Green electricity and the international trade challenges

Questions about the future of the electricity trade focus on the rise of renewable energy, which is seen as a means of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector. Many governments wish to integrate renewable power into their transmission and distribution systems and offer tax or other incentives for its generation.

Read also: African Energy: U.S. Dept of Commerce Delegation will travel to Ghana and Nigeria

  “My take is that the future will be increasingly distributive,” said Fereidoon Sioshansi of energy consultants Menlo. “Instead of producing a lot of power at centralised plants and shipping it long distances you can generate most of the power you need, perhaps through solar panels on your rooftop.”

 ok3On the other hand, the idea of a global grid enabling long-distance electricity trade has been gaining currency. The global grid would also absorb renewable energy, integrating it into transmission and distribution systems. But it requires high levels of investment and the modernisation of infrastructure, and this can be problematic, not least in the developing world.

 “The main challenges of the electricity trade in Africa include financing, lack of capacity and planning and maintenance issues,” said Callixte Kambada of the African Development Bank, who made a contribution on the African regional experience.

 Despite that African electricity was becoming increasingly interconnected to parts of southern Europe and the Middle East. “I think it’s only a matter of time before we have a global grid,” he said.

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Does Free Trade Undermine International Rules Protecting the Environment?

MONICA MYLORDOUSEP 24 2014 FULL PIECE

The WTO was created to promote free trade: to remove barriers between countries, to allow them to concentrate on products with a comparative advantage, leading to maximum international productivity. This, however, often challenges rules protecting the environment. Although the WTO has shown an increasingly open approach towards environmental issues, free trade is still the Organisation’s backbone and trade liberalisation its main goal.

One might argue that the WTO was conceived as a trade organisation, and its Members agreed to that mandate. Indeed, many of its Members are developing countries that have resisted including environmental protection concepts – such as sustainable development – in the WTO.

The WTO’s dispute settlement system was not designed to resolve challenges regarding trade and environment, legitimacy, globalisation and international law’s fragmentation. Although it does adjudicate trade-environment disputes, their resolution involves scrutinising the trade-friendliness of environmental laws – not whether the WTO Member’s actions/laws are appropriately green.

International environmental law, on the other hand, ‘provides the global institutional means for engaging the global ecological challenges’. Consisting of a loose affiliation of treaties, principles and customs, it is a complex evolutionary system of law, further complicated by a dizzying array of stakeholders. There is considerable tension between the environmental goals and the rapid growth in international trade that places pressure on the earth’s ecosystems.

Fragmentation has been named one of the past decade’s most provocative international legal issues. As illustrated, WTO free trade rules have repeatedly undermined international rules of the environment. Even if coincidentally benefiting both free trade and environmental protection, it is within WTO constraints. However, one can refrain from criticising the WTO dispute settlement mechanism as its decisions comply with the mandate under which it operates, which, due to the current fragmentation of international law, does not cover environmental protection. Nonetheless, this should not eclipse the need for change, especially since environmental problems that threaten humanity – such as climate change – demand international cooperation. Schoenbaum calls the WTO to give specific recognition to environmental values, as necessary. Perhaps international environmental law must also be strengthened, through the establishment of sufficiently powerful institutions to represent non-economic concerns and penetrate specialist systems.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN EFFECTS

Buyer behavior is affected by the national origin of products and services. Many consumers are relatively indifferent to where a product is made. Other consumers favor goods produced in their home country. Country of origin (COO) refers to the nation where a product is produced or branded.  Origin is usually indicated by means of a product label, such as “Made in China”. When consumers are aware of a product’s COO, they may react positively or negatively. For example, many people favors cars produced in Japan, but would be less upbeat about cars made in Russia. Most people feel confident about buying clothing made in Italy, but would be less receptive to clothing from Mexico. Such attitudes arise because consumers hold particular images or conceptions about specific countries. Consumers assume that Japan produces high-quality cars and that Russia makes low-quality cars. While such beliefs are often rooted in reality, many are simplified opinions, false stereotypes or effect the slowness of accepting change.

Buyer reactions to COO are influenced by various factors.  First, COO stereotypes vary depending on the origin of the judge and on the category of the product being judged.  For instance, while Japanese cars are disdained by Indians, they are prized by Russians. While people in Brazil love Japanese consumer electronics, they spurn Japanese apparel.

