Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eurostat releases EU unemployment stats for February

According to the Eurostat (March 31)

The Eurozone's seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 10.0% in February 2010, compared with 9.9% in January 2010 and 8.8% in February 2009. This is the highest rate since August 1998 and for the EU27 since the start of the series in January 2000.

The EU unemployment rate was 9.6% in February 2010, compared with 9.5% in January 2010 and 8.3% in February 2009. This is the highest rate for the EU since the start of the series in January 2000.

Eurostat estimates that 23.019 million men and women in the EU27, of whom 15.749 million were in the euro area, were unemployed in February 2010. Compared with January 2010, the number of persons unemployed increased by 131 000 in the EU27 and by 61 000 in the euro area. Compared with February 2009, unemployment went up by 3.139 million in the EU27 and by 1.844 million in the euro area.

Among the Member States, the lowest unemployment rates were recorded in the Netherlands (4.0%) and Austria (5.0%), and the highest rates in Latvia (21.7%) and Spain (19.0%).

Compared with a year ago, all Member States recorded an increase in their unemployment rate.

The smallest increases were observed in Luxembourg (5.4% to 5.5%), Germany (7.3% to 7.5%), and Belgium (7.7% to 8.0%). The highest increases were registered in Latvia (13.2% to 21.7%), Estonia (7.6% to 15.5% between the fourth quarters of 2008 and 2009) and Lithuania (8.1% to 15.8% between the fourth quarters of 2008 and 2009).

In February 2010, the youth unemployment rate (under-25s) was 20.0% in the euro area and 20.6% in the EU27. In February 2009 it was 18.4% in both zones. The lowest rate was observed in the Netherlands (7.3%), and the highest rates in Latvia (41.3% in the fourth quarter of 2009) and Spain (40.7%).

In the USA, the unemployment rate was 9.7% in February 2010. In Japan it was 4.9% in January 2010.

Rethinking Ricardo's comparative advantage theory

The free trade vs. protectionism debate is current these days.

Does David Ricardo's comparative advantage theory hold water, at least in this era?

Irrespective of Paul Krugman's proposal to slap tariffs on Chinese products to confront China's yuan policy, a key question for the US and Europe is: Can economies like the US & EU be sustained by Services & intangible - intellectual products (& their exports)? In other words, can they depend for the industrial products on the world markets?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Understanding East and SE Europe crucial for understanding current EU dynamics

Understanding the history of each of the 27 member states - countries of the European Union is IMO key to understanding the current dynamics in the EU and "European Integration" and well as planning for the future of the EU.

Within this task lies, IMO, a task that may be a tad harder than awareness of the history of the UK, Germany, The Netherlands and other EU countries that are Western European in geography: Understanding East and SE Europe (and to some extent Central Europe) and the history, especially between the 15th century and 1990, of EU members Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, as well as more central ones such as Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia. In other words 9 of the 10 countries that entered the EU in 2004, the 2 that entered in 2007 as well as Greece, that entered in 1981 (as its 10th member). As well as countries that are candidates for EU membership, at any stage, eg Croatia, FYROM, Serbia, etc.

A number of posts in the coming days and weeks will try to give readers from W. Europe, the US and the rest of the world, some idea.

Understanding East and SE Europe: Some key history dates

1453, 1529 and 1683 are three key dates in East and South-East European history.
But there are more.

Understanding East and SE Europe: FDR's great mistake

"I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of a man. . . . I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask for nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1942, in response to William Christian Bullitt Jr.'s warnings re Stalin's "appetite" for annexing parts of Europe (which did happen after WWII).

WTO: world trade volume +9.5% expected in 2010

According to WTO economists world trade is set to rebound in 2010 by growing at 9.5% (in volume), after a 12.2% contraction in the volume of global trade in 2009 (the largest such decline since World War II).

According to the WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, “WTO rules and principles have assisted governments in keeping markets open and they now provide a platform from which trade can grow as the global economy improves. We see the light at the end of the tunnel and trade promises to be an important part of the recovery. But we must avoid derailing any economic revival through protectionism”.

According to the WTO press release (March 26):

Exports from developed economies are expected to increase by 7.5% in volume terms over the course of the year while shipments from the rest of the world (including developing economies and the Commonwealth of Independent States) should rise by around 11% as the world emerges from recession.

Measuring trade in volume terms provides a more reliable basis for annual comparisons since volume measurements are not distorted by changes in commodity prices or currency fluctuations, as they can be when trade is measured in dollars or other currencies.

