Latest Developments, February 7

In the latest news and analysis…

Global New Deal
The UN News Centre reports on a new UN Conference on Trade and Development paper that calls for an overhaul of the world’s financial system to produce a “more stable and inclusive” global economy.
“ ‘Financial markets and institutions have become the masters rather than the servants of the real economy, distorting trade and investment, heightening levels of inequality, and posing a systemic threat to economic stability,’ warns the report, which also defines the dominant pattern of international economic relations during the past three decades as ‘finance-driven globalization.’
[UNCTAD Secretary-General] Supachai [Panitchpakdi] instead calls for financial and other resources to be channelled towards ‘the right kinds’ of productive activities, ensuring that measures to diversify economic development are consistent with job creation, food and energy security, and tackling the threat of climate change.”

Arms trade transparency
The BBC reports the UK government is promising to allow greater public scrutiny of arms exports following allegations that weapons it had sold to Middle Eastern regimes were used to suppress popular protests during last year’s Arab Spring.
“The government intends to publish information about licence applications and updates of sales, once they have been awarded.
An independent reviewer could also be appointed to scrutinise the process to ensure it is working ‘correctly’.”

Shooting the messenger
The Wall Street Journal reports a former General Electric executive is alleging he was fired for relaying concerns about the legality of the company’s behaviour abroad.
“ ‘The Plaintiff provided information to his immediate supervisor and to the Ombudsperson for GE regarding potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act committed by GE during negotiations for a lucrative, multi-year deal with the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity,’ the complaint said.”

Unethical links
The Ecologist reports a number of “seemingly ethical” Brititsh companies – The Co-operative, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose – are facing criticism over their partnerships with controversial oil giants.
“Greg Muttitt, campaigns and policy director at international development charity War on Want, said: ‘People believe there is an ethical option. The fact these companies are doing deals with unethical businesses shows how limited their ethical commitments are. This will wake people up to how these companies’ ethical policies are only skin deep.’ ”

Democratic deficit
The recently signed international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is a potential threat to Internet freedom but the extent of its menace remains unclear because of the opaque and undemocratic negotiation process, according to Oxford Internet Institute graduate student Alexander Furnas.
“It is worth noting that the negotiations throughout most of the process were highly secret with negotiators forced to sign non-disclosure agreements, a fact that, according to one [Wikileaks] cable, made even some of the negotiating parties uncomfortable. There were few avenues for public or civil-society input. Meanwhile many U.S. based multinational corporations and their interest groups, including the Recording Industry Association of America, the Motion Picture Association of America, Sony, and Time Warner were consulted via formal [Office of the US Trade Representative] advisory boards.”

Myth making
The Center for Global Development’s Michael Clemens writes about the birth of an “immigration fiction” as the UK Minister of State for Immigration Damian Green, with the help of the British media, distorts the findings of a recent report by attributing causation where it found only association.
“But the minister’s myth propagates anyway, with help from a docile press. The BBC article on the minister’s speech, for example, simply quotes the minister’s false interpretation of the [Migration Advisory Committee] report, without qualification. The article does not bother to interview any of the MAC report’s authors, who could clarify what they did or did not say. The BBC article does bother to interview anti-immigration activist Sir Andrew Green, who (shocker!) shares the minister’s sadly fictional interpretation of the MAC report.

What does the best economic research show? As I’ve discussed in a peer-reviewed article in a journal of the American Economic Association, barriers to migration from developing countries are far and away the most impoverishing obstacle to the global economy. Even slightly greater labor mobility out of developing countries would add trillions of dollars to the world economy, and most of those gains happen in countries of destination like the UK.”

Zero-sum madness
The Post Carbon Institute’s Richard Heinberg argues that perpetuating the current competition-based global system is not a viable option if survival of the species is our objective.
“Taken together, current cooperative efforts toward resource conservation, climate mitigation and population stabilisation are woefully insufficient – as exemplified by failed climate talks, continued global population growth and ever-heightening international competition for access to dwindling fossil fuel supplies. There are plenty of justifications for pessimism: after all, won’t the first nations to engage in resource conservation lose economic advantage to those that engage in conquest and consumption maximisation? Wouldn’t even one major national holdout undermine a worldwide cooperative effort at climate protection?
Dramatically expanding our international and domestic cooperative efforts at this worrisome moment in history may seem like a tall order. The only advantage to doing so is that it is the only path going forward that does not end in a global tragedy in which the fate of the ‘winners’ is hardly preferable to that of the ‘losers’.”

Body of evidence
The World Bank’s Markus Goldstein writes that there is remarkably little impact evaluation done on interventions and reforms relating to trade policy.
“The need for more evidence is key. As [Olivier] Cadot & co. point out, trade is receiving an increasing amount of policy attention and donors (the World Bank among them) are stepping up support of trade related interventions. But, alas, little work is being done. As a striking example, Cadot & co. review all World Bank trade projects from 1995-2005. Of these 85 projects, only 5 included an impact evaluation that used a comparison group. ”

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