Second, opinion varies depending the national origin of the firm and the location where its product is actually made. Many consumers love German Volkswagens, even if the car is produced in China, Poland, or some other location outside Germany.

Third, as the capacity of countries to perform well in specific industries improves, the COO phenomenon varies over time. Until recently, for example, few Westerners would have visited India to undergo surgery.  However, many now perceive India as an excellent value for obtaining medical care for various conditions, and spend the time and money to travel there to receive heart operations, cosmetic surgery, and other procedures.

Finally, the tendency of consumers to discriminate against foreign products varies by demographic factors.  For example, senior citizens and people with limited education tend to shun products that originate from abroad.

THE U.S. ELECTION AND TRADE

THE U.S. ELECTION AND TRADE

By Michael R. Czinkota *

 The candidates in the U.S. presidential election have had heated exchanges. Each one of them tries to pick up those few undecided votes which make all the difference. Clever pollsters are using their newest tools to identify and pursue the maybe’s.

For me, as teacher of international business and trade, I wonder what the victory of any one candidate mean for my field – how will international trade be affected? International trade in goods and services comprises now almost 30% of US GDP –making it a vital component of the domestic economy. The fact that exports have been mentioned several times in the various debates, highlights that politics gradually accepts the importance of trade.

How do the candidates stack up?

First , President Obama: He has led for almost four years now and been able to demonstrate his commitments. He has signed three Free Trade Agreements which had been negotiated by President Bush – but there are 193 countries left. He helped conclude long term negotiations to let Russia enter the World Trade Organization this year. The President has taken a number of trade actions, and even declared Chinese car tires to be too cheap and has limited their import. He has also frequently admonished the Chinese government to increase the value of its currency.   He has promised in 2009 that he will strive to double US. exports in five years.

Now to Governor Romney: He talks about trade in virtually every speech he gives. Just like the young Japanese mother whispers to little Masaaki “export my baby, export a lot”, the governor tries to inculcate key international trade values and desires in his audience. He recognizes the importance of currency values. Through his work in the private sector he has seen the threats and benefits of the global economy, and has recognized that there is no reason for the United States to play second fiddle. At the same time, his experience gathered abroad allows him to understand the importance of different cultures, and the need to consider issues which, at home might be unexpected, but can be routine abroad. He stresses the importance of helping firms to enter global markets and talks about profits as the key motivator to such market entry. He talks in terms of competitiveness both for firms and their employees – which in turn leads him to stress the importance of an internationalized education.

A second term President Obama would devote some attention to trade issues – but, just like Israel, they are not really a core component of his global posture. The entire issue of competitiveness of firms is seen as something at which one throws money (and loses large amounts of it) – rather than the building process of innovation. Plans like doubling exports don’t portray a vision which is what we need in the international arena. There is a big difference whether one talks about straightening out a road versus offering the vision of a national highway system. There is a lot of earnest belief, that government can drive the export success of the nation. Those in the trenches claim that the real trade volume comes from firms, particularly those who have had the inclination and opportunity to research the requirements of their markets abroad.

A President Romney is likely to upset some long term traditions – be they in currency markets or in trade agreements. He is more likely to link specific performance and assistance. It would not be impossible for President Romney to declare the Doha Round of trade negotiations as a failure, and search for a new approach to an expansion of trade. He might be more in the face of partner governments, but his actions would be more swift and perhaps even more harsh. As a firm believer in markets, a President Romney might encourage students to get ready for a globalized economy, explaining that unmotivated, disinterested, or uneducated members of the work force need to change their attitude dramatically if they wish to do well. Mr. Romney is brimming with excitement to do something about the U.S. trade position in the world. It may bring some pain, but still better than another bursting bubble.

So, where does that leave us? Of course there are many considerations based on which we select our favorite. An increasingly important one is trade. I think both candidates will support trade, but it  seems that this support will come with varying intensity. Voters should keep that in mind as they cast their ballot.

 

*Michael Czinkota teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University. He served in trade policy positions during the Reagan and Bush administration. Contact: czinkotm@georgetown.edu