According to the WTO, one positive development in 2009 was the absence of any major increase in trade barriers imposed by WTO members in response to the crisis. The number of trade-restricting measures applied by governments has actually declined in recent months. However, significant slack remains in the global economy, and unemployment is likely to remain high throughout 2010 in many countries. Persistent unemployment may intensify protectionist pressures, according to the WTO.

Why was the trade decline so large in 2009:

The 12% drop in the volume of world trade in 2009 was larger than most economists had predicted. This contraction also exceeded the WTO’s earlier forecast of a 10% decline. World trade volumes fell on three other occasions after 1965 (—0.2% in 2001, —2% in 1982, and —7% in 1975), but none of these episodes approached the magnitude of last year’s economic slide. Trade in current US dollar terms dropped even further than trade in volume terms (—23%), thanks in large part to falling prices of oil and other primary commodities.

Economists have suggested a number of reasons why trade declined so steeply, including the imposition of some of protectionist measures. But the consensus that has emerged centres on a sharp contraction in global demand as the primary cause.

This was magnified by the product composition of the fall in demand, by the presence of global supply chains, and by the fact that the decline in trade was synchronized across countries and regions. The weakness in private sector demand was linked to the global recession triggered by the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the United States. What began in the US financial sector soon spread to the real economy, with global repercussions. Limited availability of trade finance also played a role.

Sharp falls in wealth during the recession caused households and firms to reduce their spending on all types of goods, especially consumer durables (e.g. automobiles) and investment goods such as industrial machinery. Purchases of these items could be postponed easily in response to heightened economic uncertainty, and they may also have been more sensitive to credit conditions than other types of goods.

Whatever the reason for their decline, the reduction in demand for these products fed through to markets that supply inputs for their production, particularly iron and steel. Falling demand for iron and steel was also linked to the slump in building construction in countries where property markets had been booming before the crisis (e.g., the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Spain).

According to the WTO's analysis, the fact that some products comprise a disproportionately large share of world trade, compared with their share of overall output, may have further depressed world trade flows relative to overall production (GDP or gross domestic product). For example, consumer durables and investment goods make up a relatively small fraction of global output but a relatively large part of world trade. Consequently, a decline in demand for these products would have had a greater impact on trade than on GDP.

The measured decline in trade was also inflated to some extent by the spread of global supply chains, in which goods may cross national borders several times during the production process before arriving at their final destination. Merchandise trade statistics record the value of goods every time they cross national boundaries, so when these data are summed to arrive at a figure for total world trade, the number will be larger in the presence of supply chains due to a certain amount of double counting.

The extent of this double counting is difficult to gauge due to a lack of readily available data, but it is reflected in the fact that exports have been growing faster than production since the 1980s. This ratio has increased steadily since 1985, and jumped by nearly one third between 2000 and 2008, before dropping in 2009 as world exports fell faster than world GDP.

A final factor that reinforced the 2009 trade slump was its synchronized nature. Exports and imports of all countries fell at the same time, leaving no region untouched. It is intuitively clear that the fall in world trade would have been smaller if contraction in some regions had been balanced by expansion in others, but this was not the case.

The synchronized nature of the decline is closely related to the spread of international supply chains and information technology, which allows producers in one region to respond almost instantly to market conditions in another part of the world. This usually contributes to global and national welfare by encouraging the most efficient use of scarce resources, but in the case of the trade collapse it may have spread the recession faster.

Trade prospects for 2010

Without any further upheavals in the global economy, world merchandise trade should resume its normal upward trajectory through the end of 2010, although some deviation from its previous trend line will persist indefinitely. The WTO Secretariat estimates that world exports in volume terms will grow by 9.5%, this year, while developed economies’ exports will expand 7.5% and the rest of the world (developing economies plus the Commonwealth of Independent States) will advance 11%. This projection assumes a resumption of global GDP growth in line with consensus estimates (2.9% at market exchange rates), as well as stability in oil prices and exchange rates. However, unexpectedly positive or negative economic news in the coming months could necessitate a revision of the trade forecast.

A 9.5% growth rate for trade is insufficient to bring about a return to pre-crisis levels this year, and even the 11% rate forecast for developing countries would not do the trick. However, two years of growth at this pace would result in trade levels surpassing the peaks of 2008. Developed economies, on the other hand, would require three years of growth to accomplish this.

These trade forecasts are more sensitive to changes in outcomes for developed countries than for developing ones, due to developed countries’ larger share of world trade.

There remain significant risks that the forecast could be over-optimistic, including the possibility of further increases in oil prices, appreciation or depreciation of major currencies, and additional adverse developments in financial markets.

However, there is also a possibility that trade may outperform the forecast, for example if unemployment rates fall more quickly than expected in developed countries.

