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Views from the Center

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Brookings-UN Report Gets It Wrong on AGOA

The Brookings Institution’s Africa Growth Initiative, in conjunction with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, recently released an important report on possibilities for renewing the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The report uses a standard trade model to explore the impact of various scenarios. It has the imprimatur of two prestigious institutions and was launched at a high-profile event with US Trade Representative Michael Froman as featured speaker, so it could be an important contribution to the debate over the future of AGOA.

Suspending Trade Privileges a Tiny Twig to Push Worker Rights in Bangladesh

The Obama administration has announced the suspension of Bangladesh’s trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) over the country’s failure to improve working conditions and protect worker rights. The decision is not surprising given the problems in Bangladesh, but, as I noted here in January, it is purely symbolic. First, GSP does not include clothing. Second, it accounts for a trivial $35 million of duty-free exports, or less than 1 percent of Bangladesh’s total exports to the United States, most of which (90 percent) is clothing. Meanwhile, most Bangladeshi exports face an average duty of 15 percent, one of the highest rates in the US market.

Two Challenges for New US Trade Rep Michael Froman

First, congratulations. In a rare show of bipartisanship, the US Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Michael Froman, previously the president’s top international economic adviser in the White House, as the new US Trade Representative (93-4). Ambassador Froman will have his plate full, with the “mega-regional” negotiations in the Pacific and with the European Union. But I also hope he won’t forget “working to foster development through trade,” as he pledged at his swearing-in.

A To Do List for Brazil’s Azevedo at the WTO

Congratulations to Ambassador Roberto Azevedo from Brazil, who will be the next Director-General of the WTO. Ambassador Azevedo campaigned for the WTO position as an insider who could hit the ground running and that is exactly what he will need to do. He also said that being an insider would help him in rebuilding trust among the members and he will need to get started on that immediately—even before he takes over on September 1.

The Next WTO Director-General Will Be from the Asia-Pacific Region or Latin America

So the initial round of results are in and there were some surprises. Early this month, odds makers in the United Kingdom and Ireland had Mr. Kyerematen, from Ghana, and Ms. Gonzalez, from Costa Rica, as the favorites to become the next director-general of the World Trade Organization, but both are out after the first round of consultations. The next round of consultations will begin next week, and the final two should be announced by the end of the month.

From March Madness to April Anxiety: The WTO Leadership Contest Heats Up

The madness of the US NCAA basketball championship  is in full swing and getting lots of attention in Washinton, but a globally more significant competition is entering the final stages in Geneva. Just as 68 US college basketball teams were winnowed to a sweet sixteen, and soon to an elite eight, and so on, nine candidates for director-general (DG) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) will soon be trimmed to a fab five, then a dynamic duo, and, by May 31, a champion to lead the world trade system.

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