Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Time to rethink global trade (and save the Euro & the US economy as well as Earth)?

Whereas more and more ("national") economies are becoming Services economies (ie with Services yielding 65-70% or even more of GDP) most of international trade is still in manufactured goods. So whereas "intellectual products" such as film, TV content, music, even porno (by the way, its main global "manufacturing" cluster is in California too, much like the Silicon Valley and Hollywood) and Services such as finance, telecoms, insurance, and of course tourism, provide valuable export revenue to some economies, the world superpowers of exports are driven by manufactured goods!

Be it "complex products", for consumer or business use, as is the purported German key to exporting success, or innovative tech products (America's niche) or low price - low quality manufactured goods (as is the case for China, at least for now, will it follow Japan's example and upgrade, gradually, into quality products?), manufactured goods are the bread and butter of trade. Portugal, Spain, Greece, Italy and others are being advised to adopt the German approach to manufacturing quality/complex goods as a way of solving their competitiveness and balance of payments issues!

Side Note: But, as I have asked in previous posts (see eg here), what would happen to the world market prices for complex goods if the PIIGS and other Eurozone members decide to follow Germany's example (thus increasing supply of such goods in the Eurozone, the EU and globally)?
So, manufactured goods of all origins, sizes, qualities, prices, etc are travelling around our planet everyday in the process of what we call global or world trade, the No. 1 world sport of our era, more crucial than football (aka soccer), basketball, even rugby or cricket! The one that makes or breaks economies as we are seeing in recent months (hence a "Rollerball" of sorts, if you recall the movie, especially the original, starring James Caan).

But does all this trade (and transport) "jazz" make sense? In addition to burdening the planet's environment?

Some would say that it is transport that has become too cheap in recent decades, thus allowing for "irrational" transport and trade to occur, in the name of Ricardo (David (see Wikipedia) not Ricky). But cheap transport is not necessarily the problem, is it, unless of course one believes that markets and the prices they set provide the best allocation of resources, but I am not a believer in that worldview. Are you?

So should there be a central planning body, global, that determines which manufactured products should have a "right" to be transported across the "7 seas" (via air, sea, etc or comb0 thereof) ie a right to burden the planet's eco-system (eco not econ; well that one too, actually)? Does one have to believe in global warming to agree that shipping of many types of goods across thousands of miles/kms or nautical miles is simply irrational use of resources?

No, I am not proposing the establishment of such a central trade/transport licensing body. Of course not. Unless China takes over the whole world, of course. In which case it won't matter what I or you think, anyway!

A few years ago, a few well known leaders, 2 from South America and 2 from Europe, if memory serves me right, had the brilliant idea to strap a "globalisation levy" on (believe it or not) passenger air transport!!! The European Commission's Services were even forced to look into it. Why on earth charge the movement of people instead of goods? To promote tele-conferencing? Or virtual sales aka e-commerce? To bring the travelling salesmen a break (see the movie Up In the Air with George Clooney as an excellent case study)? Not likely!

But the problem still exists and calls for a solution.

End of Part 1
(Not to be completed over 6 seasons)



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BRs
Nick

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