Brief overview of trade developments in 2009

Trade data in volume (real) terms: merchandise

All countries and regions registered declines in the volume of their merchandise exports in 2009. The United States (—13.9%), European Union (27) (—14.8%) and Japan (—24.9%) all registered declines larger than the world average of —12.2%, while the smallest declines were recorded by the oil exporting regions of Middle East (—4.9%), Africa (—5.6%) and South/Central America (—5.7%). Asia (—11.1%) and China (—10.5%) also saw their exports decline, but by slightly less than the world average. (Table 2)

The situation was reversed on the import side, where the two largest declining regions were oil exporters — the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) (—20.2%) and South and Central America (—16.5%). Among the remaining countries, the United States (—16.5%) and the European Union (—14.5%) had declines greater than the world average, while Japan’s drop (—12.8%) was nearly equal to the world rate.

Trade data in value (nominal) terms: merchandise and commercial services

The value of world merchandise exports fell 23% to $12.15 trillion in 2009, while world commercial services exports declined 13% to $3.31 trillion. This marked the first time since 1983 that trade in commercial services declined year on year.

Transport services recorded the largest drop among service categories, followed by travel and other commercial services. The drop in transport services is unsurprising as this category is closely linked to trade in goods.

China has now overtaken Germany as the world’s leading merchandise exporter, accounting for almost 10% of world exports, and is second to the United States on the import side. The US share in world merchandise imports is 13% compared to China’s 8%.

Although the declines in export volumes of oil producing regions were less than the world average in 2009, their declines in value terms tended to be larger.

For example, the dollar value of exports from the Middle East, Africa and Commonwealth of Independent States fell by 33%, 32%, and 36% respectively, compared to a drop of 23% for the world.

This was due to the sharp drop in oil prices between 2008 and 2009.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Wanted: Team leadership for further EU integration

If Germany under Merkel (and because of her interpretation that the German Constitutional Court's decision limits EU integration? see Spiegel Online article "How European is Angela Merkel?.." is not going to be the political steam engine of EU unity and further integration anymore, then maybe it is time for a group of mid + small size member states to assume the role.

That would actually make more sense, in other words, is it fair to expect Germany, France or Germany + France to play this role in perpetuity? Isn't it time that the EU's medium and small (in population) size members (or a significant number of them) start acting together as a team in a leadership role for European integration?

In the EC/EU's baby and childhood steps, Germany and France were the rams of unity and integration. Now, 50+ years old, the EC (now EU) should be able to rely on team effort for leadership in unity and further integration, ne c'est pas?

Posted via web from nickpthinking

Sunday, March 28, 2010

If Max Weber was alive today ...

IMO Max Weber would have had a field day analysing most of the "comments" made re the "Greek crisis" around the EU and the US in recent weeks!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

On the unstable state of world trade systemics

News reports this week say that US lawmakers are urging trade action against China re its current exchange rate policy and other countries that pose barriers to access of US exports in their markets. These and potentially even bigger "shakes" in the world trade systemics and dynamics should not surprise those who have been reading my "food for thought" pieces on the unstable state of world trade systemics and globalization in general (on this blog or on Twitter) long enough.

IMO, no scenario is impossible as far as trade systemics are concerned, including WTO exit for US and EU (possible but not probable, yet IMO possible).

"Economic Fortress" USA and EU are not out of question IMO.

PS. The US has trade and investment barriers of its own, as well. But certain country/ies are masters in limiting market access (no need to mention name(s)).

Friday, March 26, 2010

decision making: People do not have computer minds in order to formulate every problem ..

... into a mathematical function to be maximised under constraints (like a linear or non-linear regression (Operations Research, OR) model). Some problems can, due to size of parameters. But most do not. Eg for my MS thesis I used a combination of optimisation and "heuristic" technique/approach to find as optimal as possible solution to an aircraft assignment problem.

Plus most problems, be they personal, family/household, policy or business, do not have full data available to plug them in a get a solution. Usually logic, esp. deductive reasoning, trade-off analysis, as well as a philosophical mentality or even wisdom are the necessary ingredients.

As one of my professors in Forecasting used to say, if the world could be "represented" by a model, then that model would become the world.

Any lessons re the "financial world" and its certainties?

Posted via web from nickpthinking

policy - philosophy: Are some jobs more/less worth saving, protecting or promoting ..

than others? If so, is the "value" or "ranking" based on their nationality (of the jobs), on their skill level and/or their wage level, on their friendliness to the environment, on ethical standards, on labour standards, on their positive and negative externalities (effects) on the economy, the rest of the jobs marker, etc?

Complicated and tough questions for complicated and tough times.

