Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Trade constraints of developing countries

With all the current posturing in the US and Europe, while addressing doubtlessly important problems, it is easy to forget that there are much bigger issues that need to be solved: how to get the poor and especially the poorest economies to a decent standard of living. We have been blessed to be born in the right families and in the right countries, and we should share this luck with those who were no so fortunate. This does not necessarily mean to give to the poor, just giving them a fair chance may be enough.

Jean-Jacques Hallaert, Ricardo Cavazos Cepeda and Gimin Kang consider the consequences of trade barriers on developing economies. The latter should be able to benefit greatly from selling on world markets goods produced with the factor they are relatively rich of, unskilled labor and to some extend land, while importing the complementary goods, likely capital-intensive investment goods. This OECD study finds that developed economies cannot do much more in terms of reducing import tariffs. Where there is more potential is with home-grown issues: unreliability of electricity, high transportation costs, poor education, bad governance, and instability. These results have been obtained by regressing exports, imports or their sum on a number of indicator for a panel of data. I am not particularly keen on these exercises due to poor data quality, gigantic endogeneity and especially the fact that proxies for essentially unquantifiable variables are used, like property rights and governance. But I suppose this is the best one can do, and the results appear to be rather stark. Now as to how to solve these economic problems, that is a gigantic task that we should be really talking about these days, instead of posturing for political gain.

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