense economic pressure this is placing on Africa – not least in the availability of medical equipment, but also food and other goods – signals the importance of industrialising the continent. While COVID-19 is creating a major economic and health crisis, it also presents an opportunity to grab this agenda by the horns and accelerate Africa’s industrialisation.

Evidence from across the continent suggests this is possible. Many products that are imported to the continent – ranging from machinery to textiles to pharmaceuticals to processed food and medical equipment – are already produced competitively in Africa. For example, Kenya and Uganda have a thriving pharmaceutical industry, Ethiopia and Senegal have expanded their textiles industry in recent years, while Morocco and South Africa are major car producers. Continue reading

Don’t put export bans on medical supplies during COVID-19. Why trade should flow freely to the world’s poorest countries

By Violeta Gonzalez Behar, Head, Partnerships, Outreach and Resource Mobilization, Enhanced Integrated Framework, World Trade Organization


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.
This blog is also a part of a thread looking more specifically at the impacts and responses to the COVID-19 crisis in Least Developed Countries (LDCs).



export-medical-covid19-tradeWith coronavirus spreading fast and now present in 185 countries, the pandemic has already reached some of the world’s poorest countries. We are all familiar with the headlines pointing to a shortage of masks, ventilators, gloves, gowns and face shields across countries. Fear and hoarding is only magnifying scarcity.

Amidst the uncertainty surrounding the availability of medical supplies, it may be tempting for governments to save supplies for their own citizens. And this is exactly what is playing out at the global level. Currently there are over 80 curbs on exports of essential COVID-19 medical supplies and medicines that have been introduced by 76 nations this year.

The consequences of such actions are already visible in countries like Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. Now imagine how life-threatening this could be in the poorest countries, an example being the Central African Republic, where there are only three ventilators in the entire country. Continue reading

A Sceptics Guide to the African Continental Free Trade Area – and Why the Sceptics are Wrong…

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By Andrew Mold, Acting Director, Office for Eastern Africa, Economic Commission for Africa, Kigali, Rwanda


This blog is part of a series marking the upcoming 
19th International Economic Forum on Africa 


Photo by Frans Van Heerden from Pexels
Photo by Frans Van Heerden from Pexels

Scepticism is never in short supply, generally speaking, and particularly in the era we are currently living through. This is often true when it comes to bold policy initiatives on the African continent. Yet I would argue that a lack of faith is certainly not warranted in the case of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

Objections to the AfCFTA follow familiar lines. There are a series of misconceptions which underpin these objections:

“African countries all trade the same things”

Despite evidence of some diversification of exports occurring over recent decades, this is largely true; Africa is still heavily dependent on traditional export crops and commodities, reducing the scope for mutually beneficial trade. Yet this paints an excessively simplified view of trends in regional trade. Patterns of trade are changing rapidly. The traditional export market outside the continent of Africa (Europe, the United States and, increasingly, India and China) are of primary commodities, but the intra-regional component of trade is much more diversified, with high shares of non-traditional exports and manufactured goods, as illustrated by the case of the East African Community (EAC). Continue reading

Nigeria’s border closure: Why it will not pay off

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By Léopold Ghins and Philipp Heinrigs, OECD Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat


This blog is part of a series marking the upcoming 
19th International Economic Forum on Africa


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Men offload rice at Bodija market, Ibadan, Nigeria. Flickr/IITA

It has been three months since Nigeria closed its land borders and to date there are few indications as to when they will open again. The country said it wants to reduce the smuggling of goods and stop illegal inflows of Asian rice and outflows of subsidised fuel. More fundamentally, Nigerian authorities justify the closure by the need to support the domestic agricultural sector and accelerate national productivity growth.

The closure is badly affecting livelihoods in local border economies. In Benin, communities in areas close to the Seme border near the sea, or further up north near the Owode border, largely depend on Nigerian markets for their sustenance. The sudden shutdown has caused thousands of smallholder farmers to lose their produce and default on credits. In the Dendi region (an area that spans across northern Benin, Niger and Nigeria), economic networks are strongly integrated across borders. Small traders that live on these networks have lost their principal sources of income. Continue reading

Taking gender in trade more seriously

By Ann Linde, Minister for Foreign Trade, Sweden


This blog is part of a special series marking the 3 July 2019 launch in Geneva of the joint OECD/WTO publication Aid for Trade at a Glance


AFT coverThe 2030 Agenda strengthens the prominence of international trade as both a goal of and a means to sustainable development. It also recognises the importance of Aid for Trade. Sweden, for one, is highly dedicated to these commitments and supportive of the Aid for Trade initiative. Additionally, as the Foreign Trade Minister of the world’s first officially feminist government, I use the WTO’s and EU’s free trade agreements as well as Aid for Trade as important platforms for pushing forward the gender equality agenda.

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