Posted via web from nickpthinking

There is no "I" in European, but there is one in Union

But there is no We in either one.

Posted via web from nickpthinking

More on #greed

Greed for knowledge, for awareness, for wisdom?

Greed for interventionism?

Greed for stability, security, min risk, peace of mind?

Food for thought!

Posted via web from nickpthinking

Were/are NYC and London over-depending on the financial services industry ...

.. for economic activity and for jobs?

Posted via web from nickpthinking

Is freedom vs rights the great philosophical divide between the US and the #EU?

It does appear to be so, but is it? Food for thought.

Posted via web from nickpthinking

healthcare dynamics in Europe and effect of Obamacare

Is US healthcare reform success going to discourage those who wish to dismantle universal healthcare in Europe and privatise it?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

On the state and potential of world systemics and dynamics

I am, in principle a "globalist", ie a believer in global (1) freedom of movement not only for goods and capital, but services and workers/job seekers as well. And humans in general, be they of employment age and potential or not (ie free immigration of all kinds). And in a world (1) democratic government to provide the IMO needed balance to the economic side (world markets). In other words global markets balanced by a global democratic government (USA or EU, ie United States or Union style).

But my main concern is that any system works for the so called "average citizen" (I prefer "real people") and for the micro and small (as well as middle size) companies. And I must thus admit that IMO the type of globalization that we have at this stage in the world is not working for the above, thus willing to consider, especially as a thinker, not only fuller/better globalization models but also models that move away from globalization and world (WTO) free trade of mostly goods and capital.

For more on my rationales for a) more and b) less globalization see: The cases for a) more and b) less globalization (including audio files, Feb 3. 2009).

12+ months after those "cases" let me add the following thoughts (or, rather, food for thought):

1) Is the future of free trade regional rather than global, ie Europe, Africa, South & Central America, ASEAN, China+, Russia+, US+, etc?

2) Is an eventual US + EU Single Market "political-economic Sci-Fi"?

3) Paul Krugman has proposed tapped a 15% tariff on all Chinese imports to the US as a way of convincing Beijing to alter its exchange rate policy.
The US could afford to become protectionist - an "economic fortress" because of the size & effectiveness of its internal (50-state) market

4) Could the EU afford to do it? Hm!
Some EU countries export mostly globally, some mostly within the EU Single Market.
Maybe an economic fortress EU would be a way for its "peripheral" members to do better in the EU's internal market. Maybe. After all, how many economies can (and/or want) to become like the German one, how many have the assets and elements (eg climate/weather?) to produce German-type products?

Hence, in terms of EU competitiveness modeling: Some EU countries/economies would benefit, some others the opposite if the EU became an "Economic Fortress".

Of course (3) and (4) would mean that the US and EU would have to leave the WTO. Maybe the future of the WTO was sealed in 2001 when a certain country entered it.

Maybe Russia has a point in having stayed out of the WTO so far. For one thing, it allowed it to raise tariffs to protect certain industries (eg cars) during the world economic crisis.

Complicated, huh? Less than one would think, IMO. The main problem, IMO, is systemic imbalances and inconsistencies. And above all, not nearly enough focus on the problems of real people and micro and small companies, in most policy making centers around the world.

Footnote (1): When I say "global" or "world" I do not necessarily imply all countries of this planet but the ones wishing to participate in a "common" socio-economic system and political government.

Monday, March 22, 2010

re the urgency for a deeper European Union given world dynamics #eu #in

IMO a good look at the current dynamics around the world (eg US - China issues, WTO Doha problems, emergence of TPP, Russia's clever strategy, the new positioning of India, Brazil, the situation in Japan, staple foods and oil global price and market issues, etc etc etc etc) would be enough to convince even the less pro-EU EUropeans that a deeper, more "fraternal", EU (with a single (but realistically priced) currency, a real Single Market for not only capital and products but all kinds of services and jobs as well, etc etc) is an absolute necessity.    

Posted via web from nickpthinking

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Philosophy: Fraternity - Solidarity in modern Societies - Polities (EU, US, world)

Is a descent health coverage, irrespective of personal means and health history or risk, a concrete measure of solidarity - fraternity? In most European polities and societies, yes. In the US, with the House vote pending today on "Obamacare", the reply is not clear.

On the other hand the fraternity or solidarity that exists between the member polities of a federal state (eg USA or Germany) does not seem to exist in the European Union. Is that type of solidarity - fraternity a necessary condition of a European or other type of integration, in the form of federation, union, or even partnership?

Does it exist at world or near world level, eg UN or WTO membership? Is the world willing to show solidarity in dealing with global challenges such as global warming, diseases - maladies, threats from outer space (eg meteorites), nuclear safety, etc. In taxation and budgetary - public spending matters. In matters related to security (eg NATO), etc.

