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This is a joint posting with Kimberly Elliott and also appeared on the Huffington Post.
With one important reservation, we welcome last week’s EU proposal that the upcoming Pittsburgh G-20 Summit “should adopt the “Everything But Arms” (EBA) initiative without delay to support people in developing countries suffering from the crisis.” The EBA nominally provides 100 percent duty-free, quota-free market access for exports from least-developed countries, so suggesting that the rest of the G-20 replicate it is clearly in line with a Sept. 2 letter sent by members of the CGD Global Trade Preference Reform Working Group. The letter called upon:
The G8 leaders gathering in L’Aquila, Italy for their annual summit have an opportunity to help developing countries escape the worst impacts of the financial downturn. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s ambitious agenda for the meeting outlines a list of priorities that directly affect short- and long-term development in these countries. The agenda includes climate change, development in Africa, dialogue with developing countries, and the Millennium Goals.
When I was writing my book, Delivering on Doha: Farm Trade and the Poor, I came across a 2004 poll showing that Americans, including in farm states, support subsidies only for small farmers and only in bad years. Last week, another poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland was released showing that attitudes haven’t changed. The reality, as I discussed in my book, is that the top 20 percent of recipients receive 80 percent of all payments.
Would a “Crisis Round” of trade talks launched at the London Summit next week be a useful mechanism for averting a further beggar-thy-neighbor protectionism? My colleague Arvind Subramanian and his frequent co-author, World Bank economist Aaditya Mattoo, think so. They argued for such a move in an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal Asia earlier this week (A Crisis Calls for a Crisis Round):
Trade ministers are currently gathered at the World Trade Organization in Geneva to give one last push to delivering a Doha Round trade agreement before it is put on the shelf indefinitely. As it has been from the beginning, agriculture remains a key stumbling block (see my book, Delivering on Doha).
Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright and John Podesta, former chief of staff to President Clinton and CEO of the Center for American Progress, have urged rich world leaders assembled for the G8 summit in Japan to take action on the global food crisis, including rapid release of Japanese rice stockpiles imported mostly from the US. In an Op-Ed in today's Boston Globe they write:
A report in the Financial Times by John Thornhill leads with a remarkable quote from French President Nicolas Sarkozy warning the EU that he would block a proposed World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement on agriculture that would reduce European production incentives:
This is a joint posting with Peter Timmer
Rice prices have continued to tumble this week amid reports that Cambodia is moving to ease export restrictions and other exporters may follow suit. This came after Japan's announcement that it would proceed with sales to the Philippines of 250,000 tons of rice (200,000 tons of imports and 50,000 tons of Japanese rice), and a U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) statement that: "the United States was supportive of Japan's initiative." (Readers who are following this story will recall that the U.S. has the ability to block the re-export of U.S. rice that Japan was compelled to buy but never offered on the domestic market).