This is IMO one of the key philosophical (in the applied philosophy sense of the term philosophy), policy - political and social issues, conceptual and applied, of our era. With many applications, some of which I listed above.

With the quest for the right balance between individualism and collectivism being IMO a linked issue in Societies and Polities today.



Posted via web from nickpthinking

Thursday, March 18, 2010

NPWorldview, March 10-16, 2010

The US Commerce Department announced (March 11) that the US trade deficit fell (unexpectedly) to a seasonally adjusted $37.3bn, in January 2010 due to lower imports as well as exports. Thus it was 6.6% below the revised December deficit figure of $39.9bn. It had increased by nearly 10% between November and December 2009. Imports dropped 1.7%, driven by a big fall in imports of oil and foreign cars. Imports of crude oil imports were at the lowest level in almost 11 years!

The US dollar fell against both the yen and the euro after the news were announced, thus helping US exports and making imports more expensive.

On the next day, March 12, the US Commerce Department also announced that in the next month, February, US retail sales showed a surprise rise (in spite of the bad weather)! Retail sales rose 0.3%, the biggest rise since November (December had proved disappointing for retail sales), thus pumping up hopes that economic recovery is gaining momentum and helped to boost Wall Street! Down and up, like a yoyo, economics these days require a strong stomach to deter “sea sickness”!

What made the February US retail sales stats even more impressive was that when one excludes a 2% fall in car sales that reflect, in part, it seems, the recall problems of a certain company,

US retail sales rose 0.8% (on the other hand, in the UK, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, car sales in February were up by 26.4% compared with February 2009).

Now let's back up one day, to March 11, when it was announced that a rise in imports reduced China's trade surplus to a one-year low of $7.6bn for February. China's exports jumped by 46% in February 2010 compared with February 2009, thus raising hopes of a strong recovery in world trade. China's imports also rose strongly, increasing by 44.7%.

The news that the US' trade deficit with China widened to $18.3bn in January, from $18.1bn in December prompted, on March 11 (ie the same day) the US President Barack Obama to urge China to move to a "more market-based exchange rate" so that US exporters are not disadvantaged and to help re-balance the global economy.

Can the WTO do something about that? No, because whereas the TO rules do not permit “dumping” of products in world markets (at prices lower than costs), they do not include exchange rate policies. An argument for more world economic governance (or at least among WTO members)? It seems that intellectual property is another areas that the WTO has difficulty in incorporating into its rules (one of the so called “Singapore” issues in WTO-speak if memory serves me right) thus leading to a group of countries trying to reach their own agreement outside the WTO (ACTA). Plus a great number of bilateral and regional trade agreements that have sprung in recent years, especially since the failed WTO Ministerial meeting in Cancun. Mexico, in September 2003. And a potential new generation of regional agreements that go beyond trade issues (see the Trans Pacific Partnership below).

Whereas China did surpass Germany in 2009 to become the world No. 1 exporter, a day earlier (March 10) the German Federal Statistics Office had announced that in January 2010 German exports fell (against market expectations) 6.3% on a seasonally adjusted basis, compared with December 2009. Imports increased by 6%. As a result, the German trade surplus went down to 8.7bn euros.

It is worth mentioning that reports and analyses this week noted the adverse effect of bad weather (potential but not realised in the US retail sales case in February) on economic growth in the US, Germany and elsewhere. Philosophically speaking, there are two types of “climate” that affect the economy, the “climate” that results from social, political and other human powered factors and the actual climate (which, according to many scientists, is affected by human actions too, see “global warming” etc)!

Less than 3 days after Barack Obama's criticism of China's exchange rate policy, on March 14 the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao rejected criticism that China is keeping its currency undervalued in order to boost exports arguing that keeping the yuan stable was an important contribution to global recovery (Note: On March 12 the International Energy Agency said that oil demand in China had risen by a whopping 28% in January 2010 compared to January 2009).

He went on to claim that that recent strains in ties with the US were Washington's fault, citing arms sales to Taiwan and a White House visit by the Dalai Lama as “violating” his country's sovereignty!

In the meantime, on March 12, India and Russia signed a series of agreements on nuclear, space and military issues after a visit to India by Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Russia is to build 12 nuclear reactors in India. Which pop the question whether nuclear is a wise alternative to CO2 and whether solar and wind and other alternative sources can suffice to create a world free of global warming and with minimum nuclear “concerns”.

The talks re the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is potentially the biggest world trade systemics development since the entry into force of the China RTA with many of the ASEAN member countries on January 1 this year. Even more so, because it may wind up going well beyond a mere regional free trade agreement into (even some basic) economic "governance" territory. President Obama was not enthusiastic about the US joining in this partnership but has changed his mind of late. It is not clear to me whether US participation in the formulation of this partnership will help or hurt it, given the mixed feelings (and views and philosophies) in the US at the moment in terms of trade as well as complications in the balance of political power and the melting pot of policies at stake in the US and the stances of many of the sides (GOP, trade unions, GOP in the Senate, etc etc etc).

An example of the current US “policy melting pot”: A new bill (aka draft legislation) to tighten regulation of US banks was unveiled on Monday by Senator Christopher Dodd (Democrat), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee., but it is unclear whether it will succeed in gaining support in (you guessed it) the Senate! More on the details of the bill next or in coming weeks.

Last (but not least among the US, China, India, Russia, etc?), the European Union (and its much disscussed and debated, recently, in Europe, the US, etc, Eurozone). On March 15 the Eurostat announced that the number of persons at work in the Eurozone declined 2.7 million in 2009 compared with 2008 (thus over-compensating (negatively) for the +1.7 million in 2008 compared with 2007). The EU as a whole, the decline in 2009 over 2008 was 4 million (thus wiping out the 2.6 million gain in 2008 over 2007).

Three days earlier, Eurostat had announced that industrial production in the Eurozone in January increased much more than expected, 1.7%, the largest monthly jump since Eurostat started producing these stats in 1990! The January 2010 figure, when compared with January 2009 was 1.4% higher, which is the first gain since April 2008 (compared with April 2007). Also, December's industrial production was revised, upwards, substantially, now showing a gain of 0.6% over November instead of a drop of 1.7%.

By the way, the European Commission's latest forecast is for the Eurozone economy to expand by 0.7% during 2010 after contracting by 4% in 2009. The Eurozone economy grew by a mere 0.1% in the last three months of 2010 (Q4), it may be revised up in later releases of stats.

Bordeaux, China: Finally, this news from France is indicative of the complexities in trying to use simple model or analysis in today's dynamics and systemics: According to Alain Vironneau, president of Bordeaux's wine trade body (CIVB), March 12, China has become Bordeaux wines' best client (in terms of volume of exports) excluding the European Union (note: yet the US remains No.1 non-EU client in value of exports).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dynamics: Have we forgotten the lessons from the 2008 global #oil and staple #foods #crisis?

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It was not that long ago, althought other events and developments since may make it seem longer. Mid 2008, the world was facing huge price increases in oil and in many staple foods. Combined they put huge pressure on the inputs costs of most business sectors. Fishermen and truck drivers in many places in Europe were demonstrating asking for special oil/gasoline vouchers in order to "survive". Oil was trading way above $100 per barrel .The OPEC was arguing hard that the oil price hike was not due to supply (or demand) factors but speculation.

There were predictions that its price was going to reach 200. It did not.

Then arrived the economic "tsunami" that resulted from the US subprime crisis and its financial and economic effects.

But in these turbulent times, did we pause and ponder on the causes of the 2008 global oil and staple foods crises? Or any lessons from it.


PS. If memory serves me right, that year, the WTO Ministers failed yet again, some say at the last moment, to reach agreement. Coincidence?

Posted via web from npthinking

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP): a major step into the future? #trade

The talks re the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is IMO the biggest world trade systemics development since the entry into force of the China RTA with many of the ASEAN member countries on January 1 this year. Even more so, because it may wind up going well beyond a mere regional free trade agreement into (even some basic) economic "governance" territory.

Posted via web from npthinking

Sunday, March 14, 2010

IMO the reason people turned to a) #dotcoms and then b) #subprimes was ...

...  the over-regulation - suffocation of the "real economy" by over-regulation. Thus while the financial economy needs more regulation, the "traditional" economy needs a lot of deregulation, especially Services.

Posted via web from npthinking

"Appetite for risk" and the famous/infamous trade-off between expected #risk ...

... and expected "return" (benefit). How many people really understand the nature of the correlation between the two (risk and return)?

Posted via web from npthinking

"No more globalization please, we are human"

Short Story, semi-fiction:

"Because the world has changed" he said.

That is why his country (which one is not the point) has changed radically in recent months. When asked about events and actions of the past and how they correlate with the new attitude, he replied that these either took place because of the way things were then, in the world, in the US, in the UK, in Europe, not just his country or that events were not as they were reported to be.

He felt sea sick. Maybe he was feeling like that a bit already because of the weather, this climate change "thing". Maybe because some things happened today that did not settle well in his stomach (aka subconscious/instinct), maybe something he actually ate today and actually did not settle well with his stomach. Maybe.

"Go get your blood pressure checked" advised someone. She runs from doctor to doctor, many years now, every time she feels something is wrong. She has actually made it to 78, so far! She is hyper, but she has adjusted her lifestyle and living parameters to fit her quirks! And by the mere fact that she has made it this far in spite of chronic health issues since many decades ago, and a phobia for germs, among other things, which she freely admits, she is a winner in the game of life.

Game of life? Since when is life a "game"? To some it is an "arena", or a "Colosseum", to some "war", everyday in the trenches. like WWI, to some "a mission", to some "a committed relationship with .. themselves", etc, etc. Life philosophies, or philosophies on living or mindsets.

Some people are becoming "born again virgins", some are finding comfort in a drink or two every night, some in work, etc, etc!

"Because the world has changed"! Winning formula, realism or flagrant opportunism?

The world always turned, it was always volatile, it was always risky, but it seems that human nature drives us to want some stability. Some benchmark, some place to call home, some value to hold on to, or a life to hold on to!

"Get a life"! Well, many people today self label themselves as "spiritual". Others are re-discovering religion. Not many self label themselves as "philosophical" or "rationalists".

The world was always volatile, but the perception varied. Today, in the global 24/24 news era, one can run but cannot hide from globalisation's "effect", something like "sea sickness". A butterfly in ... China affects things in ... Smallville, USA, for example!

"May you live in interesting times" was not a wish, but a curse, an Ancient Chinese curse.

No more volatility please, we are human! How much hot to cold and cold to hot showers can we really take?

"The world has changed". Yes but, still, it way too radical for the world to .. stomach, in such a short time. Needs time to settle. Like "Breaking News"!

In NYC the idea of "Safe" (aka "Panic") rooms is not new (see eg the "The Panic Room" movie with Jodie Foster). Some people, mostly kids, invent imaginary friends. Maybe some construct imaginary "safe rooms". When in bonkers times ....

'Driver, you are driving this bus too fast, either you slow down or make a stop and we get out" said the mother. She had a child to protect, and she did not like the way the bus was being driven in combination with the weather!

"No more globalisation, please, we are human"?
Or a more balanced one (not just trade and news and stock markets)?

March 2008

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"The Gatekeepers" (of markets?) - re world trade and its talks

It is March 2010 and the Doha Round of world trade talks has not been completed yet.

Read below a short story
(fiction) that I wrote back in July 2003. It was partly inspired by a true story, unrelated to free trade, and partly by the then lack of progress in free trade (a few weeks later, in September 2003, "Cancun" demonstrated this lack of progress).

"The Gatekeepers" (a short story)

Andreas likes to walk. Usually at night. Many times had he thought of giving up his walks. He did not appreciate worrying about his safety.

"But why should I surrender my right to walk", he had thought. They were like local tyrants of times past. Protecting their territory. That is how they looked.

Could he avoid them? No, they were everywhere.

In every neighbourhood, in, almost, every street. As if they had marked and divided their territory. Guarding it for themselves or somebody else, their "bosses".

He walked for fun. But it was also a necessity.

For some time he tried different territories. They were everywhere. He tried different times of the day, but they were almost always there. After all, it was at night that it was most convenient for him to take his walks.

A few weeks ago, he was in the north suburbs. At least two or three of them were there, when he got out of the car. He could see two of them, sitting, watching over, and he could hear one more. First, he stayed near the 24/7 bistro. Other people were there. He felt somewhat safe.
Then one of them approached him. Friend or foe?

He decided to make the first move. He got sick and tired of being on the defensive. "Hi, how are you" he said, hiding his concern as well as he could. For one or two seconds his heart beat quickly. A pause.

Then he saw the signs. At first he was not sure. He never had a dog. He had heard that when a dog shakes his tail, then he is friendly. It turns out that it was true.

He decided to proceed with this tactic. He concentrated in this area. He got to know them well, and so did they. Every time he enters their territory, they can smell him. They know him.
They have accepted him. They have given him a de facto pass.

Little by little, he has expanded into one or two other territories. Each time making sure that these "gatekeepers" get to know him and accept him. They bark at strangers, especially cars. It is still hard for him to understand the pattern of their behaviour, assuming they have one.

But, in any case, he is now accepted in the club. The same goes for the owner of the 24 hours store. They all know him now. He is now part of the community. He is not an intruder, a raider.
He is not the only one. Others seem to have done the same.

He now enjoys his walks in 2 or 3 different places, making sure that his rotations are frequent enough so that they do not forget his smell.

Dogs too, it appears, have a fear for the unknown. Once you have been around for long enough, you are de facto part of the scenery.

He now has started to think in "us" vs. "them" terms too.
Strangers are not welcome. Unless they manage to break the ice. To become part of the scenery too.

"Why don't you explore, walk into new territories" asked a friend.
"I would like to. I like change. I am actually starting to get a bit tired of the same places over and over again. But I am comfortable with the places I hang out now. I am not willing to go through the trouble of going through all those "blending" motions again in new places", he replied.

July 2003. All rights reserved.

Personal decision making nowadays: Way too many people today are inclined to reach #decisions in terms of what everybody else is doing ...

... rather than analysis of the parameters that apply to their cases.

Is it a form of (intellectual) lazziness? Or are so many people so caught up in the daily modalities that they cannot really step back and take a critical/analytical view?

Are they "defined" by others and by the outcomes of what the others are doing, without realising that keys to good and bad decisions are personal? That one person's "paradise" is another's "nightmare"?'

Posted via web from npthinking

Friday, March 12, 2010

The free trade "talk" and the protectionist "walk"

How many leaders and the countries are talking the free trade talk while walking the protectionist walk, these days?

Posted via web from npthinking

Some thoughts on the future of world #trade and #globalization

Unless world trade and globalization can start "working" for the micro and small firms and for the average citizens around the world (in WTO member countries at least), then IMO, the current versions of world trade as well as "globalization" have a very uncertain future. In other words, mico and small firms and "real people" need to start feeling that these two are "games" that they can participate as full rather than secondary "members".

Two possible scenarios, should these two fail, are:

A) "Fortress Economies" (at local or regional levels) ie generally "Localisation" and "Regionalisation:

B) A very different version of world trade and "Globalization" than the ones in effect.

Posted via web from npthinking

Direct Access: A key issue for world #trade

Direct access to certain national markets w/o the "forced" need for a "local" partner, private or state owned, is IMO a key issue for world trade

Posted via web from npthinking

Philosophy: On "closure"

You want "closure"?

Well then read of novel or watch a film.

Because life is like an on-going TV series, there is no real closure.

Posted via web from npthinking

when the "streets" have an "expiration date"

Take your life back, from the bad memories, from the scars, from the fears, from all the negativity and BS that surrounds us.

Learn when to stay and when to move on; when in doubt, move on, change is almost always a good thing, albeit scary.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

NPWorldview, Feb. 22 - March 10

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The week of February 22 had ended on a positive note for both the US and the UK economies. On Friday, February 26, revised ONSS stats showed that the UK economy (GDP) grew by 0.3% in Q4 2009, instead of the initial 0.1% stat. In the US, the corresponding revision was also upwards, to 5.9 from 5.7 per cent (annual). Yet most of the US revision came from inventory changes.

On Thursday March 4, both the European Central Bank and the Bank of England decided to keep their interest rates unchanged. Unchanged, at 9.7%, was the US unemployment rate in February, as announced on Friday, March 5 (30,000 jobs was the net loss).

The Fed said that snow is slowing down the pace of growth of the US economy.

In February, the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) index rose to 58.4 from 54.5 the previous month, its highest since January 2007, thus indicating that the service sector in the UK grew at its fastest monthly pace in three years.

On March 10, ONS announced that in January the UK's trade defict in goods and services with the rest of the world widened unexpectedly to £3.8bn, compared with £2.6bn in December. That is the largest deficit since August 2008.

In less than a week since the idea was first mentioned in public, a proposal for a European Monetary Fund equivalent to the IMF, is being tabled with a view to being adopted by the European Council in June.

In the US, Obama is trying hard to salvage his healthcare reform.


Posted via web from npthinking

Which is more complicated? Life or Lost?

What do you think is more difficult: a) Getting a grasp of the systemics and dynamics that drive daily world events or b) following the plot in Lost?

Posted via web from npthinking

The Social Communicator Corporation

IMO for a company to use social media and to gain from external communication in general (PR etc) it has to adopt a near full transparency philosophy.  Once a company decides to enter the modern public opinion arena ("public company"), it cannot expect to retain the pros of "private company".    

Spin has limited medium term use, too much spin for too long makes the company or political party "sea sick".
That is why I do not blame many corporations for adopting a very "conservative" (at best) policy re communications, because an active one requires a certain corporate philosophy (and its application) that IMO most organisations cannot really adopt or achieve.  

Posted via email from npthinking

On the policy of honesty

#Honesty is the best policy, otherwise one to spend a lot of energy to remember what lies he/she has said! The only theoretical alternative to honesty is to invent a comprehensive lie as an alter reality and stick with it; very hard.

Posted via web from npthinking

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